By The Car Family
An inexpensive Lexus might sound like an oxymoron, but that is what the Lexus CT 200h is and with it comes the attributes the marque has brought to buyers including vehicle quality and buyer satisfaction ratings that top the charts, as well as a frugality usually associated with the ubiquitous Toyota Prius.
Of course, there are some caveats with this Lexus and they are in it diminutive size and its performance. Nevertheless, if you want a good looking hatchback that can get you a combined 42 mpg with the Lexus treatment the CT is your only choice. Helping make it an interesting choice is the utility of its four-door hatchback body style that makes it an ideal choice for commuting, runs to the vet or a weekend escape.
The CT 200h is very athletic and trim, making it capable of being piloted through crowded mall parking lots as well as canyon runs with equal aplomb. Don’t expect exuberant response because the 134 horsepower engine is designed with economy in mind. The good news is that the pricing of this Lexus is exceptional. Indeed, you can acquire this Lexus for less money than a well-equipped Prius, although the latter may have more interior space and better fuel ratings. The Lexus comes standard with alloy wheels, automatic headlights, heated mirrors and puddle lamps, a sunroof, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat, split-folding rear seats, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Siri Eyes Free technology that connects to select smartphones and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio and a USB/iPod interface. Package options include Seat Comfort, Premium, Leather, Navigation and F Sport for those who want the go-fast look.
Mom’s view: The CT is an interesting four-passenger hatchback that has a cool, almost retro look. Although the ride height is quite low, visibility is good and the turning radius tight enough to make U-turns effortless. Safety-wise, the Lexus has antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, and airbags everywhere. Lexus’ telematics system automatically provides collision notification, stolen-vehicle location and emergency assistance. Most importantly, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the CT 200h its highest rating of “Good” in moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength, and for whiplash protection. Overall, you get a Lexus that does most everything well at a bargain price.
Dad’s view: Power for the 2015 Lexus CT 200h hybrid isn’t overwhelming, but when the electric motors and gasoline engine are united freeway merging and passing aren’t a concern. The CVT is excellent and keeps the 98-horsepower 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine on task. Handling is as good as most hybrids, especially the good feel of the steering and brakes. Very competent for what it is. The ride is compliant, but don’t expect the same level of quietness that is in the more expensive Lexus models. Still, it is enjoyable to drive and grows on you. The CT is like a secret that more people should know about as it provides a fun ride with frugality, exceptional suspension, comfort and quality of the Lexus brand without the big bottom line.
Young working woman’s view: The controls are fairly easy to master, but the control for the info-entertainment entries takes a while to learn because it uses a unique mouse-like interface and a joystick to move the cursor on the screen. It provides excellent feel, though. Interestingly, despite its size, the backseat has an amazing amount of leg and head room. The doors, however, are a bit slim so entry wearing a dress requires some practice. The glove box and door pockets are diminutive, but the backseats can be folded down to provide access to nearly 35 cubic feet of cargo area. I really liked the smoothness of the CT as it switched between electric and gas modes and auto stop-start functions smoothly. BMW and Porsche could learn from Lexus in this regard. You can select three different driving modes from normal for day-to-day outings, Eco for crowded commuting and Sport for a more aggressive feel.
Young married man’s view: Finally got hitched and this would make a fine addition to the family. The CT has several features I admire like the bamboo speaker frames and trim items made from plant materials. Although it looks small, once inside it does not feel that way. With the requirement that all new cars have backup cameras next year I was surprised that this was still part of an option package on the CT. That aside, I found the optional voice-command HDD tilt-screen navigation system with remote controller, the Enform emergency notification system and NavTraffic to be easy to use and quick to respond. The joystick control actually provides feel as you move it about. Very cool.
Family conference: The 2015 Lexus CT 200h is the most affordable Lexus with a starting price around $33,000 and we have seen some models well loaded for this price. For that you get a handy little rig that enjoys pleasing its owner whether it is sipping fuel, parking in the smallest of spaces, or just making you proud every time you enjoy the many luxury features. A great way to reduce your carbon footprint, too.
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