Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: May 11, 2016
Lexus makes some of the sportiest looking hybrids known to man. Just look at those gaping spindle grills adorning the F-Sport-equipped CT 200h, NX 300h, and RX 450h. Who would have thought that they would be hiding a four-cylinder engine at the bow and an electric battery at the stern?
It’s only when you notice those subtle “Hybrid” decorations and blue Lexus badges does a bubble with a question mark pop out of your head. In fact, the hybrid in question this week, the 2016 Lexus CT 200h, essentially shares the same powertrain as the previous-generation Toyota Prius, which as far as vehicles go, is the furthest thing from being sporty. Not to mention, that it also shares a basic platform with the familial Toyota Corolla and Scion tC. But one look at this CT 200h with the F Sport Package makes you think otherwise. It looks just as fierce as a Ford Focus ST, and commands just as much road presence as a Volkswagen Golf GTI.
As luck would have it, the CT 200h doesn’t have much competition to begin with, and it arguably invented this whole segment of the luxury hybrid hatchback in the first place. Audi is closely following suit with the A3 Sportback e-tron, but that’s about it. The Volkswagen e-Golf isn’t even available in Canada, and other fully electric offerings like the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf are lacking in premium feel. Tesla’s Model 3 may prove to be a worthy competitor, but Lexus doesn’t have to worry about that for another year.
So what makes this CT 200h so unique? Well it’s certainly a looker and carries a great deal of curb appeal despite being the cheapest model in the Lexus lineup, especially in F Sport guise with flared up fenders, sportier wheels, a unique rear spoiler, and a bigger meshed grill.
For 2016, Lexus has expanded the packages available for the CT, including a new F SPORT Series 2 Package that adds onto Series 1 with navigation, leather seats, driver’s seat memory, a garage door opener, in-dash DVD player, and auto-dimming and reverse auto-tilting exterior mirrors.
They have also included a new Special Edition Package, which adorns our test vehicle. Think of it like the Black Package or Night Package from the respective German automakers, pimping out the sheetmetal with darker and sportier aesthetic tweaks. This includes a black taillamp surround, black side mirrors and door handles, two-tone NuLuxe seats, and black finished alloy wheels.
The interior isn’t bad either. It’s refined, comfortable, and surprisingly luxurious for a Lexus at the bottom of the automaker’s foodchain. Soft materials are used at high traffic areas, panel gaps are lacking, and the overall fit and finish is excellent.
Despite the tight and low seating position, we experienced great visibility all around. Headroom is quite hampered but rather than feeling cramped, we felt cozy and snug. We are not a big fan of how the center stack is arranged – it looks cluttered and too angular with cliffs and tight spacing between buttons. Combine that with the oversized wheel and skinny center console and we’re left without much wiggle room. We think the Volkswagen Golf has better packaging.
The same is apparent with the tight back seats, serving as a major deterrent for buyers looking to regularly carry four to five adults. Officially, Lexus says the CT will fit five passengers, but we’d argue that is true only if they are children or smaller adults. Shorter trips with taller passengers are tolerable.
So the Lexus adorns an upscale interior and the looks to match. It can certainly talk the talk, but can it walk the walk? As we’ve learned in this industry, looks can be deceiving, and Lexus has mastered this hypocrisy with the CT 200h. As we have mentioned before, the CT 200h shares the same powertrain as the Toyota Prius, which is a 1.8-litre Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder engine mated to pair of electric motors and a nickel-metal hydride battery pack. This is wired through a continuously variable transmission (CVT) powered exclusively to the two front wheels.
A net output of 134 horsepower is all that you can cash out with your right foot, so don’t expect to outrun those red and blue sirens on the street. The lack of oomph is rather disappointing, especially when you grace it with such sporty looks. The droning transmission doesn’t do it any favours either. In essence, it’s like if Ford decided to offer an ST body kit on a three-cylinder Fiesta, or if Volkswagen suddenly decided to equip a CVT into their Golf GTI. As one of my passengers put it: “it’s like eating a spicy-looking pepper but realizing that it’s not spicy at all.”
On the bright side of things, the CT 200h is incredibly fuel-efficient. We were averaging a frugal 6.2 L/100km, and we’d expect it to be even lower if we weren’t busy zipping through traffic at full throttle, because if there was one feature that saves the CT 200h from automotive condemnation, it’s the steering.
Not only is the steering feel lively and direct, but it is well weighted with a friendly tendency to return to the center. We love it. Throw it into a corner and you will feel the wheels talking back to you, letting you know the levels of grip available. It almost feels like a sports car, almost. The CT understeers under pressure, but it is easily correctable with some mashing of the throttle. It has quite predictable habits – fun in sport mode, efficient and self reserved in normal.
That being said, the suspension feels tuned more for sport rather than comfort, defying the Lexus tradition. The CT doesn’t offer the most jarring of rides, but is definitely more taxing than a Prius when hitting those potholes. I’d argue that Volkswagen’s MQB platform and chassis is still the front-runner in this department.
Four driving modes are available: Normal, Sport, ECO, and EV, which are all self-explanatory. EV mode is interesting, as it lets you drive without using a drip of gasoline, but the systems only allow you to operate at low speeds and for incredibly short distances (ie. in a parking garage).
Slight nitpicks? The flimsy gear shifter is oddly shaped and positioned horizontally making it easy to slap and hit the wrong driving mode. The CT also makes annoying beeping noises every time you shift into Reverse, like those forklifts at Costco. The droning CVT didn’t win any hearts either, neither did the mushy brakes that felt like stepping on a springboard (a trait that most hybrid vehicles have due to the regenerative brake process).
We love the sporty looks of the CT 200h as well as the upscale interior, the communicative steering, and its incredible fuel efficiency worthy of the Prius name. We didn’t however, enjoy the powertrain or the cramped back seat, but when you start to factor everything into consideration and realize that the CT 200h lacks any true competitors, Lexus’ luxury hybrid proposition becomes quite compelling. Here you have a hybrid hatchback that is fun to throw around corners and is easy on your wallet, terms that rarely ever go in the same sentence. But when describing this Lexus, it’s all I ever think about.
型号 Model: 2016 Lexus CT 200h F Sport Special Edition
顏色 Paint Type: Atomic Silver with Black Roof
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $31,650
試車售價 Price as Tested: $37,950
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,600
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,350 / 1,765 / 1,455
引擎 Engine: 1.8L four-cylinder + permanent-magnet AC synchronous electric motor
最大馬力 Horsepower: 134 combined hp @ 5,200 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 142 combined lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
波箱 Transmission: CVT
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, FWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 5.5 / 5.9
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 6.2
輪胎尺碼 Tires: P215/45R17