1SICKREVIEW: 2011 Lexus CT 200h

 
 
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lexus-ct-200h-6.jpgFirst off thank you to Lexus for the opportunity to check out the new CT 200h!As we all know this car was shown as a concept for Europe but it wasn't until later we found out the USA would get a small allocation. This is Lexus first entry in the hatch market which is a minuscule one in America but of the utmost importance in Europe. Amazingly, this small car is one of their most important vehicles as Lexus wants to double sales in Europe with this. Recently it was revealed F-sport parts will be sold for it as well and there is a show CT at SEMA. This car will begin to be sold early next year. Pricing is not finalized and I have no info on pricing. 

I was fortunate enough to be informed that pre-production CT 200h's were here. I was even more fortunate to meet some great Lexus people and the opportunity to drive the CT 200h. I stuck around and really went over the vehicles inside and out. They were real liberal with letting me hang around I am thankful for the opportunity. I wanted to truly bring my friends and family at SELOC, Clublexus and other forums the real deal on this car. 

The bottom line is this car challenges your perceptions of Lexus, maybe even MORE than the LFA. Mind you I am going from being in the LFA in Jaunary, a 375k new exotic Lexus to being in a CT in November, a maybe $30,000 base new entry level model. Very contrasting debuts from one company in a year and I do wish there was more fluff between the two vehicles. 

I can be honest with you guys and gals and I have been vocal in the past about Lexus going "downmarket". I completely understand the "why's" but I also understand "why" the McRib ain't really ribs. This vehicle CHALLENGES my bias against it and likely many people's, including Lexus own people. Only recently with the F-sport SEMA CT did I say to myself "you know what, I can see myself in that". 

The HS really hasn't given salespeople and dealerships that warm fuzzy feeling to say the least. Without saying specifics it really is a black mark, which is hard to say since I love Lexus and want them all to succeed. So naturally people are scared of a follow up to the HS in the CT. Both hybrids, both worlds firsts, both a "different" kind of Lexus. 

Well I am here to say that if the CT 200h is the entry level model and this is the new direction Lexus is taking in regards to quality and sport, color me impressed. 

I'll start with the exterior

This is another car that looks much better in person than in pics. All vehicles were equipped with the low profile 17" wheels. Amazingly, even being only 170" long I can see 18 and 19s really filling out the arches and making a better impression. For a hatch, it is very detailed. Up front is a very sculpted front bumper with it twisting into the grill. Not sure I like the Chrome bar as it doesn't surround the grill. I guess thought that would look more pedestrian. The headlights are well done (cars had HIDs not LEDs) and the LEDs in the bottom of the headlight look fine without looking like x-mas lights. 

From the side things get better and it is the best angle to me. Lexus did a good job b/c IT DOES NOT look CHEAP as I was afraid it would. It does look luxurious for a hatch. I'm surprised the chrome window trim in the rear is not thicker though. The side view mirrors have the turn signal in them and note the bottom half is black plastic. The bottom of the doors are also sculpted and looks L-finesse. I like L-finesse for being detailed and stylish without screaming "hey look at me, I'm important (to me)". The rear also works with the flowing window and the LED tails. The rear bumper is kind of plain but hey, its a 30k vehicle. 

They had white/silver/daybreak yellow and matador red mica. I really like the car in the white and bright colors. The Daybreak Mica is fantastic.

Overall I liked it a lot in person. It looks like how a Lexus small hatch would look. Its a car that needs to be seen in person.

Lets go inside

I sat in all of the different colors. Black interior leather and nu luxe, water grey leather and I believe the Caramel NuLluxe. The easy way to tell the difference is the leather has perforated seats, nu-luxe does not. 

Here I am being challenged again Nuluxe. Its not for me BUT it isn't bad for synthetic leather. NuLuxe is "environmentally conscious", 
50% lighter than leather (weight), 
65% less CO2 output being produced, 
No metal dies used
No VOC (Colatile Organic Compounds)

I hope Lexus advertises that b/c most will just say "fake leather" instead of giving it the credit it is due. 

(I did also sit in an A3 TDI with synthetic leather and it is noticeably harder and more rubbery in feel)

The doors close with a noticeable thud, very good. There is plastic aluminium on the doors around the door handles. I mean its a 30k car what did you expect. The drivers seat is all power with 3 way memory I noticed. 

The steering wheel is manual tilt/telescopic. The chrome shifter looks nice and adds a nice touch. I sat in both cars with and without remote touch. Even without remote touch, the interior didn't look like it lacked anything which was a plus. There is a nice compartment next to the remote touch area that opens for the 12v and USB/Aux port and a nice slot right next to it to put your cell or MP3 player. Very thoughtful.There will be a "universal device holder" for US cars that sits your cell phone up to be visible. Nice touch. 

I also sat in cars with the different wood trim on the passenger side dash. The Bamboo looks nice! Most of the cars was basic black and I think one had metal. Didn't see one with Ash Burl. Burl and Bamboo is real. 

Remote touch is a treat and easy to use. The screen pops up ala the old IS 300 but is fairly larger and very easy to read. 

The gauges are very legible with the trick blue/red depending on eco or normal/sport. Glad to see the usual Lexus light saber gauges. It really is a cool feature to see the Tach, would love this on my 450h. 

The knob to switch them is a nice silver knob and within easy reach.

The doors have big pockets and it seems bigger cupholders. The center dash has two built in that are exposted. Pet peeve of mine, I don't like exposed cuholders. The armrest is good and the glovebox has a shelf and is not huge but should be adequate. 

Overall everything is within easy reach and everything is easy to figure out. The radio/climate control is also easy to use. This is a new design dash for Lexus, very European to me but it works. I also liked the QUALITY of materials used. It did not feel cheap at all and felt like a Lexus. I was impressed considering this is below the IS. I think this is a very good sign for future Lexus models. 

I am 6" 5, 230 and legroom was fine up front in both seats. Headroom was also surprisingly fine, my head DID NOT hit the roof with the CT with the sunroof and I had more room in the cars without the sunroof. 

Getting to the REAR is where you feel the smaller size of the car. The rear seat is for lunch trips and kids. It can hold 5 adults but things would be quite cozy. My legs did hit the rear seatback and my head was hitting the roof. I am tall so for MOST PEOPLE it won't be an issue. I don't think you can ask for much more in the rear. There are no cupholders back there. Go Europe. 

The headliner material is okay, not the softer stuff in most Lexus models. 

Getting to the CARGO area the hatch lifts. The rear of the hatch is covered in plastic, not carpet like a RX. I am not an expert at hatches but I guess b/c of the batteries and sloping roof the rear entry was average at best. What is good is theseats do fold FLAT and you have decent cargo room. The rear cover to me was a hassle to take out since the rear is small, took me a couple of tries to get it out. If you open the floor there are small compartments and a spare tire but not a full spare. 

The Drive


I got to drive it around downtown for a couple of miles. I took it up to about 60 tops and scooted it around traffic to get a feel for it. Color me impressed. You sit low in the vehicle as we have been told for lower center of mass. That is probably why I fit so well up front. The steering wheel is a nice feel and small in size. I liked it. The gauges are easy to read and visibility up front and the sides are good, rear is okay. This car has 134hp peak and is basically a mid to high 9 second car. It weighs 3100 lbs. There is simply no getting around it being low on power. However once you don't expect an IS F things are fine for around town. 

There is a VERY noticeable difference between eco/norm and sport. Sport really makes things come alive, I'd probably leave it there most times. The engine is more eager to rev and the throttle response is very very well done. I passed a few cars and squeezed in spots with no issues with a passenger with me. In normal/eco things slow down a lot and throttle response is much slower. Great for cruising or pissing people off around you.

Handling was really fantastic. The car never really let me know it was FWD. Steering inputs were pretty precise and the car moved confidently. I actually jumped in a Lexus and felt confident immediately driving it.  Something that usually takes a couple of times driving/laps with other cars. What is beautiful is the RIDE was fine. I didn't find it jarring at all and it was pretty supple considering its price and its size. I am always in awe of Lexus suspensions with these think tires. How do they do it? Brake feel was fantastic, by far the best feeling hybrid brakes I've used. I wish my 450h brakes felt this good. They didn't feel artificial at all. 

With F-sport parts, it would ONLY get better, which is impressive. I have got to say that this car would be a RIOT with 200hp or so. The chassis is begging for more power! C'mon Lexus bring an optional engine!

Other tidbits

There was a A3 TDI around to compare too. I didn't drive it but sat inside and looked around. I've always liked the A3. Inside is the traditonal Audi/German look, nice plastics, lovely use of aluminum, traditional gauges.Very well done but again, 35k with some options? Tough sell here. Other cars mentioned as possible competition are the BMW 128cupe, 2011 Acura TSX wagon, Honda CR-Z. 

The CT uses regular unleaded


Summary

Once the bias is passed this is a car that I can appreciate. 42 MPG hasn't even been mentioned yet and that is just fantastic to think about. This car feels SUBSTANTIALLY more upscale than a Prius, period and its not close. It also drives SUBSTANTIALLY sportier and its not even close. This is a very good driving car, especially in sport mode. I really hope it gets a higher power optional engine to exploit its full talents. 

It never came across as "Cheap". There are cost cutting measures but Lexus always does a good job of not making it obvious. They still keep Lexus hallmarks like real wood and optitron gauges. The CT also is built environmentally friendly, like the HS, something not spoken about but is a positive aspect of the vehicle. 

This also should be a good car for anyone who like hatches or small cars and not just hybrids. The hybrid tech is very hidden yet its all over the car. I think a lot of first timers will like it especially those that don't like the Prius for whatever reason(s). 

Pricing will be CRUCIAL. I mean CRUCIAL for success. The bottom line is the USA does not love expensive hatches. Can Lexus sell around 1,000 of these a month? I think they can here and I think Europe will really like it. I think another challenge is Lexus own CPO cars since you can get an IS 250 for the same price a year old. However it doesn't get 42 MPG. 

Mike

Discussion: 1SICKREVIEW- 2011 Lexus CT 200h

 
 
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