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5th Leg: 2012 Lexus CT 200h

I drove my first economically oriented hybrid to end the second day of the AJAC Eco-Run: the 2012 Lexus CT 200h.  Using the same technology found in the Toyota Prius, the Lexus did not disappoint in my quest to achieve outstanding fuel economy.  With a self-set goal to achieve under 4.0 L/100 km, I came so close and ended my run at exactly that, 4.0 L/100 km.  Considering the combined rating of this hybrid is 4.6 L/100 km, I was more than satisfied.  A fellow AJAC member was able to achieve a ridiculously frugal 3.7 L/100 km on the final run from Woodstock to London.

The secret to achieving maximum fuel economy lies in the EV mode.  The CT 200h can drive in purely electric EV mode as long as you stay below 40 km/h and are gentle with the gas.  I would constantly try to keep it in EV mode as long as possible when leaving from a dead stop and would push the button to manually reenter EV mode anytime my speed dipped below 40 km/h.  I drove the final 0.8 km in EV mode as it was looping around various streets on the McMaster University campus.

Inside the CT 200h, the seating position is comfortable, but could feel a bit snug for some drivers as the center console sits high.  The radio features an old school 1990s-like display, but was still equipped with satellite radio and very good sound quality.  The dashboard is hard plastic except for one section on top of the gauge cluster.  The compact Lexus could easily seat four adults in relative comfort but that would further reduce rearward visibility out of the small rear window.

The Lexus CT 200h is all about fuel economy and with only 134 hp from its 1.8L hybrid powertrain, performance suffers for it.  Power is lacking and handling is decent at best.  However, if fuel economy and entry level luxury are the most important factors in your car purchasing decision, the CT 200h is worth a look.

Feature: AJAC Eco Run, Part II: The Vehicles porsche mercedes benz mazda lexus kia green scene ford auto articles chevrolet
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6th Leg: 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid

I began day three in what I consider to be one of the most stylish hybrids on the market, the Kia Optima Hybrid.  Of the 23 vehicles assembled for this test, I liked its looks best after the Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG.  The stylish looks continue inside, where you are greeted by a gaggle of buttons.  The materials, design, and layout of the vehicle make it feel far more expensive than it really is.  On the downside, I found the driver’s seat to be a bit too high up, even in its lowest setting.

At the heart of the Kia Optima Hybrid is a 2.4L hybrid powerplant that produces a combined 206 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque.  Powering the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission, the 1,583-kg Optima’s fuel economy is officially rated by the Government of Canada at 4.9 L/100 km in the city and 5.6 L/100 km on the highway.  On my drive I was able to achieve a frugal 5.4 L/100 km run from Hamilton to Woodstock, which appears to be a continuous uphill drive.  On the road it is very easy to get the Optima into EV mode by lifting off the throttle and then gently reapplying it.  I could travel in pure electric EV mode at higher speeds and over longer distances than I could in the Lexus CT 200h.  During the odd flat run in my time driving the Optima Hybrid I was able to cruise on just the battery for long, long stretches thanks to the advanced lithium-polymer battery pack.

It is amazing how advanced and how right Kia got the Optima with their first attempt at a hybrid.  Although it may not meet the fuel economy figures laid down by some of the other hybrids in this test, the trade off in power, luxury, and space is well worth it.

Feature: AJAC Eco Run, Part II: The Vehicles porsche mercedes benz mazda lexus kia green scene ford auto articles chevrolet
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7th Leg: 2013 Mazda CX-5 GS FWD

My final ride of the Eco-Run was the Mazda CX-5.  I had the Mazda CX-5 for a week early this year as part of our five compact crossover comparison test.  During my time behind the wheel I achieved an impressive 8.9 L/100 km with the vehicle in normal driving situations and that was with the all-wheel-drive version on snow tires.  Now I had the chance to try to squeak the most mileage out of the front-wheel-drive CX-5 with all-season tires.

Neither a hybrid nor electric, the CX-5 uses Mazda’s SkyActiv technology, which is a catchy word used to describe a diverse group of technologies and techniques all aimed at improving fuel efficiency while preserving driving enjoyment.  At the heart of this suite of technologies is Mazda’s new 2.0L 155-hp four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission.  When combined with the lightweight CX-5 body (1,488 kg), the results are impressive.  Officially rated at 6.1 L/100 km highway and 7.7 L/100 km city, I was able to gently pedal the Mazda CX-5 to a frugal 5.6 L/100 km on my journey from Woodstock to London.  After speaking to other journalists, it appears I may have gotten the best mileage out of this crossover, but others were not too far off.

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Of course, all of the things I appreciated during my original Test Drive of the CX-5 still remain.  It has a smooth ride, handles well for a crossover and has a smooth transmission and an airy cabin.  The FWD version feels even lighter on its feet and is easy to control.  Throw in a comfortable front seat with straightforward controls and Mazda appears to have not just an efficient crossover on their hands, but also a good one.

Every vehicle tested surprised me in some way, and most achieved better mileage than I would have ever believed possible.  It is important to note that the numbers achieved by me and my colleagues need to be taken with a grain of salt as conditions and driving styles differ from person to person.  As they say, individual results may vary.




About Mike

Mike Schlee is the former Social Editor at Autos.ca and autoTRADER.ca. He began his professional automotive writing career in 2011 and has always had a passion for all things automotive, working in the industry since 2000.