Lexus CT 200h First Look, Road Test and Review

By Jonathan Spira on 15 February 2011
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While the Toyota Prius has long reigned as king of the hybrids, its relatively barebones interior and quirky design have left some buyers wanting a more luxurious Prius, more on the order of a Lexus.  Starting in early March, they can get their wish.  The Prius now has a more elegant, refined cousin, the Lexus CT 200h.

The new Lexus CT 200h is built on the same powerplant and drivetrain as the Prius, using the Prius’ 98-hp gasoline engine that, combined with an 80-hp electric motor, generate 134 hp.  It also shares a fuel-efficient continuously-variable automatic transmission.  But that’s where the similarities end.  Indeed, no one will ever confuse the Lexus CT 200h for a Toyota Prius.

The CT 200h is Lexus’ least expensive vehicle in the U.S. and the practical and good-looking five-door hatchback has its own platform. You won’t find another Lexus or Toyota like this one.  Designed with the European market in mind, the CT 200h is clearly going after the buyers of diesel five-door versions of the BMW 1er Series (not available in the U.S.) and the Audi A3 TDI.

The CT 200h, in base form, is very well equipped. Its starting price is $29,120, close to the top-of-the-line Prius, and it comes with 17” alloy wheels, push-button start/stop, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, and stability and traction control.

Inside, the differences between the Lexus and the Prius are even starker.  High-quality and soft materials are everywhere.  The standard seats, while not leather, are soft and luxurious and produced in an eco-friendly manner (the vehicle itself is 80% recyclable).  They are not only comfortable but very supportive in cornering, thanks to the strategic placement of bolsters.  The leather steering wheel is thick enough to have come out of a sports sedan.  You won’t confuse the CT 200h’s handling with a BMW but it outhandles other Lexuses we’ve driven.

An important difference between the CT 200h and the Prius is the smoothness of the transition from electric-only power to the gasoline engine, which is barely perceptible here.  Since the powertrain is the same, we’re not sure what accounts for the difference but it’s definitely there.

The optional hard-drive based navigation system worked well and you can use Lexus Enform while driving to have destinations automatically downloaded to the vehicle.  Our car, which was a pre-production prototype, had the optional rear camera, which was useful although overall visibility from the driver’s seat was quite good.

Click here to continue to Page 2 – On The Road With the CT 200h

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