COAL: 2012 Lexus CT200h – Leave No Demographic Untapped!

Memaw’s 2012 CT reporting fur duty

My mother in law dropped by this evening as I was working on this post. Perfect timing, I popped outside and grabbed a picture of her actual CT! It’s interesting to sit and ponder a pre-spindle grille on a Lexus. 

A 2014 CT with the updated grille and F Sport package

Compare that to a CT with the spindle grille from 2014 MY onwards. I like them both, actually. The pre-spindle grille has more of a spindle effect than I realized, it just isn’t framed out. But the spindle grille does serve a purpose, love it or hate it. Take the emblem off my mother in law’s CT, and it could be from any maker. It’s pretty anonymous from head on. The above CT, though, you wouldn’t mistake for anything else.

That’s my son’s Jeep photobombing in the back. Maybe we will get around to writing it up, but it’s been such a reliable and somewhat personalityless vehicle, there’s not much to say. The CT, though, seems to have personality to spare.

I know that my seem strange to many. Toyotas and Lexuses (Lexi?) are viewed as appliances, devoid of character but as reliable as the sun. Of course that can be a good thing, and indeed largely contributed to my ES350 purchase I wrote about.

The CT200h, though, has many faces: luxury car; practical hatchback; gas/electric hybrid; and yes, clown car. It’s so low and short, I think of a clown car on the rare occasion four or five of us take it somewhere!

The bushes along my drive dwarf the CT.

The somewhat Pacer or Gremlin-like profile doesn’t help. It’s not an ugly car (to me), but it is unconventional. It’s not a sedan. It’s not a wagon profile either, in a traditional sense. It’s a hunchback instead of a hatchback! I think the odd upturn of the greenhouse on the rear doors is what kinda spoils it. Or makes it deliciously different, depending on your take.

Lexus says CT stand for “Creative Touring”, so I guess that explains something about their thinking process here (along with the Innovative Sedan, Executive Sedan, and Luxury Sedan (IS/ES/LS).

A 2018 from the Lexus UK website

It is difficult for me to decide who Lexus was targeting with this. In Europe, it’s billed as a luxury car for the tight confines of the city, and that makes sense. It is still sold there and has been facelifted again, with the more aggressive headlights seen here,

as well as more aggressive taillights and rear bumper. The CT is dead in the U.S., however, having pulled duty here for the 2011-2017 model years.

As you might suspect, the CT has the same engine/drivetrain as the Prius, actually a 1.8 liter gas engine (CT180h?) with an electric motor producing a combined 134 horsepower. It is built on the Toyota MC platform, shared with the deceased Matrix as well as the current Corolla.

Having driven about 1,600 miles across Western Europe in a diesel Fiat 500L, I can attest to a CT200h being about the largest car I would want to try to wrangle through city streets (and one lane wide country roads) over there. More than once, I found the 500L too large for the situation at hand. I’m working on a 500L COAL, a car I actually became quite fond of.

In the U.S., though, the market for small, city-friendly cars (luxury or otherwise) is about nonexistent, though it makes practical sense. Smart hasn’t caught on either. Though not “luxury”, it is marketed and retailed by Mercedes-Benz dealers.

The Scion iQ didn’t get much traction.

CT cockpit. Screen rotates up and down or you can leave it up. Mouse controller is present only with optional Nav. Chrome “cane handle” is the gear selector.

My 76 year old mother in law seems to be the ideal CT200h buyer. Aside from the “family Miata” I wrote up, the CT is her only car. So she wants a comfortable car, with some luxury touches (nav, leather, heated seats are all present). She wants it to look nice to the neighbors and the church ladies.

CT hatch, pretty roomy actually

But a hatch and (small, but helpful) cargo area is nice for getting flowers, tomato plants, and a couple of bags of mulch in the spring. She wants it small, so it’s easy to drive and park. Good fuel mileage is a plus. The reliability is very important. Being a Hybird makes her feel “hip”, and she loves to talk about how seldom she has to fill up. It’s not so nice inside that you mind throwing the dogs in for a trip to the groomer,

The best part of church….

or freak out when the casserole for the church potluck spills.

She doesn’t care one whit about the driving experience per se, which is a good thing. I don’t like how it drives much, at all. Between the gas engine cutting in and out based on accelerator position, the CVT, and it possessing neither a quiet and luxurious ride or sporty handling, it’s just the weirdest car I’ve ever piloted.

Problem is, there’s just not that many people fitting this demographic. And of the ladies like my mother in law, who want one car to check all their boxes and don’t prioritize the drive, they seem to gravitate to SUV-ish things, like everyone else.

One of her best friends is about 80, and has a new RAV4.

Her widow neighbor, also 80ish, recently traded her 10 year old E-Class for a new GLA.

There’s only one Iris Apfel….

What would have fit this “check all the boxes” bill 30 years ago? 40 years ago? I’m an old widow and I want to look good, haul a person or two who no longer drives to the sewing circle, carry the dogs around, and carry my plants and mulch. But I don’t care if it handles like a canoe.

Maybe a 1987 Seville? This even has an odd looking profile too, like the CT. These were EVERYWHERE at my grandmother’s retirement community in 1987. Usually two tone, or fake convertible roof, or both! YOLO, after all.

Or perhaps a 1987 Cutlass Cruiser? I recall a lot of older ladies in my grandmother’s demographic driving these…..she would have been about 72 in 1987. Lots of these at church and at the “beauty operator” as my great aunt called the hair salon.

Apparently, they were called “beauty operators” from when they had to run these things back in the day.

Forty years ago, maybe a 1977 Seville would “check all the boxes” like a CT while giving a boat-like experience?

In 1977, the new B and C bodies were the talk of the country club, back when having a new S-Class was tacky, and told everyone you were “new money”. A new Electra would certainly have been admired, and would have seemed compact and fuel-efficient compared to whatever you had been driving over the past 20 years.

Or per chance a widow would have fancied a 1977 Cutlass Cruiser? Mrs. Lord on my street had one of these when I was 7 or so. She was about 80 at the time I would guess.

And had a glorious white bouffant hairdo just like this. Strange what you remember. Lots of headroom in the Collonade wagons, apparently.

Of course Lexus wasn’t around 30 and 40 years ago. So if our hypothetical shopper born in 1917 or so just looked at Toyotas, she might have picked up a loaded 1987 Camry

or having been born in 1907, she would gravitate towards a 1977 Cressida.

The SUV choices of 1977 sure wouldn’t appeal to your average widow!

Nor the 1977 hatchback choices.

It’ll be interesting to see what I have to choose from in 28 years, when I’m 76!