Hybrid owners have a reputation for being careful drivers. More concerned with the environment than an adrenaline rush, they act locally and think globally. So the 2011 Lexus CT 200h seems an odd mix, a car using the same hybrid power train as the Toyota Prius, yet designed for sporty appeal.
With the body style of a hot hatchback, the CT 200h comes standard with a very sport-oriented suspension. A large intake and heavy overhangs front and back give it an aggressive look. It could easily be the next generation of the Mazdaspeed3.
But despite a marketing campaign suggesting the CT 200h eats puppies for breakfast and stuffs its mattress with kittens, its hybrid power train can only boast a 0-to-60 mph time of 9.8 seconds, the same as the Prius. Ultimately, it favors fuel economy over raw power, getting an EPA-rated 43 mpg city and 40 mpg highway.
As a hatchback, the CT 200h shows plenty of internal versatility, with rear seats that fold down, allowing for plenty of cargo room. In Lexus style, it has comfortable leather seats and a smart-key system with a push-button start.
The car's styling, while not quite over the top, certainly approaches the summit. Thick rear pillars and a narrow strip of tinted back glass give it rally car style. A low contour line on the side kicks up just before the rear fender and LED strips cradle the headlights. The hood even seems to bulge up slightly.
There are some odd elements in the cabin. For one, the drive selector is a little chrome lever that follows the same shift pattern as in the Prius. A large knob sits on the console with which you can choose Eco, Normal, or Sport mode. Again, these modes are similar to those found in the Prius, although Sport is called Power on the Prius' controls.
CNET's review car lacked the navigation system, which would be the same as found in other newer Lexus models, such as the. The stock stereo, embedded in the console, has black plastic buttons and an ugly monochrome green and black display that looks straight from the '90s. It doesn't add to Lexus' luxury image.
But as outdated as the stereo faceplate looks, the system itself is thoroughly modern. A USB port in the console allows iPod and USB drive playback, and the stereo can also handle Bluetooth streaming audio, although with the typical limitations of not showing track information on the display.
Lexus does not offer the Mark Levinson-branded audio system in the CT 200h that it makes available in other models, but the 10-speaker premium system in CNET's review car sounded almost as good. It featured very detailed and well-separated reproduction, letting you distinguish, for example, different types of percussion instruments. The highs came through crystal-clear, and bass could be tuned for good impact. However, it didn't sound particularly powerful, so driving down the street setting off car alarms with bass thumps is not a likely scenario.