posted 1 year ago

Lexus CT200h Review

After being culled in the US can the Lexus CT200h still offer a strong hybrid, premium driving experience? Read our full review here.

Motoring.co.uk User Verdict
3.6
From £23,495
Pros
  • Refreshed, modern exterior
  • Great interior build quality
  • New Mark Levinson audio system
Cons
  • Breathless engine
  • Old underpinnings

Introduction:

Lexus introduced the CT way back in 2011. It was dubbed the first hybrid, premium hatchback. It’s still on the market today, and after six long years it’s time for a final refresh. Sales are falling due to the onslaught of the ever-desirable SUV, and Lexus have dropped in from the U.S altogether.

Are minor tweaks enough to make the CT a compelling option, amongst the likes of the Golf GTE?

On the Road

Sadly, nothing has changed when it comes to the performance of the CT. As it’s based on the last gen Toyota Prius it receives the same drivetrain. A 1.8 litre engine making 98hp, is coupled with an electric motor that produces 81 hp. Total output is a rather lacklustre 134 hp and 142 Nm of torque.

0-62 takes 10.3 seconds, and the CT will go on to a maximum speed of 112 mph.

Being a hybrid, the main point of the CT200h is its eco abilities. So in EV, ECO and Normal drive modes the electric motor will power you along where it can, but anything more than a ballerina’s touch will kick the engine back into life.

A CVT is the easiest way to mesh a hybrid and a petrol lump together, it’s probably the most efficient too. The one used in the CT seems to send the revs soaring whenever it can, changes in gradient or anything but half throttle make the Lexus scream.

Normally a rise in engine noise, whether through a CVT or an auto means an increase in pace…not so when it comes to the 200h. Nail the throttle and acceleration is sedate at best. Switching up into a different driving modes makes a negligible difference. It’s just breathless, there’s no urgency about this Lexus at all.

Saying that, it makes an excellent around town cruiser, and things are well hushed at higher speeds on dual carriageways – bar a bit of road noise from the tyres.

Selecting Eco mode changes the dial to say ‘Charge, Eco, Power’. Keeping the needle in the Eco range means you end up crawling away from junctions…needing a man in front waving a flag. Almost any car can be ‘Green’ if driven slowly, with as little acceleration as possible.

Sadly the ‘Hybrid’ aspect will only allow a mile or two of pure EV driving. Due to the amount of thrashing the engine has to do to maintain a decent level of acceleration, you could call into question the eco characteristics of the CT.

With all the talk of driving dynamics and ‘superior handling’, we can’t help but think the CT would benefit from a turbo setup. The engine out of the IS200t, melded with the hybrid powertrain could have been the performance kick the CT needs.

Emissions are rated at just 88 g/km with the 16 inch wheels, and 94g/km for the 17’s, meaning you’ll pay either £100, or £120 in first year tax, and £130 a year after that.

Urban MPG comes in at 68.9 for the bigger wheels, 74.3 for the smaller. 

Lexus talk up the ride and handling of the CT200h, with phrases such as ‘superior handling and a dynamic driving experience’. Which is all well and good, but unfortunately the powertrain doesn’t match the hype.

Ride is firm, which was a criticism of the original CT. It’s not bone shakingly bad though. You’ll feel potholes, and imperfections worm their way into the cabin with a thud.

Weight into corners is well controlled though, you can’t grumble at how little body roll there is, it’s just a shame there’s no real performance to match.

That exterior refresh has done the CT a world of good, the rear quarter glass is now more rounded. Up front, the trademark Lexus grille has been grafted onto its nose, bringing it in line with the rest of the range.

At the very back a new sticky out boot lid helps to balance the rear end nicely. It makes for the best looking CT yet.

You also get full LED lights front and back. With the rears now forming an L shape, having been widened to give the CT more road presence.

A fresh wheel line up encompasses both the 16, and 17 inch versions. F Sport gets 17 inchers, whilst there’s a 10 spoke design for the 16 inch wheels.

Infotainment sees an upgrade from a rather small 7-inch display to a 10 inch model. Graphics are clear and crisp, with menus easy to navigate.

If premium audio is your thing, then there’s the addition of a Mark Levinson stereo on range topping F Sport and Premier models. It consists of 13 speakers and the upgraded Lexus Premium Navigation system.

New colours come in the form of Solar Flare and Azure Blue. Fuji Red and F Sport White can be set against a contrasting black roof which will give the 200h more kerbside appeal.

In the car

Lexus have slimmed down and reorganised the trim levels, you now have the choice of five. SE, Luxury, F Sport, F Sport Premier Pack and Premier.

Confusingly, F Sport Premier Pack is pricier than Premier, but goes without such creature comforts as a heated steering wheel, 10 way adjustable cooled front seats and Shimamoku wood inlay.

The interior could be described as a little disjointed, with a myriad of fonts and screens in front of your eyes. It’s all looking a little dated when you compare it to some of the uncluttered Germanic rivals.

Every model has heated front seats, with only the SE slumming it wearing fabric attire. Black headlining is the reserve of the F Sport models but makes the CT a cosy, cocooned place to be.

Legroom at the back is rather restricted, it makes you wonder where all the space has gone. Headroom is also hampered by the positioning of the hybrid batteries, you end up sitting perched higher than the front occupants.

It would make an ideal family hatch, but anything past teenagers and you’d struggle shoehorning them in.

Boot space measures in at 375 litres with the seats up, this can be expanded to 985 with them folded.

Ownership

Lexus have simplified the CT lineup. Gone is entry level S, replaced with SE for added goodies. Prices start at £23,495.

Stepping up to the SE Plus Pack adds sat nav and the Lexus Safety System+. This helps lower insurance and brings the CT200h up to date in terms of safety tech, helping it keep EuroNCAP happy.

If you like the racier look then F Sport comes in at £26,995, with the top of the range F Sport Premier Pack costing £31,245. The additional cost adds electric front seats, the uprated Mark Levinson stereo and Lexus Safety System+.

As with all hybrid Lexus models, you get the standard 5 year 60,000 mile warranty for the hybrid components and battery. The rest of the car is covered under a 3 year warranty. 

Inside everything’s well screwed together, suitably premium in fact. Switches and touch points all feel great. There aren’t any rattles or shakes to be had, even when the CT falls into a pothole.

Lexus always feature highly on the Driver Power reliability survey, the CT actually came in fourth back in 2014. As of 2017, it has slipped back to eighth, but that’s still amazingly high up the list for an ageing motor.

Lexus have added a Pre-Collision System to all models except entry level SE. It consists of a front facing radar/camera combo. This will alert you if you’re about to have an accident by flashing ‘BRAKE’ on the display and sounding an audible warning. It will also identify pedestrians at speeds of 6 – 50 MPH.

If the system detects an accident may happen, it pre-loads the brakes with the optimum braking force. If the driver fails to react, it will automatically dab the anchors to reduce speed by up to 25 mph.

You also get adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, adaptive high beam, auto high beam and road sign recognition with the Safety System+

As with the first gen CT200h there are eight airbags for safety, this includes curtain shielding airbags that deploy from the roofline in the event of a side impact.

Due to this and the new Safety System+ the CT200h still holds its original 5 star EuroNCAP rating.