2011 Lexus CT 200h
2011 Lexus CT 200h. Click image to enlarge

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Lexus Canada

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Review and photos by Paul Williams

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2011 Lexus CT 200h

At the recent North American auto shows in Los Angeles and Detroit, Lexus staged an elaborate “Darker Side of Green” display featuring highly tuned versions of its hybrid cars. They looked pretty cool to me, and the idea, of course, is an attempt to make hybrid cars look cooler to you, too.

You might think that “performance-oriented hybrids” is a contradiction in terms, what with hybrids being stereotyped for having rather limited acceleration and conservative styling. Lexus’ goal was to demonstrate that a vehicle with a somewhat cerebral and eco-minded drive-train can be emotionally satisfying as well.

Modified Lexus GS 450h (top) and HS 250h. Click image to enlarge

The all-new 2011 Lexus CT 200h is a case in point. Introduced in Canada at the 2011 Montreal International Auto Show, the CT 200h is designed as a fun-handling luxury compact with a sport-tuned suspension and 4.6L/100 km fuel consumption and the ability to operate in EV mode. Lexus Canada says pricing will start below $31,000.

Although we haven’t had a chance to drive the CT 200h yet, we have, as I said, had a chance to see it. The exterior design is sporty and appealing; the front seats are nicely bolstered for spirited cornering, and Lexus executives promise that it will handle as well as it looks. We’ll see about that, but the assertion is encouraging because to my mind, extreme fuel economy and performance handling is a terrific combination.

While copious amounts of horsepower and aggressive acceleration are good for occasional thrills, most consumers need more balance in their vehicle for everyday driving. The CT 200h perhaps offers such balance, with its five-door hatchback configuration, styling that is arguably more European-inspired, luxury nameplate and excellent fuel economy (unlike European competitors, regular grade gasoline is specified).

2011 Lexus CT 200h
2011 Lexus CT 200h
2011 Lexus CT 200h. Click image to enlarge

The CT 200h drivetrain is basically the Toyota Prius engine/motor/battery combination that makes 134-horsepower driving the front wheels. Along with driver-selectable “Eco” and “Normal” modes, there is a Sport mode that is designed to provide a little more jump and immediacy from the drive-train. Sport mode also changes the instrument panel lighting from blue to red, while the hybrid power indicator is replaced with a tachometer.

Compared with a Prius, the CT 200h is quite different in appearance and dimensions, however. It is not as long and not as tall as the Toyota, presenting a sportier character from all angles. The steering wheel is more purposeful and the driver sits low in the seat. From this position, the car gives all the signals that it can get up and go.

Standard features on the Canadian CT 200h include a Smart Key system with push-button start/stop, leather-wrapped steering wheel, six-speaker audio with remote controls, Bluetooth connectivity, XM satellite radio receiver, USB/iPod connectivity, 16-inch aluminum wheels, heated front seats and dual-zone climate control.

An optional Touring Package includes 17-inch aluminum wheels and a power moonroof. A Premium Package adds driver’s seat memory, leather upholstery, auto-dimming side mirrors, auto-dimming rear-view mirror with back-up camera and compass, rain sensing wipers, auto garage door opener and a premium audio system.

2011 Lexus CT 200h
2011 Lexus CT 200h. Click image to enlarge

A Technology Package can also be selected that adds LED headlamps and headlamp washers and a navigation system.

The CT200h features the Lexus Remote Touch controller with haptic feedback. The controller eliminates the need for touch-screen controls and reduces the need to take ones eyes off the road when selecting and adjusting the various CT 200h features.

While the 2011 Lexus CT 200h may not actually represent a “dark” side of green, it does make the point that hybrid vehicles can be sporty, practical and hopefully, fun to drive. The CT 200h will be the lowest-priced Lexus, and is the fifth hybrid vehicle (along with the LS 600h, GS 450h, RX 450h and HS 250h) to wear the Lexus badge.

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