2014 Lexus CT200h Hybrid

2014 Lexus CT200h Hybrid

2014 Lexus CT200h Hybrid

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Bottom Line:  Gorgeous build quality, impressively frugal and a very sporting chassis, but pricey.  Hybrid electric-gasoline drivetrain is remarkably capable in city driving, but the combined 134 horsepower is barely adequate on the highway.  The CT200h is for the well-heeled, and an expensive way to save the planet.

This is my third time testing the Lexus CT200h hybrid sportwagon since it was first introduced.  It’s impressive, and if I was FORCED to buy a hybrid vehicle, the Lexus CT200h would be my choice.

But I don’t like hybrids generally.  They’re too expensive.  Ok, the CT200h is pigeonholed as a luxury compact, and luxurious it is.  Build quality is run-of-the-mill Lexus – that is, simply outstanding.  The cabin is quiet, surface materials are soft to the touch and have that ‘correct’ luster that instantly communicates quality, and all the controls are laid out in a ‘mature’, elegant fashion.  (Unlike the Honda CR-Z that feels like it has a game box interface and screams “HYBRID!”

What’s the CT200h like to drive?

The CT200h is brilliant in city driving.  Keyless entry and ignition means only needing the key fob in your pocket to enter the car and push the Start button.  In warm weather testing, the CT will run on the electric battery (at first) so a simple “Ready” light on the dash informs you the car is ‘running.’  The CT has three operating modes:  Eco, Standard, and Performance.  Throttle response (tip in) and CVT transmission responsiveness are different for each setting.

Where hybrid cars are much more fuel efficient than straight gasoline or diesel counterparts are in stop-and-go traffic.  The hybrids will typically shut their gas engines off when the car is coasting or stopped.  Our test CT made the transition between electric/gasoline/combined gas-electric drive unobtrusively.

“This car feels small”, observes Ingrid the first time she rides in it.  Well, it is a compact car, I explain.  But she’s right.  The cabin feels more intimate than our ’07 Mazda3 GT, but it’s not claustrophobic.

What’s the CT200h like on the highway?

On the highway, the CT200h is pleasantly quiet and wind noise is very well controlled.  Suspension compliance is very good, delivering a much better ride than any of the compact cars we’ve tested recently, and road noise is very well controlled.  This baby Lexus sportwagon is among the quietest compact cars on the road.

The 1.8-litre 4-cylinder engine and electric motor deliver a combined 134 horsepower, which is entirely functional for city driving.  But on the highway, this hybrid feels strained to maintain 120 km/h on some of the steep grades between Calgary and Edmonton.

Second row seats folds flat, unlike some in the segment

Second row seats folds flat, unlike some in the segment

What kind of fuel economy does this hybrid get in real world driving?

In a mix between about 15-percent city and 85-percent highway driving, the CT200h delivered a real world 5.6 L/100 km over some 800 km.  That’s pretty impressive fuel consumption.  If we would have done more city driving, fuel usage would have likely been even lower.

Main gauges are simple and highly readable

Main gauges are simple and highly readable

Is the Lexus CT200h hybrid worth the money?

No, not from a strictly operating cost perspective.

Let’s look at the numbers.

Our test 2014 CT200h came with the F Sport Package and a $39,037 MSRP ($37,400 + $1400 F Sport pkg + $237 block heater.)

That’s pricey, but let’s look at fuel economy savings.  With a rating of 4.5/5.8 city/hwy L/100 km, we’ll compare the CT200h to a Mazda3 sportwagon.

We priced out a loaded Mazda3 GS Skyactiv sportwagon ($21,895 automatic transmission plus these options – leather pkg $1400, touring package $1400, power moonroof $895, aero body kit $747, fog lights $535, cruise control $499, satellite radio $480, Bose in dash CD player $914, giving a $27,851 MSRP.  The Mazda’s 2.0-litre Skyactiv engine is rated at 155 horsepower, 7.1/5.0 city/hwy L/100 km.

At 20,000 km per year and today’s gas price of $1.13/litre (worst case scenario for the non-hybrid Mazda, highest fuel consumption, all city driving), the Mazda3 will cost $1605. Running costs for one year of city driving in the CT200h will cost $1,017.  The Lexus hybrid will save you $588 dollars per year in fuel cost.

But . . . the CT200h is $11,186 dollar MORE than the Mazda3.  While driving the CT200h will save you $588 dollars each year, it will take you 19.02 years to ‘break even.’

Ok, it’s an apples and oranges comparison, but you see the point.

From a pure financial analysis, buying the Lexus hybrid doesn’t make economic sense, but neither does wearing an Armani suit, Jimmy Choo shoes or a Rolex watch.

If you can afford it, the 2014 Lexus CT200h hybrid sportwagon is a fine automobile, and as stated previously, it’s the one hybrid I’d buy if I had to.  But it is a pricey choice.

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