Reviews

2015 Lexus CT 200h Walk Around


Lexus CT’s five-door design might be seen as a long hatchback or a small wagon. Overall length is about the same as the Audi A3 wagon, and its profile is similar.

The new family nose added for 2014 changed its image, moving it more upscale. The bottom corners of the spindle shape are wider than before, and the pinch point is lower, to add stance. The spindle grille works on the CT, especially on the F Sport model, hiding the front bumper behind uninterrupted black mesh. A Lexus badge lives inside the dark grille that pushes forward to create a powerful, more three-dimensional form, according to Lexus. So you might say that the CT has a 3D face.

From the sides and rear, the CT 200h looks like no other Lexus. The shape appears more European than Japanese, and its profile from all angles is similar to that of the Audi A3. The design was determined largely by wind-tunnel testing.

The Lexus CT makes boxy look stylish, with smoothly flowing yet edgy lines, from the contours on the hood to the tidy shoulders, up to the long roofline, and straight back to the spoiler above the muscular liftgate. It extends from the top of the C-pillar, which matches the shape of the spindle grille, only it’s vertical. A sharkfin antenna completes the stylish effect. The details of the design, trim and wheels are flawless.

The coefficient of drag is a low 0.29, with much of the aero design decided by wind tunnel testing, a program called Computational Fluid Dynamics. More attention to detail: there are no less than nine tweaks under the car, to smooth the airflow.

Other excellent details include five-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels, sharp headlamps with single halogen or twin LED low beams, LED daytime running lights, aerodynamic sideview mirrors, tidy chrome outlining around the windows, black B-pillars to blend with tinted glass, body-colored door handles, wide rear door openings, and LED taillights.

The bumper design emphasizes the horizontal structure at the rear, with a dark gray fascia shaped for stance, and trapezoidal red reflectors inlayed into the corners for pizzazz.

The base CT 200h comes in six colors, including new Eminent White Pearl. A black roof is available with any color. Each car gets a final spray over the paint, with a scratch-resistant, self-restoring top coat. We like the sound of that.

The F Sport has a way better looking spindle grille, all black mesh, a bigger and cooler rear spoiler, and hot two-tone wheels. Ultra White and Ultrasonic Blue Mica are exclusive F Sport colors.

Interior

First time we got in the Lexus CT, we were greeted with a task that had nothing to do with getting where we were going. A message said: You have a new Lexus Insider article, and there was a choice to make: Read it now, remind me later. We looked for the option that said: I don’t care, ever, just go away and stop asking me to do things before I even leave my driveway. But no such luck.

We wanted to shoot the dinging bell that told us we were in reverse, as if we were driving a forklift or UPS truck, although at least their beeps are for the safety of others, not to remind the driver he’s going backwards as if he couldn’t figure it out for himself. Those beeps are dangerous, because they’re distracting, and sharp focus is needed while backing up.

We found the cockpit cozy and snug, which is the opposite of airy and spacious. The flat-bottomed steering wheel with controls would be a benefit, but a tall driver’s knees will rub when climbing in and out, and his right knee is likely to be crowded against the center stack tunnel. The seat slides way back. There’s only 32.9 inches of legroom in the rear, so be careful of your rear-seat passenger’s toes when you slide the driver’s seat back.

The hybrid batteries live behind the back seat and under the cargo compartment, and raise the floor just a bit. The cargo area is high and small, with only 26.2 inches from floor to roof. A horizontal double wishbone rear suspension increases the cargo volume to the sides a bit, in the absence of strut towers. There’s 14.3 cubic feet of storage space behind the rear seat, about the size of the trunk in a compact sedan, but a lot less than the 19.5 cubic feet the Audi A3 manages to find. Lexus stats don’t include how much space is gained when the rear seat is dropped flat.

Lexus says that more than 94 changes were made to the 2014 model, in order to reduce vibration and harshness, and to make the cabin super quiet, as opposed to just very quiet, which it already was. For example, the inlet duct design for the engine is both more efficient and quieter than before.

The center stack angles downward from the dash to the console, to make the controls easier to reach, and we appreciate it. Switchgear has a metallic film finish. The forward ends of door pockets are slim, while the back part is shaped for a bottle. Doors have good armrests and grab handles. Visibility in the rearview mirror is pinched by the liftgate window, rear headrests, and wiper blade.

You can get real leather if you need it, but we like the standard NuLuxe; nobody will notice it’s not leather, not even you after a while, and it’s less expensive while being friendlier to the environment. It comes in Black, Caramel, and Parchment. Bamboo trim is available, as is perforated Flaxen leather. Much of the plastic on the CT 200h is vegetable-based, helping to keep the car green.

The eco-driving information is simple, without any attempt to be cute or entertaining with leaves or other distractions. EV, Eco, Normal or Power mode is indicated, along with fuel mileage at three different starting times; and battery status (when it’s charging and when it’s drawing).

The available Lexus Display Audio (LDA) and Navigation multimedia system is made more user-friendly in the areas of hands-free, voice recognition, and console controller: the second-generation Remote Touch Interface (RTI). This next-generation multimedia system includes HD Radio, traffic and weather. Cache radio lets you store a segment of audio for up to 15 minutes, to listen to it later.

The sound quality of the Lexus audio systems, both standard six-speaker and premium 10-speaker, are enhanced by the world’s first bamboo loudspeaker technology. Bamboo fiber, plant opal and charcoal are combined in an injection molding process to create the industry’s thinnest loudspeaker diaphragm.

The shift lever with a leather wrapping is located high, suggesting that shifting gears is not a high priority in this car. More on that later.

The F Sport interior is all its own, with upgraded upholstery including synthetic leather side bolsters and headrests, fabric center panels, black headliner, and enhanced stitching.

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