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2012 Lexus CT 200h Overview
After its 2011 introduction, the Lexus CT 200h gets a “sport” option package that adds almost no sport to the already slow hybrid. Last fall, Lexus showed off its F Sport range of accessories for the CT 200h, but failed to offer them for sale until now. With unique 17-inch alloys, a slightly retuned suspension and aesthetic additions like a rear spoiler, mesh grille and interior trim additions, the F Sport package transforms the CT 200h inside and out.
Unfortunately, it will do nothing to increase performance from the hybrid drivetrain. Essentially utilizing the Prius’ setup, the CT 200h sees similar performance, with the combined 134-hp system taking a leisurely 9.8 seconds to make 60 mph. Still, the retuned suspension offers stiffer springs and larger anti-roll bars. However, since the powertrain is so sluggish, it’s hard to justify these changes, especially when their only effect is to make an already harsh ride even worse. Lexus has become known for its plush ride and superb sound isolation, and the CT 200h simply doesn’t live up to that reputation. Even the standard suspension is a bit stiff, with a chassis that feels loose and noises and bumps that permeate with little goading. With the stiffer sport suspension, all these shortcomings are amplified, making for a severely disappointing experience.
Aesthetic changes are pleasurable at least, with interior trim changes like metallic trim, aluminum pedals, black headliner, seat trim and a leather-trimmed sport steering wheel. Another step up is the F Sport Special Edition package with its own unique 17-inch alloy wheels, F Sport floor mats, unique blue trim for the seats and a matching Tumi duffle bag. How chic.
The two packages even have colors dictated to them, with the base F Sport package coming in Nebula Gray Pearl, Obsidian Tungsten Pearl, Starfire Pearl, Ultrasonic Blue and Matador Red Mica. Choices are more limited with the F Sport Special Edition, which only comes in the three “pearl” options.
Otherwise things stay the same for this 4-door, 5-passenger hatchback. As a FWD hybrid premium compact, there’s not a lot of competition in the market, which is good for Lexus. A lot of things simply don’t add up as a premium car: too stiff suspension, too thin interior padding and insulation, too little power. And with an EPA-estimated 43 mpg city/40 highway rating, efficiency isn’t all that impressive either, especially considering the drawbacks. Unrefined steering and brakes hurt things further and really highlight how far Lexus missed the mark with its sport aspirations. Its compact size make things tight inside, especially in the back seat, and the trunk offers 14 cubic feet of storage, just one more than a Fiesta.
The CT 200h was part of Lexus’ attempt to curb sales losses of the last few years as customers migrate over to Euro luxury cars. Unfortunately it fails to do enough things well to recapture that old Lexus spirit. Luxury is in short supply thanks to increased noise intrusion and poor bump insulation, not to mention steering and braking that simply don’t measure up to the usual standard. The raucous, underpowered engine further robs any sport inspiration, and taking away the plush ride we’ve come to expect from a Lexus means there’s little to attract here. You can get more and spend less elsewhere.
by Michael Perkins
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