The only thing we didn’t like about our weeklong test drive with the Lexus CT 200h was the electric lime green paint job, and even that drawback faded once we got into all of the fun this hybrid hatchback has to offer.
The hybrid element of the CT jumped out to me the most. It was my first extended experience behind the wheel of a car that can switch between a conventional engine and an electric motor on the fly. Really, it’s just a matter of getting used to the sounds and feel of a hybrid as it makes those automatic switches. At what would be low rpm activities like wiggling into and out of parking spots and driveways there is absolute silence as the electric engine quietly moves the CT around at those low speeds. The CT did make some distracting noises and jerking motions, however, when you force the gas engine to quickly engage. Tearing off down a quiet suburban street is going to be tough because of this; power doesn’t explode out of this hybrid. The indicator on the instrument panel can be difficult to figure out when you’re trying to ensure that you’re driving at optimal efficiency. Once you figure out how to keep that needle in the right part of the gauge, though, the game-within-the-game of driving can be pretty fun.
Speaking of which, we filled the tank only once –on the way back– during a 90 mile trip from Orange County to San Diego and around that town over two and a half days. I can’t express how great it feels to cruise by every gas station you see for days at a time, especially in Southern California.
In terms of creature comfort, this is a hatchback with more space than you’d expect. We were able to throw our 13-year old, her sister, her sister’s babyseat and all the luggage that those two –plus their mother– require on a two day road trip. Yeah, my girls demand as much stuff as yours so the hatch was full of suitcases, a playpen and baby bags yet I could still see out of the rearview mirror through the back window. It was tight but comfortable enough with nobody whining about being cramped or anything like that. And trust me, this is a roadtrip crew that would whine about space if it was a problem.
The specific CT 200h we were rolling in was decked out with the power windows, seats and moonroof as well as a built in satellite radio/GPS screen and control system in the middle console. The feel and placement of the control knob and “select” button were very cleverly designed so you can keep your eyes on the road. However, the GPS system itself was relatively clumsily controlled compared to what you’d find on your touchscreen phone.
Overall, the CT 200h is a fine way to go if you’re looking for a do-it-all hybrid hatchback for the family with a tested price point of less than $40,000. Why you’d want a four door hatchback as your family hauler is a different question for another time.
Image Credit: Tim Andrew