2016 Lexus CT 200h F SportPosted on July 1st, 2016
Hybrid hatchback has power for the open road
By Nina Russin
Although Lexus offers six hybrid models, the CT 200h is the only one available solely with a gasoline/electric powertrain. With EPA average 42 mile-per-gallon fuel economy and its versatile hatchback body style, Lexus’ compact sport model gives buyers with active lifestyles a lot to love.
Driving enthusiasts will appreciate the addition of a F Sport package that adds 17-inch alloy rims, a unique version of the spindle grille, special badging, interior trim and sport-tuned suspension.
Power for all models comes from a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motors, carrying a 134 net horsepower rating and continuously variable automatic transmission. Base price is $31,250 excluding destination.
For 2016 buyers can opt to add Lexus Enform Remote that enables users to control certain car functions via smart phone apps. A power moonroof is available on 2016 models.
The test car comes with Redline exterior self-healing paint, the F Sport package including LED headlamps, navigation with backup camera, Lexus Enform services, intuitive park assist and moonroof. Final MSRP is $41,860.
Proven hybrid technology
The hybrid technology in the CT 200h is similar to that in the Toyota Prius, so buyers have the confidence of knowing the system has withstood years of real-world use under the most extreme conditions.
The Atkinson cycle gasoline engine works in tandem with two electric motors: one controlling the engine starter, transmission and generator and the second driving the front wheels. A nickel metal hydride battery pack recharges on the go using regenerative energy from the brakes. The transmission doesn’t have a low gear range; rather a brake setting slows the vehicle down on steep descents while recharging the batteries.
To save space inside the cockpit, an electric gear shift on the instrument panel utilizes shifts between drive, brake and reverse settings. Park is a separate button. The drive can modify throttle mapping and suspension settings with a drive select feature controlled with a rotary dial on the center console. There are three settings: normal, eco and sport for more aggressive performance.
Test drive in Southern Arizona
Over the past week, I drove the CT 200h through Phoenix, Chandler and Scottsdale Arizona as well as the foothills of both the Superstition and San Tan Mountains east and southeast of town. This week saw the beginning of the annual monsoon season when severe dust storms and rain storms can lower visibility to dangerous levels and produce flash flooding. In this environment, I was happy to be behind the wheel of a vehicle with advanced safety technology.
Because electric motors reach peak torque at extremely low speeds, the CT 200h has exceptionally good low-end acceleration, making it easy to move to the front of the pack on highway entrance ramps. Lexus lists zero-to-sixty acceleration at 9.8 seconds.
An EV mode enables the driver to use pure electric power at low speeds. A chime warns pedestrians that the car is moving since there’s no engine noise.
Its compact dimensions make the CT 200h a good choice for commuters dealing with dense urban traffic. An electric power steering system gives the hatchback exceptional maneuverability, with a 34.2-foot turning circle. The rearview camera projects a wide angle view to the back when the driver shifts into reverse, making it much easier to park in parallel spaces on the street. The feature also minimizes the effect of blind spots to the rear created by the car’s thick D-pillars.
Visibility to the front and sides is good. I had no problems adjusting the power driver’s seat high enough for a clear forward view. Narrow B-pillars make it easy to monitor traffic in adjacent lanes on the highway.
The small engine has no problems keeping up with traffic on high-speed roads. On a section of the I-10 freeway south of town a 75 mile-per-hour speed limit means most drivers are driving 80-85. The CT 200h kept up the pace with power on the high end to pass slower-moving vehicles.
A four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and a compact double wishbone setup in the rear. It’s firm but comfortable, isolating occupants from uneven road surfaces such as the two-lane rural roads southeast of Phoenix.
The alloy rims and low profile tires give the CT 200h a fat footprint for stable cornering at higher speeds. Four-wheel disc brakes stop the car in firm, linear fashion.
Despite its compact dimensions, the CT 200h can accommodate four adult passengers. Smaller adults will be more comfortable in the second row due to limited legroom.
Leather trim and aluminum pedals that come as part of the F Sport package focus on the driver. I found the gauge cluster easy to read in bright daylight and after dark. The center stack screen can wash out in bright sunlight because there is no hood to shade it.
Rear seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor for longer items. Cyclists might be able to squeeze a road bike with both wheels removed inside in a pinch, but would be better served with Lexus’ larger RX 350 crossover.
The Lexus CT 200h comes with front, side, side curtain, driver and passenger knee airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, tire pressure monitoring, daytime running lamps and Lexus Enform Safety Connect that automatically notifies police and emergency medical personnel in the event of a serious collision.
The fuel-thrifty CT 200h is on display at Lexus dealerships nationwide.
Like: A fun, practical hybrid hatchback with attractive styling, versatile interior and exceptional fuel economy.
Dislike: Center stack screen image is hard to read in bright sunlight. Options significantly increase the price of the vehicle.
Model: CT 200h F Sport
Base price: $31,250
As tested: $41,860
Horsepower (gasoline engine only): 98 Hp @ 5200 rpm
Torque (gasoline engine only): 105 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Net horsepower: 134 Hp
Zero-to-sixty: 9.8 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 43/40 mpg city/highway2016, Green Hybrid 2016, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, CT200h, Lexus, performance, pricing, standard safety