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2011 Lexus CT 200h Hybrid Review - Pure Fun To Drive - VIDEO ENHANCED

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2011 Lexus CT Hybrid 200h

2011 Lexus CT 200h Hybrid Pure fun-to-drive.

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

If you think the terms fun-to-drive and hybrid-drive don’t belong in the same sentence much more as characteristics of a the same car, then think again. I spent a week driving a Daybreak Yellow mica Lexus CT 200h and must acknowledge my average driving speed for that week was up. As soon as you settle into the driver’s seat the immediate feeling of the CT 200h being a driver’s car is evident.

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The low seating position combined with the low steering column angle and the fat rim of the steering wheel provide that direct connection to the CT 200h. Its compact size…170.1 inches long…makes this Lexus very maneuverable and very urban and big city friendly. With 4-doors, a rear hatch, seating for 5, this front wheel drive compact looks like a Euro-style wagon. The desire for luxury features in a compact car is a growing trend.

The CT 200h made its world debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2010 as the first and only full hybrid vehicle in the compact segment. North American debut was the following month at the New York Auto Show. Sale began in the U.S. earlier this year in March at an MSRP of $29,120.

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According to Lexus, the CT 200h represents the synthesis of five key attributes which offer customers an unprecedented experience in premium compact motoring: Lexus Hybrid Drive and the extremely rigorous set of development standards known as the Lexus MUST's; a unique driving character; the dynamic yet elegant styling inherent in the latest realization of Lexus’ L-finesse design philosophy; Lexus’ outstanding manufacturing quality and attention to detail; and the renowned customer service which lies at the heart of the Lexus ownership experience.

The CT 200h’s Lexus Hybrid Drive is the same basic powertrain as the Toyota Prius. However, specific Lexus engineering solutions and software tuning provide enhanced environmental and driving performance of the full hybrid series/parallel system, as well as low NVH levels.

With a total system output of 134 hp (100 kW), the CT 200h will accelerate from 0-60 mph in 9.8 seconds. For urban use around town, merging onto highways and with some passing reserve this is adequate. The sporty nature of the CT 200h suggests acceleration should be a little quicker, but with EPA estimated fuel economy ratings of 43 city mpg and 40 highway mpg this is a nice balance.

Watch TACH's exclusive Lexus CT200h promo video

I love the start-stop system of this and every hybrid. A feature we will see more of even in non-hybrids. Additional energy saving and environmentally-conscientious measures include LED lighting, an energy-efficient audio system amplifier and bamboo charcoal speakers, and the use of bio-sourced materials.

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The CT 200h features a low driver’s seat with excellent lateral and lumbar support, a sporty wide-grip steering wheel and a driver-focused instrument binnacle housing large, high-visibility, triple dials.

The CT 200h uses a highly modified existing platform incorporating numerous, exclusively developed body, chassis and powertrain control system engineering applications designed to offer a choice of two distinct driving moods – Dynamic, or Relaxing - in conjunction with the full hybrid’s EV, ECO, NORMAL and SPORT, ‘on-demand’ drive modes.

The high structural rigidity of the bodyshell, a low center of gravity and the minimizing of the yaw inertia moment through the use of an aluminum hood, tailgate and bumper reinforcements provide for superior handling. The fun-to-drive in this car is in the handling. Lane changing and sweeping on-ramps are pure fun.

The Lexus CT 200h features a unique suspension design which combines a proven, MacPherson strut front system with a new, fully-independent double wishbone architecture to the rear, offering superior levels of ride comfort, handling and package efficiency. A unique lateral performance damper system has been designed to help absorb and minimize body vibrations, giving a linear steering feel and further enhanced ride comfort.

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The CT 200h has a highly distinctive appearance and turns more than a few heads. The compact overall length combined with the wide track and low height speaks to its sporty nature. Premium quality materials in the interior create a very refined driving environment. Front and rear seat passenger accommodations are comfortably spacious and the 14.3 cu. ft. hatch-accessed trunk is generous.

An optional pre-emptive, Pre-Collision Safety system incorporates Adaptive Cruise Control. Eight airbags including driver and front passenger knee airbags and Whiplash Injury Lessening (WIL) front seats are fitted as standard, and an upgraded Electronically Controlled Braking-Regeneration system (ECB-R) incorporates Anti-Lock brakes (ABS), Brake Assist (BA), Traction Control (TRAC) and Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and a hybrid version of the brake override system, Smart Stop Technology.

My Premium trim test car had a base MSRP of $30,900. Options included the Premium Audio Package, LED Headlamps, Leather Package, Nav system and a few others, bringing the total to $38,239. As you can see the price can creep up, however a luxury compact as the CT 200h offering the sporty driving combined with efficiency of a hybrid may just be the bellwether for many in the future.

Watch the Lexus CT 200h "Dark Ride" Trailer

SEE ALSO: Lexus Specs, Reviews, Comparisons and Prices - Lexus Buyers Guide

Larry Nutson