The Truth About Cars » CT200h The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 28 Jul 2014 17:04:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » CT200h (Not-So) Wild Ass Rumor Of The Day: Lexus HS250h Getting The Axe Tue, 08 Nov 2011 19:08:29 +0000 Quick, name the Toyota product least affected by Asian floods and tsunamis? How about the Lexus HS250h? While its junior “dedicated hybrid” brand-mate, the CT200h took a nasty lick straight from its launch, which occurred just as the tsunami hit, the HS has been Mr Reliable. Mr Reliably Unpopular that is: the instantly-stodgy, $37k base price sedan has found between 150 and 300 buyers every single month this year. You can’t pin that on any tsunami, the car is simply a sales stinker. And when high-profit luxury vehicles flop this badly, you have to wonder how it will affect the brand’s the reputation. In any case, I don’t have a [sub] to Wards, so I don’t know why they’re reporting that the HS will be dropped… but I’m not in the least surprised. The market has spoken, it’s time to kill it with fire.


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New or Used: Mind Reading and Wagon Lust Thu, 21 Jul 2011 21:45:49 +0000

Mark writes:

Hi Guys,

I read TTAC regularly and am debating what to do about getting a new car. The situation is I had a 2001 Volvo S60 which started experiencing transmission “issues” that the mechanic could not replicate, so I traded it for a 09 Fit to get better mileage. The Fit was an excellent appliance car, but felt a bit tinny after the relative comfort and solidity of the S60. The new Lexus CT200h got me excited and my sister-in-law needed a new car so I sold her the Fit and am awaiting the Lexus. However it appears that actually fitting my kids in the back of Lexus won’t work. What would you suggest as a car? I want good mileage, because I have a city commute, a bit of luxury and reliability with not ridiculous repair costs. I had hoped the Mercedes C300 Estate would come here, but it won’t and BMW has me concerned about repairs costs. Could I be happy with a used Lexus SportCross? Please provide your perspective.

Steve answers:

We can’t read your mind. There is a big part of me that says, “Hey. All this guy wants is a hybrid with a bit more room than the CT200h.”

Then the next little voice says, “My good God! Have we sank to the level of serial numbers when it comes to model names?”

I’m surprised the CT200h won’t fit your kids. I recall test driving last year and thought the rear space was fine. But who knows? Maybe your kids are well over six foot and husky.

The Sportcross also has a small rear seat. Sorry.

As for alternatives… there are dozens to choose from. I happen to like the 2008-2009 Audi A6. It clicks all the buttons of a sporty and comfortable ride and there are plenty of low mileage CPO versions to choose from. You can usually get one of those for a lot less money than a Mercedes C300 or BMW 5-Series and if warranty issues are important to you, the CPO warranty will go a long way.

If you want new only, the Infiniti G25 is a wonderful car that is sitting on dealer’s lots (106 days in inventory). The price will be comparable to the CT200h. It will also give you a lot more real world power than the CT while offering reasonable fuel economy (20/29) and a more spacious interior. Go drive one of those and see if you like it.

Sajeev answers:

Life is full of compromises: the only cars I passionately desire are well out of warranty, making spare parts hard to find at times. So let’s get down to you.

Don’t expect a C300 Estate (if it ever arrives) to be any better than a BMW in total cost of ownership. And forget about pleasing everyone or everything in your next ride, odds are they won’t have the room to play nice with each other. All modern Euro Wagons are for ownership under warranty exclusively, unless you hate your wallet. This isn’t a Caprice-Roadmaster-Panther Love thing: it’s a lament over the USA-centric design of the 1990s Honda Accord Wagon, Toyota Camry Wagon, or Ford Taurus Wagon. I’d love to throw you into an Accord wagon right now: Honda Crosstour FTW?

But if you like the Lexus IS Sportcross, get it! Sure the back seat is smallish, but the real problem is that the latest version is about 6 years old. It will need a host of upkeep to keep it in top shape: tires, hoses, belts, fluids, shocks and who knows what else was worn out by the last owner. Maybe nothing, but I suspect your time value of money is important enough to give you pause on a used SportCross.

Can’t take the heat? Get out of the kitchen and straight to your nearest CUV. Or maybe…the Acura TSX sport wagon: one drive will put your mind at ease and push enough buttons to make you happy for years to come. Or maybe even longer.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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Review: 2011 Lexus CT200h Mon, 08 Nov 2010 19:45:36 +0000

Any way you slice Toyota’s sales figures for the past 5 years, its obvious that despite a ballooning product portfolio Lexus is in a world of hurt. Sales are down, the other import brands have improved their quality and buyers seem to be embracing a more performance-oriented (or is that German-oriented?) luxury style. But rather than re-orienting the Lexus brand to directly take on surging BMW, Audi and Mercedes sales, Toyota has doubled down on its major competitive advantage: hybrids.The recently-launched HS250h was Lexus’s first stab at an entry-premium hybrid, but after just a few months on sale it’s already going nowhere fast. With CAFÉ changes looming, Lexus may eventually benefit from an all-hybrid luxury line-up, but in the meantime the very idea of a luxury hybrid needs a shot in the arm. Is the CT200h hatchback hybrid the answer?

On the surface the CT200h looks like it could be the long-lost hatchback cousin of the IS250/350, but in reality it’s related to the HS250h, itself a derivative of the European Toyota Avensis. Despite sharing relatively few parts with the Toyota Prius, some critics have slammed the HS250h for being nothing more than a “Lexus Prius,” despite the fact that it comes with a version of the more powerful Camry Hybrid drivetrain. If that’s a problem for you on principle (it really shouldn’t be), you might want to stop reading now. Under the CT200h’s hood lurks the same 1.8L Atkinson cycle engine and Hybrid Synergy Drive system as the current generation Prius.

One of the many complaints about the HS250h has been its lackluster fuel economy and weak performance. Of course the HS250h could have been forgiven if Ford hadn’t released the Lincoln MKZ hybrid around the same time. The Lincoln hybrid is considerably larger than the HS, matches the Lexus for 0-60 acceleration, and beats it by a full 6 MPG on the freeway. In order to correct the problem, Lexus put the HS/CT shared platform on a diet and the result is that the CT200h tips the scales at 3,130lbs a 550lb weight reduction over the HS. Sounds good, right? The answer is a resounding maybe. The weight loss certainly makes the CT200h feel more nimble and no doubt contributes to the higher EPA numbers of 42/41/42 (highway/city/combined), but much of this improvement comes from swapping out the 187HP Camry Hybrid powerplant in favor of the relatively anemic 134HP Prius engine. Comparisons to Honda’s weak-sauce CR-Z are inevitable and not entirely unwarranted.

Naturally the forums will be alight with chatter proclaiming the CT200h to at last be “the real Lexus Prius,” but (as usual) the comments will be missing a few key details. The CT is six inches shorter than the Prius overall and rides on a four inch shorter wheelbase, and aside from the engine and Hybrid Synergy Drive system, the CT200h shares few parts with the Prius. Unfortunately one of the things the CT200h doesn’t share is the Prius’s 51/48/50 MPG fuel economy numbers (EPA, highway/city/combined) which is curious since the Prius is not much lighter than the CT.

Behind the wheel it is obvious to anyone who has spent time in Lexus’ other models that the CT200 is expected to be the cheapest Lexus available, starting at around $30,000. It would be unfair to say the materials are cheap, but they are certainly less than I would expect from Lexus. The dashboard and rear door trim plastics are particularly disappointing, and the memory seat controls look like an aftermarket addition. Fortunately the steering wheel really shines; it’s well-weighted, perfectly-shaped and feels exactly the way it should.

And in general, if you keep your hands to the controls, you’ll be OK. A 110 mile test drive gave ample opportunity to become acquainted with the interior and the only real quibble I have is the Lexus Navigation system. The system uses the same mouse/joystick like controls that have been spreading across the Lexus lineup, but the picture quality is less than inspiring and I don’t find the controller to be particularly user friendly. The location of the Nav screen up high on the dash doesn’t make using the system any easier.

Gadget lovers will appreciate the standard Bluetooth hands-free system with Bluetooth audio streaming, full iPod and USB device control, XM Radio, keyless go, dual-zone climate control, LED tail lamps and “bamboo charcoal speakers” in the audio system. Conspicuously absent is a Mark Levinson sound system available in other Lexus models. For those who want to option up their CT, Lexus offers a power moonroof, full LED headlamps, hard drive based nav system, adaptive cruise control with collision warning, in-mirror backup camera and several wood trim options. Keeping in mind that the CT200h will be the entry-level Lexus, the option list is fairly extensive.

In the bright light of day, the CT200h turns from an entry-level gadget lover’s dream to a mixed bag. Lexus is billing the CT200h as a sporty compact luxury hatch, but they only nailed half the formula… and let’s just say the CT is undoubtedly a compact hatch. Lexus says the competition for the CT is the Volvo C30, Audi A3 and the BMW 1-Series (personally, I would have forgotten about the 1-Series and included the Mini, but what do I know?). Luxury is in the eye of the beholder, and though the CT’s interior is a nice place to be compared to the self-proclaimed competition, it falls short of the level of luxury found even in Volvo’s C30. Sure the CT has better electronic toys (and a hybrid drivetrain), but as a place to spend time, the C30 is demonstrably better.

Our pre-defined route took us out on California State Route 243, portions of which were moderately twisty and well banked. On these winding mountain sections, the CT holds the road with finesse. The chassis is well behaved if not overeager, and even the electric power steering fails to detract from the mountain carving fun. Sadly the same cannot be said of the 134HP hybrid drive. Adding insult to underperformance, the sounds coming from under the hood cannot really be described as either sporty or luxurious. It’s not as bad as some four-bangers, but it’s not up to the standard of a brand built on admirably unobtrusive drivetrains. But even this could be forgiven if the CT’s acceleration was even remotely satisfactory, but there’s the final chink in the sporty hatchback armor: the CT’s manufacturer estimated 9.8second 0-60, which is actually slower than a Prius. This makes sense when you consider the Prius is lighter, but the end result is something along the lines of a softer Jetta TDi that doesn’t handle quite as well. Yes, it’s taut and composed in the corners, but when the road straightens you get nothing.

As I flew home from Palm Springs I was quite possibly more puzzled about the CT200h than I was when my journey began. It’s not a new paradigm of efficiency. In fact it’s only marginally better than the Lincoln MKZ hybrid that rendered its bigger brother irrelevant (although it is cheaper). It’s not particularly sporty either (do I need to say more than “slower than a Prius”?). And even at $30,000 (and up, if you want all the toys) it won’t be a huge amount cheaper than the HS250, which delivers more room and a bit peppier performance along with a more premium feel. Since the CT200h was designed to strengthen Lexus sales in Europe, it makes a certain amount of sense. Europeans are far more likely to accept a moderately prices cheap and cheerful small hatch with a nearly 10 second 0-60 time that is marketed as “sporty.” The same cannot however be said of Americans, and at the end of the day the CT200h appears to be a decent landing at the wrong airport.

Lexus provided airfare, lodging and hospitality for this press launch event

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Lexus CT200h Coming Stateside After All Mon, 08 Mar 2010 15:41:43 +0000

Toyota has long insisted that the Lexus HS250h would be America’s luxury “dedicated hybrid” model, while the smaller CT200h would be a Europe-only model. That decision was an presumably based Lexus’s desire to match its US sales success in Europe by offering a unique model that was more attuned to European tastes, hence the CT’s trim, five-door-hatch packaging. But with Toyota and Lexus sales suddenly in trouble in the US, attracting “a whole new buyer to the Lexus brand,” as Lexus flacks put it to Automotive News [sub] suddenly took on a much higher priority. And so, the 1.8-liter Euro-hybrid will bring its “2.0-liter performance with class-leading CO2 emissions” to the US market beginning early next year. As a Euro-market model brought stateside to add youth-upscale appeal that its similarly-positioned US-market brand-mate is struggling to establish, the CT200h’s parallels with the forthcoming Buick Regal are intriguing. That Toyota is taking a page from GM’s product plan-thrashing playbook is just plain troubling.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: Lexus And The Weary Sai Edition Fri, 26 Feb 2010 17:10:17 +0000

While America gets a Lexus-badged Toyota Sai as our first entry-premium hybrid car, the Europeans will get this CT200h instead. In addition to better differentiation from the Prius (to this blogger, the HS250h smacks of old Buick-style brand engineering), the CT200h is said to be more driver-focused than previous Toyota hybrids. But then, we Americans are all used to not getting the smaller, tauter, hatchback-ier models by now, right? Right?

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