CT Hybrid

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2013 Lexus CT Hybrid Overview

It’s a Lexus, so it needs to be quality. It’s designed like a hot hatch, so it needs to be fast. And it’s a hybrid, so it needs to be efficient.

One out of 3 ain’t bad.

There was a time when Luxury, Sport and Economy were three different categories of cars. Today, we meld them together in order to come up with a whole that is actually less than the sum of its parts. The CT 200h offers you a compromise of traditional Lexus luxury, economy borrowed from the Prius and a sporty look that isn’t backed up in performance.

That’s right, the CT 200h utilizes the same familiar hybrid drivetrain as the Prius, packed into a shorter, lower container for some extra sportiness. That means a 1.8-liter engine with all the fancy tech Toyota provides, like variable valve timing and the 4 modular settings that take you from Eco to Sport. The engine is mated to a pair of permanent-magnet synchronous electric motors for a total of 134 hp. Here an all-electric mode is also available, which allows for travel at speeds up to 28 mpg for over a mile with the gasoline engine disengaged.

While EPA ratings are 43 mpg city/40 highway, that’s not enough to win recognition in anything other than the single-car category in which the CT 200h competes. More than that, the sportiness doesn’t deliver, either, as clicking the switch over to Sport means it’ll still take you nearly 10 seconds to hit 60 mph. That hasn’t been sporty in about half a century. Sport will also give full electric assist at partial throttle and tighten the steering as well as morphing the power-use gauge into a tach.

Yes, the CT 200h handles better than the Corolla/tC platform on which it’s based, helped by elements not found on either, like a lateral damper system and the aforementioned tightened steering ratio, but despite supportive seats, a low stance and a wide, thick steering wheel, the CT 200h never manages to feel truly sporty. The steering is still sloppy, the engine is still sluggish.

Yes, it’s true that it’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow, but that’s assuming either is fun to drive. New aerodynamic panels on a Prius don’t make it dynamic to drive.

That brings us to luxury. Many early adopters complained about a lack of luxury materials in the cabin. Fit and finish were fine, but oversights like a non-padded elbow rest on the door made for some serious sore spots. Lexus has fixed that, but the cheap materials still hang about, hidden and ready to jump out at you just as you start thinking to yourself, “Why did I spend so much money on this car?” At least some attempts have been made, and even ecology makes an appearance here, as the CT 200h boasts industry exclusive bamboo and resin speakers, plus some 30% plant-based plastic parts.

However, the CT 200h acts like the compact crossover it is in all situations. Things are tight inside, whether you’re a passenger or cargo, and never more so than for rear occupants. And don’t get your hopes up about rear visibility—it was an afterthought at best.

In all, the CT 200h attempts much but accomplishes little. It’s another victim of this mad dash for efficiency, or more specifically the mad dash to make money on the fashion thereof. Best to leave it alone before the industry leaves it behind.


A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.

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