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2012 Lexus CT Hybrid 200h Review by John Heilig +VIDEO

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2012 Lexus CT Hybrid 200h

COMPARE: Lexus CT Hybrid 200h V Toyota Prius Five V Nissan Leaf V Chevrolet Volt
SEE ALSO: Lexus Buyers Guide
SEE ALSO: Hybrids Sold in North America

By John Heilig
Senior Editor
The Auto Channel

Specifications - 2012 Lexus CT Hybrid 200h

Engine: 1.8-liter I4
Horsepower/Torque: 134 (total) hp @ 5,200 rpm/105 lb.-ft. @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission: Electronically6 controlled CVT
Wheelbase: 102.4 in.
Length x Width x Height: 170.1 x 69.5 x 56.7 in.
Tires: P215/45R17 (mini spare)
Cargo: 14.3 cu. ft.
Economy: 43 mpg city/40 mpg highway/38.9 mpg test
Fuel capacity: 11.9 gal.
Curb Weight: 3,206 lbs.
Sticker: $35,000 (est.)

Top 5 Reasons to buy this car:
1. It’s a luxury Prius
2. Economy
3. Essentially silent operation
4. You want to Lord it over everyone else in the HOV lanes
5. You don’t really need anything larger

The Bottom Line: When I first drove the 2012 Lexus CT 200h at its introduction, I questioned, as did many of the other journalists, if the Prius fans would really spend the extra money for a Lexus-badged version. Now, having driven it for a week (mostly) I can see a greater rationale for the car. It offers Prius-type economy, Lexus-type luxury and the essentially operation you expect from a hybrid and/or a Lexus.

We were down at Disney World, and my son-in-law and I were dispatched to get groceries. Rather than take his humungous Ford E250 15-passwenger van, we opted for my Lexus CT200h. After all, it was more maneuverable and was quieter, and still had enough cargo capacity for all the groceries we would need.

I parked the Lexus and we went into the Piggly Wiggly for supplies. When we came out, I noticed that the lights were still on. “That’s odd,” I thought. I was pretty certain I had locked the car. What I hadn’t done was turn off the engine. And since the CT 200h is a hybrid, the engine was off, even though the car was on, so there was no noise to alert the driver of the car parked too close next to me.

And that, in a nutshell, is my one major complaint with the CT 200h; it’s too quiet. This is great when you’re driving, but if you don’t follow all the procedures when you’re parking, it can lead to embarrassing circumstances.

Watch the Lexus CT 200h promo video

What you have to do is shift into “B,” hit “P” for the parking brake, then hit the Start/Stop button to shut the engine off. Two out of three won’t cut it. And since the key is just there to identify you, removing it from the ignition isn’t an option.

We used the big van as a bus to transport the seven of us to and from Disney World and Sea World. When we drove locally, we used the more practical Lexus.

This may seem like a carping review, and it isn’t meant to be. We all loved the Lexus, with a couple of reservations. For example, the shift lever has an interesting pattern, similar to the Prius. You start off in “B” than move the dash-mounted lever to the left to engage either “R” (upward) or “D” (downward). For the first week, you have to think every time you shift. To stop everything, you shift back into “B” and then hit the “P” button for the parking brake.

Ride quality is excellent, about what you’d expect from a Lexus no matter what the size or powerplant. In addition, operation is LS 460-like quiet. There’s a little growling on hard acceleration, but once on the highway you’re able to converse in hushed tones.

When I first saw the CT 200h many months ago, I thought the styling was confused. More time behind the wheel (and looking at it in the parking space) led to a greater appreciation of the lines. It may have been the gorgeous deep red paint job and comfortable leather seats that changed my impression.

We had some problems with the audio system. The Sirius radio was tuned to a pleasant station, but not one that I normally use. However, while I was driving I found it difficult to change the station, so I kept it where it was.

I like the Lexus take on the center-mounted control “knob,”…except in this case it isn’t a knob. What’s there is something resembling a shift knob that helps you navigate around the screen (either for audio or navigation) with a computer-like arrow. When you reach a point where you want action, you press the enter button, which is located just where your thumb is. It’s all very techy and practical.

While the 2012 Lexus CT 200h doesn’t have the practicality of a 15-passenger van for carrying people, it is eminently practical for normal-sized families. And it’s a lot of fun to drive.

2012 The Auto Page