Listen to this Live Review from The Car Counselor Show!
She Said: by Lynn Beckwith
Anyone who has listened to me preach about Hybrid technology knows that I am not the biggest fan. You probably can’t list me as a fan at all. Thus, my expectations as I took the wheel of the 2014 Lexus CT 200h were not huge. Surprisingly, my drive was pleasant and the CT had much more “umph” than many environmentally touted cars I’ve driven. It is a unique combination of a sports platform and environmental consciousness – two genre that don’t always play well together.
This vehicle is not your mother’s Lexus. With a strong sport and economy platform Lexus has sacrificed some of its notorious luxury ride and the interior feels more functional than plush. Targeting young families, it has plenty of room in the back seat and a very popular and innovative hatchback shape. It reminds you of an old school station wagon on steroids, a bit like it bulked up at the gym. It’s 17 inch alloy wheels and fairly low profile tires add to the youthful styling, and contributes to it’s louder than expected road noise.
Its styling has been updated since its origins in 2011, but the power train has not changed. Technology with a few years under its belt is always more dependable than when it first rolls off the production line. The 1.8 liter four cylinder engine only sports 98 horsepower, tests from 0 to 60 in a long 10 seconds, but had more punch than you would expect from a Hybrid. Acceleration from highway speeds was stronger than most small cars. Even with fairly aggressive driving I topped 45 mpg during most of the week. Switching between Eco, Normal and Sport reprograms the hybrid performance and power delivery. While I did not notice a performance difference, the CT switches from a glowing blue economy indicator dial to a flashy red tach in Sports mode – it’s a lot more fun to watch than worrying over one’s hyper-miling status.
There were many techno-groovy gadgets and a quick interface to blue tooth and navigation. The mouse style control was intuitive and easy to use and much less distracting than trying to push the right area of a display screen. The operator assisted guidance system made locating a seafood restaurant easy as I drove through uncharted streets. These wonders of electronic wizardry, the toys that motivate us to make a new car payment, add about 30% to the CT’s base price.
The CT 200h leather package that includes rain sensing wipers, leather upholstery and a 10 way power driver’s seat with memory settings would be a must to accomplish any semblance of luxury in this vehicle. While the driver’s seat adjusts vertically and can accommodate a fairly tall person, the passenger seat has limited movement and if your co-pilot is anywhere close to six feet tall they will not be comfortable.
Multi-point air bags, stability and traction control, along with now standard antilock brakes are accompanied by Lexus’ Safety Connect that features automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle location and emergency assistance.
While not showing off the luxury of the traditional brand, its hints of luxury and solid practicality make this vehicle a great choice for young families looking for Lexus status.
He Said: by John Miller
Last week Lynn and I got to road test the CT200h by Lexus. The CT has been around a few years and to date has offered few problems to owners.The technology is straight from the Prius line and proven dependable. Our test car was loaded with options, some I really liked and some that could use improvement. The standard and only power train option for the car is a 1.8 liter gas engine coupled with the ECVT (Electronic Constantly Variable Transmission).
The look of the car, it’s image standing there in my driveway made we yearn for a 6 speed manual shift. The 98 horsepower engine coupled with the hybrid drive gave us 134 horses that could have been more fun to drive with better control through the 6 speed, but then that would defeat the whole idea of a hybrid. Even with the ECVT and small power plant the acceleration was fair and good enough for most daily drivers
The toys; the backup camera, navigation system and radio all offer good quality and access. I found the joystick style mouse mounted in the center console easy to use after a short learning curve, but recommend getting used to it before you take the car out to drive. It seemed less distracting than having to reach across and touch a screen to change settings. Steering wheel controls help in keeping the drivers attention on the road. The full leather seating with seat heaters was the most Lexus thing on the interior options. The rest of the interior trim is closer to Toyota than what I expect from Lexus. The 200 handled well at normal speeds and in normal driving conditions. There is little body roll or sway and the steering is very responsive.
Under more aggressive driving it doesn’t seem to have the feedback from the road through the steering and body that warn us when we are approaching the edge of its performance ability. But this is a hybrid, not a sports car. The 200 offers an EV mode. This Electric Vehicle mode is very limited, kicking out with even slightly demanding acceleration and at speeds over 25 mph. It might be ok for circling the shopping mall parking lot, but has little real life value. I managed to get the average economy up to 42.1 mpg. Lynn did about 2 mpg better. That is very respectable and the one thing this car does very well.
As a small family car, in town commuter and ecology safe chioce it is a winner. Priced like a Lexus it may keep the young family out; our test car stickered at 39K and the starting price is about 32. I understand that for 2014 the CT200h will get the IS style grill and some other minor body mods but keeps the same gas sipping power train.
Wishing you miles and miles of happy driving!