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2011 Lexus CT 200h Compact Hybrid Hatch: First Drive Review Page 2

 
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2011 Lexus CT 200h Hybrid in New Orleans

2011 Lexus CT 200h compact hybrid hatchback, road test, June 2011

2011 Lexus CT 200h compact hybrid hatchback, road test, June 2011

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But Sport mode actually turns the CT into some approximation of a “hot hatch” like the fabled Volkswagen GTI. No, it’s far from competitive with the GTI, but it feels like it could be.

The remapped engine-control software and transmission algorithms mean that while the engine still howls under acceleration, it spools up more quickly and almost sounds eager to do so. The howl changes from resentful or apologetic to eager.

Sport mode makes the CT considerably quicker off the line, though like many hybrids with small engines, it runs out of steam at higher speeds. But during several dozen miles in Sport mode—after two days running the car in Normal and Eco—the transformation entertained us and really changed the personality of the car. It’s that much fun.

2011 Lexus CT 200h interior

2011 Lexus CT 200h interior

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Sport mode offers one undeniably cool feature: the power gauge in the left part of the instrument cluster metamorphoses into a tachometer, with red graphics replacing cool blue and a needle that swings wildly as the engine revs.

You don’t actually drive using the tach, of course; it’s a hybrid, so the control software decides what speed the engine should run at, depending on how fast you accelerate, the battery charge, and so forth.

But it’s cool to watch the gauge change identities, like the center information display in the 2011 Nissan Juke we recently reviewed. Bring on more multiple-personality gauges, we say.

Perhaps the most important rating, at least for someone who will pay the better part of $40K for a compact hatchback, is the gas mileage. The EPA rates the 2011 CT 200h at an impressive 43 mpg city, 40 mpg highway, for a combined rating of 42 mpg.

In our 500-mile test, covering perhaps two-thirds highway and one-third mixed around town and rural use, we registered an overall 40.6 mpg.

Comfortable in front

We enjoyed spending time in the leather-clad front seats of our high-spec 2011 Lexus CT 200h. They were comfortable, the driver’s seat was adjustable, and it was nice to know that the front seats were heated—although spring warmth didn’t give us a chance to test them.

2011 Lexus CT 200h interior

2011 Lexus CT 200h interior

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While the front seats were roomy and comfortable, the rear seats are a mixed bag. There’s enough room in the rear to fit a pair of 6-foot adults, but getting in and out is a challenge—we repeatedly caught our feet on the small door openings—and the rear seat cushion is both short and oddly canted forward.

The rear seat isn’t a place we’d choose to spend time, other than perhaps a quick jaunt from the yacht club to the mansion.

Our CT had a handful of odd omissions and features.




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