Full 2012 Lexus CT 200h Review
What's New for 2012
For 2012, the Lexus CT 200h gets a few new features. One is an audible warning system to alert pedestrians and cyclists to this quietly approaching hybrid. Another is the optional F Sport Special Edition package that adds a sport-tuned suspension and a number of visual tweaks.
Sporty hybrid. Jumbo shrimp. Freezer burn. All are oxymorons, right? Well, the 2012 Lexus CT 200h challenges your perceptions, as Lexus' least expensive hybrid takes a different tack than what's normally seen in the hybrid segment, one that sends the car in a sporty direction.
The 2012 Lexus CT 200h shares components with both its Lexus HS 250h brother and Toyota Prius cousin, but its lower stance and special suspension components allow it to deliver more athletic handling. It also features adjustable drive modes, including a Sport setting that noticeably sharpens throttle and steering responses. As a result, the CT 200h delivers a more enjoyable drive than you'll get in most other hybrids. However, despite its respectable handling chops, more serious driving enthusiasts will bemoan a lack of feedback from the chassis and steering.
Of course, since it shares its powertrain with the Prius, the CT is an infrequent visitor to the gas station. Weighing a few hundred pounds more than a Prius and sporting larger tires, the CT 200h doesn't get quite the miserly fuel economy of the Toyota, but its combined mileage of 42 mpg is plenty impressive. The downside is leisurely acceleration, and during Edmunds testing, the CT posted a 0-60 time of 10.4 seconds, which is 0.3 second slower than the Prius.
This combination of high fuel economy but slower acceleration puts the CT is an unusual position in the premium compact segment. The only model that comes close to matching the CT's fuel economy and four-door hatchback practicality is the diesel-powered Audi A3. Beyond this, you'll likely be looking at regular gas-powered, two-door cars like the better-handling BMW 1 Series or the stylish Volvo C30. These are all pretty desirable cars, but the 2012 Lexus CT 200h remains a respectable choice. It's affordably priced, practical, nicely furnished and, of course, the greenest of the bunch.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Lexus CT 200h is a premium compact four-door hatchback that comes in base and Premium trim levels.
Standard equipment on base models includes 17-inch wheels, heated side mirrors, keyless ignition/entry, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 10-way power-adjustable driver seat, dual-zone climate control, premium vinyl upholstery, Bluetooth (with audio streaming) and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio and auxiliary audio/USB jacks. The Premium model adds heated front seats and a sunroof.
A number of option packages are available for the Premium trim. The Premium Audio package adds an auto-dimming rearview mirror and an upgraded 10-speaker sound system with a six-disc CD changer. The Leather package adds rain-sensing wipers, leather upholstery, auto-dimming side mirrors and driver-seat memory settings. The Navigation package adds a hard-drive-based navigation system (with real-time traffic and voice control), the Lexus Remote Touch interface, a back-up camera, increased Bluetooth functionality and Lexus Enform telematics.
Also available for the Premium trim is the F Sport Special Edition package that includes unique wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, a larger rear spoiler, a mesh grille and unique upholstery. Stand-alone options include LED headlamps and adaptive cruise control with a pre-collision system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Lexus CT 200h is motivated by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and a pair of electric motor/generators. Combined output is 134 horsepower and power is sent to the front wheels through a specialized continuously variable transmission (CVT).
In Edmunds testing, the CT 200h accelerated from zero to 60 mph in a leisurely 10.4 seconds. The upside, though, is stellar fuel economy, since the EPA estimates fuel economy at 43 mpg city/40 mpg highway and 42 mpg in combined driving.
Standard safety equipment on the 2012 Lexus CT 200h includes antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front and rear side airbags, side curtain airbags and dual front knee airbags. Also standard are the Vehicle Proximity Notification System (which emits a low tone to warn pedestrians and cyclists of the approaching Lexus) and Safety Connect (a telematics service with automatic collision notification, a stolen vehicle locator and emergency assistance).
Buyers can choose an optional pre-collision system that comes packaged with adaptive cruise control that can determine when an accident is imminent and responds by tightening the front seatbelts and initializing brake assist. In Edmunds brake testing, the CT's performance was acceptable, with the car stopping from 60 mph in 120 feet.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the CT 200h its highest rating of "Good" in frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
If you're expecting standard Lexus opulence and lots of wood trim, you won't find it here. However, the CT 200h's cabin is still upscale, with soft-touch surfaces on the most heavily contacted points. The optional leather upholstery feels rich, yet the standard "NuLuxe" upholstery (a synthetic imitation that's 50 percent lighter than leather) is convincing and won't disappoint. The cabin looks modern in a premium sort of way, with the exception being the radio's dated-looking panel layout and display screen.
Driver-focused touches abound within the cockpit. The shifter sits high on the angled center stack, within easy reach of the driver, and Lexus's stellar Remote Touch controller governs the navigation system. This ergonomic controller is essentially a mouse that sits on the driver side of the center console and it's remarkably easy to use. Cargo capacity of the glovebox, door bins and center bin is unimpressive, which means there's not much in-cabin storage. Luggage capacity is 14.3 cubic feet, and the rear seats fold down to give you more room for storage.
In Eco mode -- which, as the name suggests, offers the best fuel economy -- the 2012 Lexus CT 200h shows its Prius roots, with numb throttle response and overly light steering. Things improve in "Normal" mode, though even this setting can leave the car feeling a bit lazy in fast-moving highway traffic.
The most performance-oriented setting is Sport, which sharpens steering and throttle response, making this car seem more willing than most other hybrids. Despite its unremarkable 10.4-second acceleration time to 60 mph, the CT feels reasonably powerful and responsive with Sport mode engaged. We've yet to drive a CT 200h with the new F Sport package, but we're pretty certain that enthusiast-minded shoppers in this segment will still be better served by the nimbler BMW 1 Series or quicker Volvo C30.