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Heels on Wheels: 2012 Lexus CT Hybrid 200h Review

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2012 Lexus CT200h

SEE ALSO: Lexus Buyers Guide - Specs, Prices, Total Ownership Costs and Comparisons

By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

The sporty Lexus CT200h is unique to the market in the sense it wraps a lot of popular – yet uncommonly matched – attributes into one car. Now in its second year of production, this five-passenger compact hybrid is also affordably price, has excellent infotainment technology, and stellar fuel economy at 42 miles-per-gallon combined.

I drove a 2012 Lexus CT200h (the CT standing for Compact Touring and the “h” for hybrid) with a 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder gas engine paired with the Lexus Hybrid System for a net output of 134 horsepower. The system also uses an Electronically-Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission. Available in two trims, the Base model standard features include: dual-zone climate control; push-button start; NuLuxe upholstery; leather-trimmed wheel and shift knob; ten-way power driver’s seat; a six-speaker Premium Sound System with steering wheel audio controls; Bluetooth connectivity; and electronic device holder. The Premium trim really just adds a moonroof and heated front seats. However, options can differentiate the two, which range from a $1,100 upgraded ten-speaker audio system to a $2,445 navigation system to $1,000 F Sport Package. My fully loaded CT200h Premium with all the aforementioned came to $36,134.

The main competitors are the Audi 3, Volvo C30 and BMW 1-Series. All stylish, entry-level luxury performers in their own right; however, the CT200h is the most environmentally impressive. Last year I summed the model up as being something young, environmentally-conscious drivers will enjoy if the Prius feels too bland. But consumers should note it shares the same powertrain, so it has more or less the same 0-60 time at 9.8 seconds.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: Lexus has crafted an expertly furnished and snug roadster-like cabin inside the CT200h, with soft-touch surfaces (that only get more impressive with the F Sport Package) and one of the most driver-centric infotainment systems on the market. Users are able to manipulate a “mouse” located at the driver’s immediate left in the lower center console, and toggle a cursor across the eight-inch multi-display screen to access the audio, navigation, climate, phone and vehicle set-up systems. Lots of little touches to gush about, too, like the electronic device holder able to cradle any phone or the electroluminescent gauges that cast ambiance lighting.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The CT200h is a Top Safety Pick with The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). No model year has been rated by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Safety highlights include a Pre-Collision System; a Dynamic Radar Cruise Control system; an Electronically Controlled Braking-Regeneration system; Anti-lock Brake System with Brake Assist; Traction Control and Vehicle Stability Control.

Cost Issues: A base 2012 Lexus CT200h starts at $29,120 with the Premium trim and assorted packages topping around $37k. Price checking a few base-level competitors: 2012 Audi A3 ($27,270); 2012 Volvo C30 ($24,905); and 2012 BMW 1-Series ($31,200).

Activity & Performance Ability: The experience behind the wheel of the CT200h is one of efficiency and even power, with seamless operation between the two-motor hybrid system and continuously variable transmission, delivering a tested average fuel economy average of 38 miles-per-gallon under hard acceleration. My snazzy F Sport Special Edition package included unique wheels and a sport-tuned suspension, a nice addition to create an even firmer road ride. To further engage drivers, toggle between four distinct modes – Normal, Sport, Eco or EV -- each changing the rate of throttle opening. And under certain circumstances, the EV mode can allow the vehicle to be driven short distances using only the electric motors. A new performance feature for 2012 includes a Vehicle Proximity Notification System that helps alert pedestrians and cyclists of an oncoming vehicle using a low audible warning sound. The CT200h shares its powertrain with the Prius, weighing just a few hundred pounds more and has larger tires. With as much as a ten second zero-to-sixty time, this might not be the high performer you are searching for.

The Green Concern: The 2012 Lexus CT200h as an EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of 43 miles-per-gallon city and 40 highway. Take also into consideration the CT 200h’s EV mode that can stretch these numbers further.

The 2012 Lexus CT200h has many positive and unique attributes, such as the fact it’s a luxury-inspired five-door sporty hybrid at an affordable price. Techies will love the driver-centric infotainment system that uses a mouse. Basically, the CT200h is made for those who want Prius-like results wrapped up in a classier, sportier and more high-tech package.

2012 Katrina Ramser