2012 Lexus CT 200h F Sport Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Lexus appears to be on a quest to accomplish two things as it grows its brand image and influence: 1) create a hybrid version of every car and crossover within its lineup, and 2) expand its new F Sport performance sub-brand to each new model. The most affordable car in its arsenal takes care of the first priority by default as the CT 200h can only be had with a Lexus Hybrid Synergy Drive system. As for the F Sport, it's new for 2012 and really makes a visual statement while enhancing performance.

Like with all F Sport models, the performance upgrades don't include powertrain mods, but rather follow a similar cosmetic, suspension and wheel/tire upgrade path to Audi's S line. Therefore the CT 200h F Sport continues forward with the same Prius-sourced drivetrain as the regular CT 200h I tested late last year, which combines a 1.8-litre four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle gasoline engine with a 60-kW electric motor fed by a 201.6-volt sealed NiMH battery for 134 horsepower and approximately 142 lb-ft of torque. Yes, that's not a lot in today's compact premium segment, but the CT 200h has other priorities.

It's more about looking good and enjoying a little luxury while delivering up the best fuel economy in the segment. Sure you can opt for a BMW 135i and get to the next stoplight faster than anything else this compact luxury class can offer, but the CT200h will have the last laugh as it continues to pass you at the pump thanks to a claimed rating of 4.5 L/100km city and 4.8 highway using regular unleaded. Yah, regular gas! That adds insult to injury as its 10-percent pump savings on a lot less fuel go a long way to purchasing other nice non-car related luxuries. And in case you happen to think that premium fuel is somehow better for the environment, the CT200h achieves a Tier 2 Bin 3 SULEV super clean rating.

The CT200h's CVT has come a long way since early type continuously variable transmissions. It now includes Drive Mode Select, with EV, ECO and Power modes, that lets you select the right response to reflect your mood. In heavy traffic I left it in pure-electric EV mode for as long as I could and then ECO, where it was stingiest on fuel. When the road opened up I slotted it in Power mode, which really makes a difference off the line and during passing maneuvers.

Honestly, the CT200h goes pretty well, unless you've just stepped out of the aforementioned 1-Series or some other sport-oriented premium compact. It's in the curves where the CT garners more respect, though, and the new F Sport ups the performance ante further with front and rear performance dampers and 17-inch rims with F-sport caps on 214/45 all-seasons. If you want more grip Lexus will sell you a set of blue powder-coated F Sport sway bars for $774, and you can upgrade the wheels to another set of '17s, albeit better balanced, low-vibration, ultra-strong, hub-centric rims in a special F Sport 5-spoke trident pattern and a classy gunmetal gray finish for $1,438. The F Sport rear spoiler may add some downforce, it's difficult to say, but it possibly helps more with aerodynamics than anything performance related, and it looks good.

My tester came in new Ultrasonic Blue Mica paint, an F Sport exclusive colour, while all other standard F Sport styling upgrades were applied inside where it gets a meaty leather-wrapped three-spoke F Sport steering wheel, F Sport leather sport seats, metal-look interior trim, aluminum sport pedals, and F Sport scuff plates, while a storage compartment with a 12-volt outlet adds to the CT's long list of convenience features. And by the way, you can get a cargo net for $64 extra, as well as illuminated doorsill protectors for $329. These additions, along with the $5,400 needed to upgrade from the base CT, increases the F Sport's base price of $38,245 to a fully loaded $41,077, destination in. Yah, that's a lot more than the base CT's $32,885.

Even the base CT comes with a nice list of features, like proximity sensing access with pushbutton ignition, a tilt and telescopic multi-function steering wheel with audio buttons connecting through to AM/FM/CD stereo with aux input, USB port, XM satellite radio, and Bluetooth hands-free, plus there are heated mirrors with integrated turn signals and puddle lamps, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, and then it has a few special items like an Eco indicator to monitor throttle input, front knee airbags going for an added element of safety, and of course LED daytime running lights for visibility and style.

At first glance the CT 200h F Sport's long, lean profile doesn't make it look all that practical, but load up its rear compartment with gear and you'll notice more room than you might expect. Behind the rear seatbacks is a total of 404 litres, a little larger than the average compact car's trunk, while 914 litres is available when those rear seats are folded forward. Those rear seats are pretty accommodating too, although I wouldn't say it has class-leading legroom. It does have a class-leading warranty, however, with 4 years or 80,000 kilometers bumper to bumper and an impressive 6 years or 110,000 kilometers on the powertrain.

Of course, if you've read this far I'm guessing the CT 200h F Sport's class-leading fuel economy probably got your attention way before I mentioned anything about its warranty. Factoring that into its value proposition, as well as its regular fuel requirement and good starting price, plus of course its great styling and full list of luxuries, the CT 200h F Sport is a bargain. Now how about a plug-in variant so we can travel farther in EV mode? Hopefully Lexus is listening.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Hatchback, Hybrid, HEV, Lexus, 2012, CT 200h F Sport, $30,000 - $39,999,

Organizations: Lexus

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