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2012 Lexus CT 200h Premium Hybrid Review – Contemporary, Functional, Luxurious

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Filed under Automotive, Featured, Hybrid, Lexus, Test Drives


Last year Lexus introduced the CT 200h hybrid to offer active lifestyle singles, young couples a more fuel efficient, functional and luxury hybrid with the contemporary styling of today’s popular five-door hatchbacks.  In its second model year, the CT features a new Vehicle Proximity Notification System that helps alert pedestrians and cyclists of an oncoming vehicle under certain conditions by emitting a low audible warning sound.  This new system is what many safety organizations have been asking for since the car is virtually soundless in electric mode and very quiet even with the engine running.

The CT 200h’s size, packaging, full hybrid technology and ultra-low emissions perfectly meet the requirements of a young, highly discerning, environmentally conscience luxury custom base.  Utilizing the most recent generation hybrid system, the CT200h takes advantage of Lexus’ continuous engineering advances to maximize fuel economy, minimize emissions and deliver a pleasant experience when behind the wheel.   A highly efficient engine design, an exhaust heat recovery system, major efforts to reduce parasitic losses, an evaporative emissions system and 4-mode driver-selectable driving modes all make contributions.  Powering the new CT200h is an Atkinson-cycle engine design with it proven high efficiency and compatibility with hybrid operation.  The twin-cam engine uses four-valves per cylinder and VVT with Intelligence on the intake side.  The engine is under-square, with a 3.17 inch bore diameter and 3.48 inch stroke, and has a relatively high compression ratio of 13.0:1.  Peak output equal 98 hp and in combination with the hybrid motor, the CT200h generates 134 total system horsepower.  The CT 200h with sprint to 60mph from a standstill in Sport Mode in just 9.8 seconds.

Careful design of the intake system reduces pumping losses and its twin resonators minimize intake noise.  The cooling system uses a modular construction that combines an aluminum engine radiator, hybrid system radiator, A/C condenser and fan into a single assembly for minimal weight.  Plus, the electric fan speed is controlled via Pulse Width Modulation to reduce energy consumption and noise.  Careful ducting of the cooling system helps prevent hot engine air recirculation that tends to occur at low speeds and while idling, further enhancing efficiency.

One of the keys to lower fuel consumption involves heat.  The CT employs an exhaust heat recovery system that captures the heat of spent exhaust gases to speed engine coolant warm-up and allow the hybrid system to stop the engine earlier and more often in the driving cycle when it’s not needed, for example in low power demand conditions in slow city driving.

Using a two-motor hybrid system, the CT 200h uses an 80 hp drive motor that combines with the gas engine.  The second motor in the hybrid system serves as both engine starter and generator to charger the hybrid battery pack.  The efficient two-motor system also uses an Electronically-Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission that is a model of efficiency, simplicity and compact size with extremely smooth and quiet operation.  A motor speed-reduction planetary gear unit helps provide high power output in this small package.  It is one of the quietest E-CVT system that I have tested.

An electric transmission oil pump eliminates another source of parasitic loss to further increase efficiency.  Electronic operation allows a control strategy that invokes the oil pump only when needed, and since the oil also flows over the drive motor, overall efficiency of the motor and transmission are improved.

The CT200h comes with four types of driving personalities with a drive-mode selector that allows you to toggle between four distinct modes-Normal, Sport, Eco and EV.  Each mode changes the rate of throttle opening for a given throttle-pedal angle.  Normal mode has an essentially linear throttle response that gives naturally progressive power.  Sport mode can be selected when you want a more dynamic driving experience.  When the Sport mode is switched on the left side electric power meter turns into a tachometer for a more sport look.  In Eco mode, A/C settings are adjusted and the throttle response is reduced relative to the pedal angle to emphasize fuel economy.  Under certain circumstances, the EV mode can allow the vehicle to be driven short distances using only the electric motors.

Agile handling, excellent body control, and a smooth ride begin with a stiff body structure.  The CT body is designed with superior stiffness overall with added focus on strategically located areas that have the greatest effect on ride, handling and noise.  Setting a new benchmark in the premium compact segment ride comfort and handling, the new CT200h features a unique suspension design which combines a MacPherson strut front system with a fully independent double-wishbone rear suspension.  The compact double-wishbone rear setup design uses low-mount coil springs that help improve cargo space.  As in the front setup, rebound springs are used to aid both handling and ride, while all mountings and bushings are optimized to help provide an excellent combination of ride, handling and low noise.

Introduced for the first time on a Lexus, a unique lateral performance damper system has been designed to absorb and minimize body vibrations to offer a more linear steering feel and further enhanced ride comfort.  In lieu of conventional fixed bracing, this system features a front performance damper connecting the left and right front suspension towers, and a rear damper connecting the left and right sides of the rear structural frame.  With construction similar to that of a typical monotube suspension damper, the front and rear performance damper assemblies differ according to the variations in body rigidity, noise and vibration of their surroundings, optimizing their ability to absorb body torsion, flexure and fine vibrations.  Their installation has reduced vehicle floor vibrations across a wide frequency range, reduced body flex in left and right front suspension tower displacement, and even lowered audio system white noise levels.

It is so smooth and quiet when driving, even when driving over poorly paved roads.  Further eliminating nose and vibrations inside are strategically placed seals, barriers and insulation material.  Equal attention was placed on underbody airflow management, minimizing the CT’s coefficient of drag essential to both fuel economy and handling stability.

The CT200h employs Lexus’s experience with Electric Power Steering (EPS).  Its energy  savings and lightweight design characteristics make it ideally suited for use in conjunction with the Lexus Hybrid Driver powertrain.  The vehicle-speed sensitive steering has been optimized to provide ideal steering feel at any speed.  Inertia compensation control, friction feedback and recovery control assist in tailoring the steering feel and effort.  The EPS system also helps to improve fuel economy by reducing parasitic losses.  The leather-wrapped wheel feel great in your hand, has great on-center feel and an excellent feel for the road, whether in electric mode or gas/electric mode.

Like all Lexus vehicles, the CT200h braking system is comprehensive and as a Lexus hybrid it is augmented by regenerative braking which also helps recharge the hybrid battery pack and improve fuel economy.  The electronic controlled brake (ECB) system actuator is managed by the ECB computer and acts on the system’s hydraulic brake components.  The ECB computer also controls the interactions between the four-wheel disc friction brakes and the regenerative brake system.  Standard ABS, BA, VSC and Traction Control help in emergency braking conditions.

The CT200h rides on large 17X7 inch aluminum alloy wheels wrapped with P215/45R17in. All-season radial tires and all wheels feature a direct-type Tire Pressure Monitor System.

Inside, the CT200h conveys comfort and style and is first to offer standard NuLuxe, a unique seat material that looks and feels like real leather but is manufactured with the environment in mind.  Also standard are 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar support and four-way manual adjustable front passenger seat.  The CT200h Premium also features heated front seats and an electric moonroof.

The high-visibility, electro-luminescent instrument cluster offers fresh methods of keeping track of various systems in the car and helps you to conserve fuel.  A hybrid system indicator displays the hybrid system output and regenerative charging status, simultaneously indicating the efficiency of the system related to your driving style.  An auxiliary Eco Drive Indicator light further assists you in maintaining the most economical use of system power during your drive.

A multi-information display situated in the instrument cluster keeps you informed of the numerous actions controlled by the steering wheel-mounted switches.  It uses high-contrast organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology for maximum visibility and indicates various conditions such as fuel consumption, ambient temperature and cruising range.

Climate control is designed to provide comfort and clean air for all passengers.  A dual temperature control system is used for front seat occupants and a dedicated rear blower is mounted in the center console and at the side of ride-side bench seat to promote quick cool down or heat for the rear passengers.  A Plasmacluster ion generator, A/C clean air filter and a pollen removal mode help clean air inside the cabin.

The standard six-speaker sound system with automatic sound leveler and in-dash CD player enhance the CT with a rich and clear sound quality.  The speakers feature the world’s first automotive speakers constructed with sustainable bamboo and resin.  The CT also offers Bluetooth, and integrated SIRIUS satellite radio receiver and USB/iPod connectivity.

Options include a Navigation Package with HDD navigation, back-up camera and voice command and Lexus’ exclusive Remote controller with user-adjustable haptic feedback.  My loaded CT200h came with these and the optional premium audio system with 10-speakers, six-CD changer, Homelink, electrochromic rearview mirror, perforated leather sport bucket seats, driver memory, rain-sensing wipers, LED low beam headlamps, and Pre-Collision System with Dynamic Radar Cruise control.

Standard equipment not mentioned above includes foglamps, push button start/stop, rear wiper, three-spoke tilt/telescope leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise control buttons, dual control climate settings, one-touch up/down windows/door locks, tonneau cover, front/rear floor mats, dual map lamps, map pockets behind the front seats, and grab handles above each door.

Looking at the new CT200h hybrid is a delight as Lexus designers created a unique combination of elegance and excitement.  The front is the new embodiment of the L-finesse, expressing the perfect balance of precision and power.  The grille is pushed forward of the headlamps for greater visual integration with the bumper mid-section below.  It incorporates a deep, more sculpted interpretation of the L-finesse signature arrowhead motif.  The upper and lower grilles combine to form a unique ‘spindle shape’, bringing both bold simplicity and elegant dynamism to the very apex of the vehicle.  The 200h’s sweeping lines mimic the natural flow over and around the bodywork, creating a dynamic yet elegant design that combines beauty with aerodynamic efficiency.  The result is a coefficient of drag of 0.29.  In profile the steeply raked windshield, long flowing roofline and unique Lexus slingshot window graphic combine to create an elegant and highly distinctive silhouette.  The long roof and sweeping character lines of the doors form a tapered cabin shape which naturally curves in at the rear to follow the movement of air as it flows into the vehicle’s wake.

In the rear a pronounced step in tailgate section flows form the muscular rear wheel arch shoulders, emphasizing the wraparound rear window design.  Anchored by sweeping taillamps incorporating a Lexus-unique L-shaped motif first introduced in the LS, this step combines with the broad rear bumper design to reinforce the new full hybrid’s wide, firmly planted stance.  It is a unique look unlike any other compact five-door hatchback on the market.

Standard safety systems include dual front/side airbags, front passenger knee airbag, 3-point safety belts for all 5-seats, side-curtain airbags for front/rear section, front/rear crumple zones and side impact beams in all doors.

After a week test drive I had more fun and enjoyment behind the wheel of the Lexus 200h hybrid than with any other compact five-door hatchback.

Prices start at only $30,900.00 with my load model priced at $34,819.00



  • Price: Base CT200h $30,900.00 / As-Tested $34,819
  • Engine: 1.8-liter 4-cylinder & 2-motor electric Hybrid Synergy Drive – 132 horsepower @ 5200 rpm 142 pounds-feet torque @ 4000 rpm
  • Drive: FWD (Front-Wheel-Drive)
  • Wheelbase: 102.4in.
  • Total length: 170.1in.
  • Total width: 69.5in.
  • Total height: 56.7in.
  • Track: f/r-60/59.8in.
  • Headroom: f/r-38.9/37in. with moonroof
  • Legroom: f/r-42.1/32.8in.
  • EPA passenger volume: 86.1cu.ft.
  • Cargo volume: 14.3cu.ft.
  • Curb weight: 3,206lbs.
  • 0-60: 9.8 seconds
  • Fuel tank: 11.9 gallons
  • Turning circle: 36.8ft.
  • EPA mileage: 43mpg/city, 40mpg/highway

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