Lexus CT 200h review
Any premium manufacturer worth its salt needs to have a hatchback in its range, and it Lexus' case, it's the CT 200h. It's different from the rest of its competitors, since it's only available with a hybrid powertrain. Now revised for 2018, NGC takes the CT 200h for a spin.
Review by Chris Lilly
Keeping things simple, there is one engine choice for buyers to pick from, and its a 1.8 litre Atkinson Cycle petrol/hybrid set-up, producing a combined 136hp. Power is put through a CVT gearbox to the front wheels, and the package is good for a 0-62mph time of 10.3 seconds. It ain't particularly quick then, with a focus on efficiency over performance. Pick-up is gentle rather than brisk, and the CT 200h is better suited to cruising at low speeds around town than being hustled down a country road. Driven gently, the Lexus can prove a refined drive, but the CVT transmission means that accelerating can be a noisy affair as the gearbox whines with little corresponding increase in speed. Motorway cruising is not the most comfortable of environments for the Lexus, but it will easily keep up with traffic and there's no lack of pace. The refinement just can't match that of some of its rivals though, so the CT is best suited to urban driving.
The CT 200h has a fair amount of grip available from its front wheels, and body roll is kept in check thanks to relatively stiff suspension. Matching the engine set-up though, the CT is no performance model, with little feedback available from the steering wheel or brakes to let you know what's going on beneath those wheels. As such, the Lexus again suits a more gentle pace, dealing with a relaxed driving style and making short work of car parks and the like. The stiff suspension means it can crash a bit over larger imperfections in the road's surface, but on smoother sections of road its composed and agile enough, if not particularly engaging.
The latest refresh means that the CT 200h gets sharper styling front and rear, and it's improved the package over the pre-updated model. New lights and bumpers front and rear keep the CT in line with the current Lexus design language, along with the prominent grille. It's not the best looking car in its class, but it's far from an ugly duckling either, and isn't going to put many buyers off with its design. The exterior translates to a reasonably practical hatchback, though there are more spacious models on the market for those prioritising practicality. Boot space is decent and a good shape, with easy access and underfloor storage available. It's not particularly deep in terms of height though, so tall loads may be restricted. Rear seat space is good for children, and spacious enough for small-ish adults, with head and leg room unlikely to bring about any complaints. Front seat occupants are well catered for, and the driver can get in a good position easily.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Lexus has a good reputation for its interiors, and the CT - despite being the baby of the range - upholds its honour. Materials used look plush on all but low surfaces, and the quality of fit and finish feels good throughout. The seats are comfortable too, and the drivers' instrument are clear to read. The centre console is a little button heavy by current standards, though I like the drive mode selector dial, which instantly switches between modes, rather than hesitating to ensure you're not just cycling through as rivals often do. The gear selector is in an unusual position, higher up the console, but since it's an automatic, the stick rarely gets used anyway. It does leave space for the touchpad infotainment controls fitted to the test model, which even though it features haptic feedback, is not as easy or intuitive to use as a dial or button based system. The 10.2-inch infotainment screen is a good one though, sitting on top of the dashboard and providing a crisp display.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Where the CT 200h has struggled against its rivals in some of the areas above, here it begins to come into its own. The hybrid is quoted at returning a combined 67.3 MPG and emits 97 g/km CO2 in its most efficient trim. The F Sport model tested has larger wheels, so sees those figures shift to 64.2 MPG and 101 g/km. During testing, I averaged 55.7 MPG, which is hardly shabby, and more than easy enough to live with. That was achieved over a mixed driving styles and a variety of scenarios, so it's a reasonable figure to expect for CT 200h buyers. To tax the Lexus will cost £130 for the Standard Rate after a First Year Rate of £135 (included in the OTR). This includes the £10 Alternative Fuel Discount.
Lexus is providing the economy scores of a diesel then, but with a greener system overall, and one that isn't impacted upon by the decline in diesel confidence or forthcoming clean air zones. The hybrid powertrain uses an Atkinson Cycle engine and CVT transmission aas these are more efficient systems than found in rival offerings. The electric powertrain enables the CT to operate in electric-only mode for short periods, and will pull away with zero-tailpipe emissions when there's charge. Four driving modes can see the driver switch between EV, Eco, Normal, and Sport, with Eco reducing throttle response and the drain on the engine from the air conditioning. According to our calculations, the Lexus CT 200h tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 38.
The model refresh has seen the CT's equipment levels brought right up-to-date, with entry level SE models getting 16-inch alloys, a leather multi-function steering wheel, dual-zone air conditioning, and 7-inch media display with DAB, USB, and Bluetooth connectivity with rotary dial. Safety kit has been a real focus too, with the Lexus Safety System+ coming as standard on all but SE trim. F Sport trim tested includes rear parking sensors and camera, 17-inch alloys, F Sport styling details and steering wheel, and heated front sports seats. The model tested also came with elements such as the Premier Pack, which adds a Mark Levinson audio system, leather trim, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry, LED headlights, and Lexus Premium Navigation.
The CT 200h is good around town, well equipped, and an alternative to the German offerings in the premium hatchback market. It's not the best car to drive, but strong economy figures mean it's a cheap car to run, particularly if you're a company car driver comparing the Lexus against diesel rivals.
Model tested: Lexus CT 200h F Sport
Body-style: Small family
Engine / CO2: 1.8 litre petrol engine and electric motor / 101 g/km
Trim grades: SE, SE Plus Pack, Luxury, F Sport, F Sport Premier Pack, Premier
On-road price: From £25,150. As tested: £27,150
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.0 Stars