Full 2011 Lexus CT 200h Review
What's New for 2011
The 2011 Lexus CT 200h is an all-new model.
Historically, hybrids have been known for having certain strengths; fuel economy is one of them but engaging handling most certainly is not. These days, though, there are models on the market that are more ambitious, promising great mileage sweetened with a sportier driving experience. One such model is the 2011 Lexus CT 200h, which holds the distinction of being Lexus' fifth hybrid and the least expensive vehicle in its lineup.
The CT 200h hatchback is related to the Lexus HS 250h and shares its powertrain with the Toyota Prius. The main distinction here is that the CT 200h is designed specifically for better handling than either of those models, with a low stance and special suspension components. The CT also has adjustable drive modes, and once you get it in Sport mode, throttle and steering settings are modified for quicker response to driver inputs. The end result is a driving experience that's sharper and more enjoyable than you'll find in most other hybrids.
As you'd imagine, having a powertrain in common with Toyota's famously thrifty green machine means good things for the CT's performance at the gas pump. Though this Lexus isn't quite as efficient as the Prius (you can blame its heavier curb weight and more resistant tires for that), its combined mileage of 42 mpg is plenty impressive and makes it the most frugal choice in its clique of competitors. The downside is leisurely acceleration; in our testing, the CT posted a 0-60 time of 10.4 seconds, 0.3 second slower than the already pokey Prius.
This combination of high fuel economy but slow acceleration means the CT is an unusual choice in the premium compact segment. The only model that comes close to matching the CT's fuel economy is the diesel-powered 2011 Audi A3. Beyond that, you'll likely be looking at regular gas-powered cars like the superior-handling 2011 BMW 1 Series or the stylish 2011 Volvo C30. Despite this formidable competition, we think the 2011 Lexus CT 200h is a respectable choice. It's affordably priced, practical and will no doubt be a draw for shoppers prioritizing fuel efficiency.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Lexus CT 200h is a premium compact four-door hatchback that comes in base and Premium trim levels.
Standard equipment on base models includes 17-inch wheels, heated side mirrors, keyless ignition/entry, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 10-way power-adjustable driver seat, dual-zone climate control, premium vinyl upholstery, Bluetooth (with audio streaming) and a six-speaker stereo with a CD player, satellite radio and auxiliary audio/USB jacks. The Premium model adds heated front seats and a sunroof.
A number of option packages are further available for the Premium trim. The Premium Audio package adds an auto-dimming rearview mirror and an upgraded 10-speaker sound system with a six-disc CD changer. The Leather package adds rain-sensing wipers, leather upholstery, auto-dimming side mirrors and driver seat memory settings. The Navigation package adds a hard-drive-based navigation system (with real-time traffic and voice control), the Lexus Remote Touch interface, a back-up camera, increased Bluetooth functionality and Lexus Enform telematics.
Stand-alone options include LED headlamps and adaptive cruise control with a pre-collision system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 Lexus CT 200h is motivated by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and a pair of electric motor/generators. Combined output is 134 horsepower. Power is sent to the front wheels through a specialized continuously variable transmission (CVT).
In Edmunds testing, the CT 200h accelerated from zero to 60 mph in a leisurely 10.4 seconds. The upside, though, is stellar fuel economy -- the EPA estimates fuel economy at 43 mpg city/40 mpg highway and 42 mpg in combined driving.
Standard safety equipment on the 2011 Lexus CT 200h includes antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability and traction control, front and rear side airbags, side curtain airbags and dual front knee airbags. Also standard is Safety Connect, a telematics service with automatic collision notification, a stolen vehicle locator and emergency assistance.
Buyers can choose an optional pre-collision system that comes packaged with adaptive cruise control -- this system determines when an accident is imminent and responds by tightening the front seatbelts and initializing brake assist. In Edmunds brake testing, the CT's performance was acceptable, with the car stopping from 60 mph in 120 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
If you're expecting standard Lexus opulence and lots of wood trim, you won't find it here. But the CT 200h cabin is still upscale, with soft-touch surfaces on the most heavily trafficked contact points. The optional leather upholstery feels rich and pliable but the standard "NuLuxe" upholstery (a synthetic imitation that's 50 percent lighter than leather) is convincing and won't disappoint. The cabin looks modern and high-end, with the exception being the radio's dated-looking panel layout and display screen.
Driver-focused touches abound within the cockpit. The shifter sits high on the angled center stack, within easy reach of the driver, and Lexus' ergonomically stellar Remote Touch controller governs the navigation system -- this controller is essentially a mouse that sits on the driver side of the center console, and like the shifter, it's remarkably easy to reach and use. However, the unimpressive capacity of the glovebox, door bins and center bin means there's not much room for in-cabin storage. Luggage capacity is 14.3 cubic feet, and the rear seats fold down to give you more storage capacity.
In Eco mode -- which, as the name suggests, offers the best fuel economy -- the 2011 Lexus CT 200h shows its Prius roots, with numb throttle response and overly light steering. Things improve in "Normal" mode, though even this setting can leave the car feeling a bit torpid in fast-moving highway traffic.
The most performance-oriented setting is Sport, which sharpens steering and throttle response to deliver handling that's more willing and connected than that of most other hybrids. Despite its unremarkable 10.4-second acceleration time, the CT feels reasonably well-powered and responsive in this setting. Still, enthusiast-minded shoppers in this segment will be better served by the nimbler BMW 1 Series or quicker Volvo C30.