2017 Lexus CT 200h Review

Introduction

Lexus revels in doing things a little bit differently, so unlike all the CT 200h’s rivals in the premium compact hatchback class, you’ll not find any diesels or any high-performance versions in the CT line-up. Instead you’ll find a range powered by just one powertrain, petrol-electric hybrid set-up. It makes a lot of sense for economy-minded drivers - and business users with an eye on their tax bill - but the CT 200h in reality is something of a confused character. Lexus hasn’t quite managed to shake off the desire to give the CT 200h a sporting drive to rival its competition, so the stiff, uncomfortable ride is at odds with its otherwise refined character. Hence it's a strange mix, which could be so much better. 

 

Body Style: Compact premium hatchback           Seats: 5                              MRP from £21,995-£29,995 

  

Did you know? All CT 200h models are road-tax free thanks to sub-100g/km emissions and hugely tax efficient if your company’s paying for it.  

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Verdict: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (6.95/10)

The Lexus CT 200h is a different take on the compact premium hatchback norm, which is no real surprise from Lexus. What would be a surprise (tax reasons aside) is if you picked this over the rather excellent competition from Audi with its A3, BMW with its 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz’s A-Class. Throw in all manner of mainstream rivals, such as the Volkswagen Golf, and it’s even less clear cut, while the CT 200h’s own Toyota Prius cousin covers the green conscience-salving and tax-dodging in an (admittedly wackier-looking) better driving, more competent package. The Lexus been around for a while now too, which, even after its mid-life refresh, means it feels a bit old hat compared to some. Its quirks define it then, but it's a shame that the mostly smooth and economical hybrid drivetrain doesn’t have a chassis mated to it that plays to its obvious strengths, instead Lexus saddling it with a harsh ride that’s hugely to its detriment.       

Design & Exterior

★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

Interior & Comfort

★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

Technology & Connectivity

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Performance & Handling

★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ (3/10)

Safety Features

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Specs & Trims

★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

Running Costs & Fuel Economy

★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

Pricing

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

 

2017 Lexus CT 200h

We Like

The fact it dares to be different

An easy tax dodge for your accountant

Engine refinement

We Don't Like

Lexus doesn’t dare to be different enough

Harsh ride

Economy only really good in theory

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Design & Exterior: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

2017 Lexus CT 200h

Following the premium compact hatch norm here, by being a two-box hatchback, the CT 200h doesn’t stray too far from convention stylistically, despite its alternative powertrain. It’s been around long enough to have had a serious facelift, so the CT 200h wears the Lexus signature grille, which, if you’ve ever seen the sci-fi film Predator you might find familiar. Lexus didn’t go quite the whole hog with its restyle, so the headlights remain relatively conventional compared with Lexus’ other models. There’s very little to distinguish the base S visually from the range-topping Premier, which is great if you’re at the bottom rung of the Lexus CT 200h buying ladder, but less so if you’ve paid considerably more for the most expensive model.

Choose Sport or Sport+ trims if you want to lose some chrome on that grille and add black wheels and mirror caps, or F Sport if you want some of it back, but with different honeycomb-type grille inserts, two-tone alloy wheels, and a rear spoiler on top of the hatchback. All look pretty slab sided and a touch under-wheeled, though it’ll turn heads by virtue of its relative rarity than anything else. It looks smart enough then, but without that bold grille it’d verge on anonymity, which, given it’s tasked with attracting younger buyers to the brand, or customers from rivals' products, is a bit of an issue.   

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Interior & Comfort: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

2017 Lexus CT 200h

Given the relatively ordinary looks of the exterior, the interior comes as something of a welcome surprise. Lexus has always had a handle on fine cabins and the CT 200h is no exception, as the materials are all high grade, the fit and finish top notch, too. Refinement at town speeds is very good; with the hybrid powertrain defaulting to pulling away in electric mode it’ll glide around with little or no noise from the engine. Ask it for more speed and the petrol engine comes into play, fairly unobtrusively, but keep asking for more acceleration and the revs flare, which is because of the CVT automatic transmission. Keep it sedate then for the finest refinement.

The biggest issue regarding comfort is the ride quality, which is overly firm. It’s exacerbated by larger alloy wheel choices, but even specifying the smallest wheel possible does little to reduce the harshness of the ride. Given Lexus has gone as far as having an acoustic damper in the boot and special wheel arch liners to keep it quiet it’s a mystery why it has given this not-at-all-sporting hatch a stiff, uncompromising chassis.    

Practicality

The driving position is fine and space up front also accommodating, but that's not the case in the rear, where head- and legroom are a bit tight. In fairness, that’s a criticism that can be levelled at its direct rivals too. The boot, with its volume of 375 litres (including the underfloor stowage area) is competitive for the class; seats folded that volume increasing to 965 litres.   

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Technology & Connectivity: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 Lexus CT 200h

Being a Lexus the technology offering is fairly high with DAB and Bluetooth in all, two USB ports, and an aux-in connection. The rear seat passengers can be entertained enormously, with Lexus offering a range of DVD or iPad packages as cost options if your kids prefer watching Pixar to playing eye spy. All CT 200hs feature a dash-top mounted scree, which, in entry-level models, comes with a fairly simple rotary controller. Satnav is standard on Advance and Sport versions while all come with parking assist sensors front and rear.

Opt for the Premium Navigation and you gain a reversing camera, Online Search, and Google Street View, though it also features Lexus’ incredibly fiddly computer mouse-like controller to operate it all, which looks like a sound idea in theory, but is hopeless in reality. That Premium Nav will also generate a QR code (remember those?) when you reach your destination to scan with your phone to direct you the final leg on foot. Weird. If you like music opt for the Mark Levinson premium audio, as it’s one of the best stereos you’ll hear in a car, and almost worth buying a CT 200h for.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Performance & Handling: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ (3/10)

2017 Lexus CT 200h

Jump to Running Costs and Economy, as really there’s nothing to see here. Given the CT 200h counts among its rivals the BMW 1 Series, Mercedes-Benz A-Class, and Audi A3, the way it drives is important. And it’s not good news. The engine choice is limited to one, a 1.8-litre petrol unit with Lexus Hybrid Drive. Nothing wrong with that, and, indeed, we rather celebrate Lexus committing so rigidly to its hybrid strategy. It’s relatively quiet, too, moving off in electric guise, which means good refinement around town.

There are various driving modes, including an EV one that’ll push to electric only driving whenever possible, at speeds up to 28mph. The others are Sport, Normal, and Eco; the Eco setting winds back the air conditioning and softens the engine response for maximum economy; while Sport dials up the intensity of the drivetrain and turns the eco meter display in the instruments into a more conventional rev counter. Leave it in Normal and be done with it, as Sport does nothing good, ruining engine refinement, thanks in no small part to the CVT automatic transmission making the engine hang onto revs. Those used to the slickness of German rival autos, the easy torque of their diesel engines, and the smoothness and pace of their turbocharged petrol engines will find the Lexus lacking somewhat in the engine department, not least because it’s only offered in one 136hp output.  

The performance might not be scintillating then, but the tax advantages that powertrain bring are more likely to appeal to its intended audience. What’s utterly bewildering is why Lexus feels inclined to equip the CT 200h with firm-riding suspension in some misguided pursuit of sportiness. It’s worse with larger wheel sizes on the F Sport and Sport versions. There’s very little in the way of feedback, and even if there was, the hybrid system doesn’t really encourage you to push it hard. Grip levels are high though, and thanks to that suspension there’s very little body roll, but it’d be a better car with softer suspension and a more relaxed ride; as it stands, the busy, intrusive suspension is absolutely at odds with how it should drive.     

Recommended engine: CT 200h S

0-62 MPH

10.3 seconds

Fuel economy

78.5 mpg

Emissions

82g/km

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Safety Features: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 Lexus CT 200h

Eight airbags feature inside, helping the CT 200h achieve its impressive 94 percent adult and 84 percent child protection score in its five-star achieving 2011 Euro NCAP test. The rest of the safety equipment follows the class norm, including ABS with brake assist and brake force distribution, traction control, stability control, and a tyre pressure warning system. There are ISOFIX child seat mounts in the two outer rear seats, seatbelt pretensioners up front, and whiplash reducing front headrests. For the full level of active safety kit such as Adaptive Cruise Control and Pre-crash safety radar, you’ll need to pay more, and only then with the Premier trim level.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Specs and Trim Levels: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (7/10)

2017 Lexus CT 200h

Colours

Twelve colour choices are offered, though like most premium rivals there’s a heavy slant towards silvers, greys, and blacks, which makes the Fuji Red and Ultra Blue a nice diversion from the otherwise staid norm. There’s the opportunity to have a two-tone paint finish on Sport models by adding a black roof, though it’s not possible with all the colour choices.

Trim Levels

Given the single powertrain, a choice of seven trim levels across a £10,000 price differential from top to bottom is surprising; the line-up runs S, SE, Advance, Luxury, Sport, F Sport, and Premier. All come with satnav, DAB radio, alloy wheels, and Bluetooth connectivity, though you’ll need Advance and above for cruise control, Luxury upwards for leather upholstery, and F Sport or Premier if you want electric adjustment on your front seats.     

Size and Dimensions

Length

4,350mm

Width

1,765mm

Height

1,445mm

Max towing weight without brake

n/a

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Running Costs & Fuel Economy: ★★★★★★★★★ (9/10)

2017 Lexus CT 200h

More tax efficient than an off-shore fund, and legal too, the CT 200h is about as easy a way to minimise your outgoings in the premium market as is possible. The S model has an official combined economy figure of 78.5mpg, reducing to 68.9mpg with the larger wheel choices of the upper grades. Emissions are 82g/km for the 15-inch wheel, 88g/km for the 16-inch wheel and 94g/km for the 17-inch wheel, so there’s more than just a comfort incentive for the smaller wheels, as you’ll save money on fuel and lessen your impact on the environment.  

Reliability and servicing

The CT 200h needs an annual service, though reliability is certain to be good, and Lexus always scores high in customer satisfaction surveys.

Petrol models

10,000 miles or annually

Diesel models

n/a

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Pricing: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 Lexus CT 200h

Compared to some of its rivals, the pricing reach is fairly narrow, starting at around £22,000 and rising to just short of £30,000. With standard equipment already fairly comprehensive you could avoid spending lots on options, too.   

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Recommendations

Luxury seeker

The Premier model is dripping in standard equipment and can be optioned with an epic Mark Levinson stereo.

Company Car Buyer

CT 200h Advance will keep your tax bill low and comes with essentials like satnav as standard.

Green car buyer

Choose the CT 200h S with its 15-inch alloys for official economy of 78mpg and emissions of just 82g/km.  

Rivals

Audi A3

Impeccable interior quality, a fine drive and plenty choice, but you’ll need to pay lots to get anywhere near the CT 200h on emissions.

BMW 1 Series

The driver’s choice here and deservedly so; a CT 200h driver wouldn’t see which way a 1 Series went.  

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

A far nicer drive, though no hybrid model to pick from if tax avoidance is your absolute priority.

Volkswagen Golf

It’s impossible to ignore the Golf because it’s so good at everything. You’ll not get one quite as clean at CT 200h money, though.

Toyota Prius  

The CT 200h’s Toyota relation is the better car to drive, more comfortable, and cheaper, too.

What others say

WhatCar?

Going for a Lexus CT 200h gets you low running costs, a premium image and top notch customer service, but the harsh ride and poor refinement really let the car down.”

Top Gear

“To call this a posh Prius may sound a little harsh, but that’s what it is.”

 

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