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May 102011

By Clint Williams

Let’s face it, some of what passes as green living feels like self-deprivation – tinkering with the thermostat so that you’re uncomfortable no matter the season, taking cold showers, riding the buses that fail to connect.

Lexus CT 200h, better than 40 mpg, and many perks.

Happily, the 2011 Lexus CT 200h turns that notion on its head. This odd-looking hatchback offers stunning fuel efficiency with a modicum of luxury. It’s a comfortable way to reduce your carbon footprint.

The styling is distinctive in a love-it-or-hate-it sort of way – a ground-hugging hatchback that tries to blend sportiness with practicality.

The CT 200h has the same drive train as its corporate cousin, the Toyota Prius. A 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and a pair of electric motors provide a combined 134 horsepower. A continuously variable transmission sends the power to the front wheels. The CT 200h is a bit heavier than the Prius, so the gas mileage is a bit less. But you can still expect to make fewer trips to the pump. The CT 200h gets an EPA estimated 43 mpg city and 40 mpg highway. We got 42 mpg in a mix of driving that leaned a little bit to the city stop-and-go type of driving.

While the CT 200h doesn’t offer the same fuel efficiency as the Prius, it does offer sportier handling thanks, in large part, due to a fully-independent, double wishbone rear suspension. The steering is crisper, especially in Sport mode. The CT 200h doesn’t have enough power to make driving really fun but the handling is better than you would expect from an eco-car.

The interior is comfortably driver-centric. The leather seats seem lifted from a sports sedan. And while nice, the interior trim is Lexus lite.

“This seems more like a Honda than a Lexus,” noted my passenger son and I couldn’t really argue with him. But when the list of standard features includes a 10-way power-adjustable driver seat, Bluetooth (with audio streaming) and a six-speaker stereo with a CD player, satellite radio and iPod jacks it’s not like you’re turning the heat down to 65 degrees.

The starting sticker price is $30,900.