First Drive 2011 Lexus CT 200h

Surely Toyota has relived the success of Prius, which has now become synonymous with a word “hybrid” and the green movement.

The CT200h has been positioned as a gateway of the Lexus brand. It is the cheapest one in the Lexus lot, but is slightly expensive that the Prius. Its 1.8 litres Atkinson cycle four cylinder engine gets new exhaust and intake systems and a totally new computer programming for a much better smoothness and power delivery.

2011 Lexus CT 200h First Drive 2011 Lexus CT 200h

Its suspension has been totally retuned for the sporty handling and has Lateral Performance Damper mechanism- shock absorbers which replace the usual strut tower braces and cancel all vibrations and harmonics for improving NVH.

The CT 200h makes a much better case for itself as a hybrid car. By twisting the Drive Mode knob from the normal or eco sport mode converts it to a totally new personality. The lights on the gauge turn red and the Hybrid system indicator turns into a tachometer which is first of its kind in the Lexus or Toyota hybrid. Though a nice trick, but useless one as well, due to its continuously variable transmission, gasoline engine runs at predetermined RPM level and just leaves it there. It would have been nice if CT 200h had provided paddle shifters with the simulated gears like in Honda Insight but they have not.

The extra power of the car is also noticeable as its throttle response easily sharpens. The main difference is in delivery, as Lexus cites 0-60 time as with Pirus at about 9.7 seconds.

A great thing about CT 200h is the way one forgets that he is driving a hybrid. Irrespective of the driving mode, transactions to and from gasoline and electric power are seamless as you will never know as to what is actually happening.

Power is sufficient in many situations but is surely inadequate on hills or while climbing. Its brakes are linear and “normal” than the brakes of Pirus without any two stage feel.

The overall design of interiors is superb. The dash is unconventional and brings the cockpit of jetliner to mind, but it appears that Lexus has dropped in some parts to fit them here and there without any consideration to aesthetics. Its while-on-black LCD screens appear as antiques in the hi-fi world of colour displays.

Lexus has wisely spent money on development. The car seats are sporty and comfortable. The shallow steering, low H-point, well positioned pedals, wheel angle and low hood create sporty position for driving.

2011 Lexus CT 200h 1 First Drive 2011 Lexus CT 200h

Passengers will feel comfortable in the car, though space is less than Mazda3 hatch, yet ‘roomy’ word would not be appropriate. There is ample cargo space just below the rear floor, though under floor space could be consumed by the batteries if there is enough demand for the plug in model. A device holder cleverly plugs in the dash near the stereo and power input ports and can hold from Droid X to iPod Nano.

In conclusion, CT200h has been designed with Europe in mind, but can do wonders in US too.

2011 Lexus CT 200h
Base price $30,000 (est)
Vehicle layout Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door hatchback
Engines 1.8L/98-hp/105-lb-ft Atkinson cycle DOHC 16-valve I-4, plus 80-hp/153-lb-ft electric motor
Transmission continuously variable auto
Curb weight 3100 lb (mfr)
Wheelbase 102.4 in
Length x width x height 170.1 x 69.5 x 56.7 in
0-60 mph 9.8 sec (mfr est)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 42/41 mpg (mfr est)
On sale in the U.S. February 2011
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