Full 2014 Lexus CT 200h Review
What's New for 2014
The 2014 Lexus CT 200h receives a handful of updates. These include freshened front-end styling, newly available LED headlights and new wheels and a black-painted roof for the F Sport package. Inside, there's a reshaped steering wheel, the latest version of Lexus' Remote Touch infotainment interface and new audio speakers for higher-quality sound.
There are stylish, sporty cars, practical cars and fuel-efficient cars, but trying to find one that combines all these qualities can be a tall order. It is, however, one that the 2014 Lexus CT 200h fills quite nicely.
That the CT 200h is stylish will not likely come as a surprise. It remains one of the sleeker-looking small cars on the road, and for 2014, Lexus has freshened the CT 200h's look with the adoption of the corporate spindle-style grille, LED running lights and sportier accents for the available F Sport package. This sense of style doesn't come at the expense of versatility either, as this four-door hatchback is much better suited for the loading of bulky cargo than your typical small sedan.
The CT 200h's high fuel economy is due to its hybrid powertrain. Fitted with essentially the same system that Toyota uses for the Prius, the CT is good for an excellent 42 mpg in combined driving. A major downside to this thriftiness is tepid performance, even by hybrid standards. While the CT 200h handles pretty well around turns, it is extremely slow, and its gasoline engine gets noisy when pressed for maximum acceleration.
This is especially true in contrast to some other entry-level luxury vehicles, such as the strong performing BMW X1 sDrive28i or Buick Verano Turbo. If a wagonlike interior and impressive fuel economy are priorities, you could check out the less expensive (but still quite nice) 2014 Ford C-Max Hybrid. Alternately, try the 2014 Acura TSX Sport Wagon and 2014 Mini Cooper Clubman -- stylish cars that are far more responsive in cutthroat urban traffic. Although the 2014 Lexus CT 200h has some appealing qualities, we suspect most people shopping in this price range will ultimately prefer something a little quicker.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Lexus CT 200h is a compact, four-door hybrid hatchback with seating for five. It's offered in a single trim level.
Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, heated mirrors, a sunroof, keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery, an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar), split-folding rear seats, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio and a USB/iPod interface.
From here, a number of optional packages are available, though availability can vary depending on where you live. The CT 200h's Display Audio package includes a premium 10-speaker sound system, a 7-inch display screen, a rearview camera, an additional USB port and the Remote Touch controller. The Navigation package is similar but features a voice-controlled navigation system, HD radio and Lexus' Enform app-based infotainment and Safety Connect emergency telematics systems.
A Premium package is highlighted by rain-sensing wipers and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Opting for the Luxury package gets you everything in the Premium package plus leather upholstery and driver memory settings. The Seat Comfort package includes a four-way power passenger seat and heated front seats.
The optional F Sport package bundles distinctive 17-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, a larger rear spoiler and a host of unique styling tweaks inside and out.
There are a few stand-alone options as well, including LED (low-beam) headlights, adaptive cruise control with a pre-collision system, front and rear parking sensors and a back-up camera with the display built into the auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 Lexus CT 200h's hybrid powertrain consists of a 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, a pair of electric motor/generators and a nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Total output is 134 horsepower, which is sent to 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 where the CT 200h shines, however, with an EPA estimated 42 mpg in combined driving (43 mpg city/40 mpg highway).
The 2014 Lexus CT 200h's list of standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front- and rear-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and dual front knee airbags. Lexus' Safety Connect telematics system is also standard and includes functions like automatic collision notification, stolen-vehicle location and emergency assistance. A rearview camera and front and rear parking sensors are available as options.
The optional adaptive cruise control system includes a pre-collision feature that uses radar sensors to detect an imminent impact 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 moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests. Its head restraint/seat design also earned a "Good" rating for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
If you were expecting the passenger cabin of the 2014 Lexus CT 200h to be done up in the same lavish soft leather and gleaming wood found in the luxury brand's other models, well, you'll be disappointed. That said, the interior does have a classy look and the soft-touch materials -- even the standard premium vinyl upholstery -- are entirely suitable for this class of car.
Generally speaking, gauges and controls are easy to see and operate. When you opt for the Display Audio or Navigation package, you get the Lexus Remote Touch system, a mouselike device that controls a cursor on a large centrally located screen. Although interacting with this interface is very similar to using a computer mouse, the ultra-sensitive nature of the controller can make it clumsy and distracting to use while driving.
The front seats are well bolstered and supportive. Despite the cabin's sloping roof line, there's plenty of head- and legroom for rear seat passengers, although small rear doors hamper ingress and egress. Storage space for small everyday items is limited to a smallish glovebox and front door map pockets. Behind its rear seats, the CT 200h has 14.3 cubic feet of luggage space, which is small by normal hatchback standards.
Driving the 2014 Lexus CT 200h requires you to manage your expectations. The hatchback's hybrid powertrain is tuned to eke out every last mpg, and the result is very sluggish performance for a car in this price range. Moreover, the sound of the gasoline engine when you're accelerating up to highway speeds is not what we'd describe as sonorous.
That said, the CT 200h is pretty effortless to drive in city traffic. You'll barely notice the transition from low-speed all-electric power to gas engine power. Likewise, the car's automatic stop-start system performs flawlessly, as the engine unobtrusively awakens from its auto-off mode, allowing you to scoot away from stoplights without fuss.
Besides that, the Lexus CT 200h handles respectably for a hybrid car, and its steering is impressively precise (with a weightier effort level in Sport mode). The ride quality is decent enough with the standard suspension, but the firmer suspension tuning that comes with the F Sport option package can make the ride too harsh, depending on your local road conditions.