What's New for 2013
The 2013 Lexus CT 200h is pretty much unchanged. Last year's Premium trim level has become an option package.
If you're shopping for a premium compact car, you'll find there's not exactly a wide selection. It's only been since the recession that luxury-vehicle makers decided some of us were ready to embrace the idea that luxury doesn't have to mean large. With the 2013 CT 200h, Lexus aims to meet these compact luxury car desires, and ups the fuel-efficiency ante with a hybrid-electric powertrain.
The CT 200h isn't quick by any measure, but it certainly is the most fuel-sipping car with a luxury badge you can buy short of expensive all-electric models. It makes sense for Lexus to manufacture a hybrid compact luxury car, given parent company Toyota's extensive expertise with the technology. As one might expect, the 2013 Lexus CT 200h borrows much of the Prius' tried-and-true -- and remarkably efficient -- hardware.
Just to be sure that nobody mistakes the CT 200h for a leathered-up Prius, there are a few upgrades for the CT. For one, it looks a lot sportier than a Prius; with its modern, angular look, the CT has a decidedly hip and urban style. It's also more involving to drive than a Prius, with a lowered stance and a sport-tuned suspension. Underscoring the CT 200h's emphasis on sportier mannerisms is a driver-adjustable setting that allows you to sharpen steering and throttle response if you so desire.
That said, the 2013 Lexus CT 200h isn't the sportiest entry-luxury car you'll find -- pick the 2013 MW 1 Series or even the Buick Verano for that. But the CT 200h gets the best fuel economy of anything in its class. Its 42 mpg combined tops that of the Acura ILX Hybrid as well as that of the diesel-engine version of the 2013 Audi A3.
The luxury compact segment is starting to offer more choices. However, if your focus is on a well-built but affordable luxury car that also happens to offer some of the best fuel economy ratings of any vehicle, the Lexus CT 200h is a unique option.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Lexus CT 200h is a premium compact four-door hatchback that comes in a single trim level.
Standard equipment includes 17-inch wheels, heated side mirrors, a sunroof, keyless ignition/entry, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 10-way power driver seat, dual-zone climate control, premium vinyl upholstery, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio and auxiliary audio/USB jacks.
Most options for the 2013 CT 200h come in packages. The Premium package adds an auto-dimming rearview mirror and an upgraded 10-speaker sound system with a six-disc CD changer. The Seat Comfort package brings a four-way power passenger seat and heated front seats.
The CT 200h Leather package adds rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming side mirrors, leather upholstery and power passenger and driver-seat memory settings. The Navigation package -- which requires the Premium package -- adds a navigation system, the Lexus Remote Touch interface, a back-up camera, increased Bluetooth functionality and Lexus Enform telematics.
The F Sport package includes unique 17-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, a larger rear spoiler, a mesh grille, aluminum sport pedals, leather-trimmed steering wheel metallic trim and unique upholstery. Stand-alone options include LED headlamps, a back-up camera with rearview-mirror display, park assist and adaptive cruise control with a pre-collision system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2013 Lexus CT 200h is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine in tandem with a pair of electric motor/generators. Combined, they generate 134 horsepower to drive the front wheels through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).
In Edmunds testing, the CT 200h accelerated from zero to 60 mph in a slow 10.4 seconds. Fuel economy is the CT 200h's forte: The EPA estimates fuel economy at 43 mpg city/40 mpg highway and 42 mpg in combined driving.
Standard safety equipment on the 2013 Lexus CT 200h includes antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front and rear side airbags, side curtain airbags, dual front knee airbags and Lexus' Safety Connect. The latter is a traditional telematics service with automatic collision notification, stolen-vehicle location and emergency assistance.
Buyers can choose an optional pre-collision system that comes packaged with adaptive cruise control, which determines an imminent accident 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
There's only so much premium trim you should expect in compact luxury cars, even if they are from brands that typically slather on the leather and wood. What the CT 200h gives up in sheer yardage of luxury material is balanced by a tightly assembled interior. Also, there's enough soft-touch material where it matters (including a now-padded door armrest for the driver, something earlier CT 200h owners howled about) to let you know you're in a car that's a step above the norm. Although leather is optional, the standard leather-look upholstery is attractive.
Perhaps because the CT 200h is a hybrid, there's a certain techy feel throughout -- evident in the uniquely high placement of the gearshift lever. Similarly futuristic is Lexus' Remote Touch controller, which is used to scroll through entertainment and navigation screens and menus. We're mixed on Remote Touch; some of our editors like the familiarity of the mouse interface, while others dislike the controller's overly sensitive nature.
What the interior doesn't offer is lots of places to stow your gear. As one would expect from a car with such tidy dimensions, the door bins and glovebox are not particularly expansive. Luggage capacity is a decent 14.3 cubic feet; folding down the rear seats provides more opportunity for cargo thanks to the CT's hatchback body style.
f you're buying a luxury car because you want more performance than you get in a similarly sized everyday model, then the 2013 Lexus CT 200h shouldn't be the first choice on your list. The CT 200h's fundamental design places fuel economy as a central theme, and as a result acceleration is, well, Prius-like. Handling is respectable, though, and the CT 200h is a rewarding car to drive in the tighter environments of the city or suburbs, where the tightened steering and body control make enjoyable work of sharp corners and small parking spaces. The adjustable drive mode selector is a nice touch. Eco mode extracts the best fuel economy, but many will find the dulled throttle response annoying.