Lexus is not known primarily for fuel efficiency. The 2013 Lexus CT200h could help change the perception. Using well-refined Prius innards gives this Lexus a foundation of excellent hybrid engineering. The economy is not as good but still excellent. The higher price brings nicer surroundings rather than better fuel savings.
Cars are exercises in compromise. The CT200h moves the compromise a couple of notches away from economy of operation and toward interior plushness. Although such assessments are subjective, the car looks better than its Prius cousin. The promise of performance is not quite fulfilled, however. The base price of $31,850 barely surpasses that of a top-line Prius, so it is not a bad trade for a much more interesting car. The 2013 Lexus CT200h may even stir thoughts of a fun drive, which are not normally applied to hybrids.
New For 2013
The base model has been dropped. There are two new colors. The Lexus Enform system adds a few more capabilities, the driver’s armrest is now padded, and a power passenger’s seat and park assist are optional.
Viewed from the front, the newer tucked-in-the-middle design is apparent on the 2013 Lexus CT200h, but not between the upper and lower openings. Rather, the upper inlet sports the tuck. Grille and headlight lines blend into the hood in a graceful waltz of curves and lines. Sculpted is the word Lexus uses. The stance of the car is low to the ground, implying athleticism. With extended prow and ground-effects skirts the car looks like it wants to go. The company is intentional about that look. Stodgy is out for this hybrid hatchback. The Fire Agate Pearl color treatment is particularly appealing.
The rear window, sporting a deep spoiler off the top edge, looks narrow top to bottom, calling up a faint memory of the chopped tops of custom cars from the mid-20th century. The sense of width is deceptive. The D-pillar has a glassed-over blackout design that looks like the rear window wraps around into the side of the car. Instead, there are tiny and not very usable rear side windows. The CT F Sport edition is downright aggressive-looking with special headlight, taillight, and ground-effects similar to Volkswagen Golf TDI treatments. Wheels are well-matched to the rest of the design.
Interior & Cargo
It is cozy in there, although Lexus claims five-passenger capacity. In particular the rear passenger area requires some invasion of personal space. Racing components influence the interior. Thought went into placement of steering wheel, pedals, and even the horn pad placed pinpoint on the center of rotation. The front seats have side bolsters for secure higher-speed action.
Plenty of brushed metal trim enhances the feeling of a well-crafted machine. A choice of seat coverings includes something Lexus calls NuLuxe, which is meant to simulate leather, and actual leather. The NuLuxe weighs half as much. Add color and elegance to the dash panels with choices of genuine ash burl, graphite metallic, or genuine bamboo. Premium audio and navigation packages are available. The nav group includes a suite of apps, plus a backup camera and voice command.
No crash test data is available yet for the 2013 Lexus CT200h. However, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2012 version a solid ""Good"" in every single column. Eight two-speed airbags come along for the ride. The speed of deployment depends on the severity of impact. Windshield wipers sense when it is time to activate. Front seatbacks adjust themselves during collision to lessen whiplash. Vehicle Stability Control helps modulate braking and accelerator inputs when there is tire slippage.
A system called Lexus Enform is available with the navigation system. Similar to GM's OnStar, it brings 24-hour navigation and emergency help. As desirable as the 2013 Lexus CT200h might be to a thief, the built-in tracking system can help the law catch the perpetrator before the joy is fully realized. There are better warranties, but some peace of mind is obtained by the 48-month/50,000 mile basic warranty, the six-year/70,000 mile powertrain coverage, and finally the eight-year/100,000-mile warranty on the hybrid system.
The 2013 Lexus CT200h is a Prius at heart, with the same 1.8-liter, four-cylinder gas engine with battery assist. The transmission is a continuously variable type, resulting in scarcely noticeable engine speed change as the car accelerates. Driving style can be customized, with EV, Eco, Normal, and Sport modes selectable by a dash-mounted knob. EV mode is battery power alone, letting the internal combustion engine have some rest. Sport mode mutes certain electronic intrusions for a more hands-on driving experience.
While the CT200h has a Prius power, it carries more weight around. That means it is slower, and gets 43/40 mpg city/highway, compared to the Prius ratings in the 50s. However, style comes with this package, which is an intangible worth. Steering inspires confidence, as does the handling. For a car with luxury aspirations the ride is on the rough side. The F Sport Package has a truly tight suspension, in addition to the come-hither visual presentation.
Key Competitors For The 2013 Lexus CT200h
- Audi A3 TDI
- Chevrolet Volt
- Toyota Prius