By >Daimaou - G.G-B
[Review] Lexus CT200h
It has been quite a while since I had my hands on a press car. After jumping from a Ferrari 458 Italia to a 2012 Nissan GT-R, I decided that it was time to get a bit more reasonable and decided to give Toyota’s new compact “sporty” Lexus hybrid, the CT200h, a chance to seduce me like the two previous vehicles I tested did. After all, even though it has a “hybrid” powertrain, the CT200h is marketed across the world as a “hot hatchback” for active drivers looking from something different. Ready to be as disappointed has I was with the Honda CR-Z, their so-called “sport hybrid”, I was expecting to find a car really worthy to wear the precious Lexus Badge.
“Sharp” and “sporty” are the first words that come to mind when you meet the CT200h in flesh. For its first attempt in the luxury hatchback segment, the CT200h is, purely aesthetically speaking, a gorgeous looking car that many have criticized for being the Mazda Axela/3’s long-lost cousin.
Bearing the Lexus trademark, the CT200h comes with a gorgeous front grill that is admirably executed with a thin fillet of chrome bridging the sharp headlight underlines with a pair of LED eyeliners.
Honestly, the CT200h’s profile doesn’t make us drool until with lay our eyes on the car’s C-pillar. If you look closely, a racy rear spoiler is underlined by the CT200h’s rear windows. Really? Can’t see it? Try harder! (Look at the three-quarter view from the front of the car. Ed.)
Time for the “I love you… I hate you…” part of this review. Introduced by Lexus with its RX, the CT200h focuses on the front-seat passenger’s comfort, leaving the rear-seat passenger’s comfort largely ignored.
Don’t get me wrong, the CT200h dashboard is one of the best designed dashboards from Lexus, and the CT200h comes with all the bells and whistles that make you feel like you are driving a “luxury” compact car. The several days I spent with the CT200h was pure bliss in this department.
However, being a 5-door or 2+3 car designed for active young couples of people that will, one day, have to carry their friends, relatives, or kids along, you have to consider their well-being at some point.
Now, I am not a tall guy at 1.72m (5’6”), nor a skinny one. If you take under consideration that the perfect distance away from the steering wheel should not exceed the length of your arm from your shoulder to your wrist, you will quickly realize that you’d better have very small or legless friends if you want them to sit behind you!
I know that many other hatchbacks are pretty lame in this department, but seriously! What are people are thinking when they design the car interior? I know, I am quite hard on the CT200h here, but how many other people drive like me at a correct distance from their steering wheel? Look around and you will see that most people tend to push their seat back as much as possible for comfort. This may be acceptable with a big fat SUV. For the CT200h, if you ever try this, you will see that there are no more than a few centimeters from the back of the front seat to the end of the seat cushion of the back seat.
On The Road
Now that you are comfortably seated behind the wheel and find some crippled friends, it is time to give the CT200h a try and check how “cool” this car is.
Being an hybrid, you have to keep in mind that the CT200h is not a race car. Its 98hp 1.8L gasoline engine, combined with an electric motor, giving you a total output of 136hp, is a reminder that a 3-second zero to sixty (0-100km/h) run is completely impossible. So I was in for a surprise when I jumped from the 2012 Nissan GT-R (which can do sub 3-second 0-60 runs) to the CT200h.
After all what could you expect from a Car that shares the same gasoline engine as your average Toyota Auris or Prius? Sure, Toyota made some tweaks to this 1.8l VVT-I four cylinder engine to raise the bar above the Prius, but still the CT200h is no racer. If you’re like me and like to drive aggressively, you better permanently change the CT200h gearbox to its “Sport Driving” mode and try, if you can, to mentally think of it as your car’s default “Normal” mode.
This said, I do not “hate” hybrid or EV cars. Actually I love them. By far the best experience I ever had with a hybrid car was with Toyota’s Crown Hybrid, the best hybrid car ever made from the company (as far as I am concerned). What disappointed me most with the CT200h was its poor EV-mode range that, despite being careful and having a fully charge battery, was not capable to go more than a few kilometers at moderate speeds – even below Toyota’s recommendation when driving the CT200h in its EV mode.
Sure, the CT200h will do pretty much everything else like a Prius, but for me, enjoying a Toyota Hybrid Car in its EV mode is a luxury that very few can enjoy.
Is the CT200h all that bad? Well actually no, if you put aside the “average” driving experience of the CT200h. You have to be impressed by Toyota fitting the CT200h with Yamaha’s state-of-the-art front and rear damping system that not only stiffens the car’s structure, but also drastically minimizes the body vibrations, increasing both the car interior acoustics and comfort!
When Toyota’s engineers explained this to me, I was honestly skeptical of how such “simple” damping system would change the car’s overall behaviors and comfort. To be honest, not only does this system work very well, but I also wish that Toyota would seriously consider implementing this technology on all of its hatchbacks!
Do I hate the CT200h? No, not at all. I actually kind a like it and, despite what I wrote earlier on the CT200h, I would actually consider this car for myself as a perfect and elegant commuting car or city car and nothing else.
Let’s face it: The CT200h is not a car you will enjoy driving with friends (with legs) or traveling long distances with. But as an everyday commuter with enough space for you and your love ones to enjoy a nice romantic weekend not too far away from the city, the CT200h becomes an ideal choice. Its elegant body lines will definitively help you stand out in the crowd.