"Engaging handling" isn't the the first phrase that comes to mind when thinking about hybrids. Typically, hybrids excel at maximizing fuel economy and not much else, at least on the spectrum of driving excitement. But today, more models are ambitiously aiming for great mileage sweetened with a sportier driving experience. The Lexus CT 200h is one model that's been at it the longest.
The Lexus CT 200h shares its powertrain with the Toyota Prius. The main distinction is that the sporty-looking CT 200h is designed specifically for better handling, with a low stance and special suspension components. It's an appealing idea, to be sure. But just as with the rash of compact cars many premium brands have introduced to their showrooms, the CT 200h stretches the definition of a luxury car since it's small inside and out, not particularly powerful and not particularly plush.
The CT 200h is, however, a premium alternative with more polish than the Prius or any other mainstream hybrids. We've found that it tackles curves with more agility than typical hybrids, with a smooth ride quality and quick, responsive steering feel. It's slow, though.
Current Lexus CT 200h
The Lexus CT 200h is a four-door hybrid hatchback that seats five. It's available in one trim level. Power comes from a 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine combined with an electric motor. Depending on the driving situation, one or both drive the CT 200h's front wheels through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Maximum output is 134 horsepower.
The CT 200h comes in a single trim level. Standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, simulated leather upholstery, Bluetooth connectivity and a six-speaker sound system. Most of the CT's truly upscale features are optional. These include LED headlights, a sunroof, adaptive cruise control, a rearview camera, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated seats, a navigation system and a premium sound system. An F Sport package is also available that includes unique wheels, a sport-tuned suspension and special upholstery.
Compact dimensions and efficient hybrid drive mean the Lexus CT 200h's chief asset is exceptional fuel economy. The EPA says to expect 42 mpg combined. Acceleration is not a strength, though. We recorded 0-60 mph in a leisurely 10.5 seconds, although the CT 200h handles nimbly enough.
You won't find the expected Lexus opulence and obligatory wood trim here, but the CT 200h cabin is still upscale, with soft-touch surfaces on the most heavily trafficked contact points. The optional leather upholstery feels rich and pliable, but the standard NuLuxe premium vinyl upholstery is convincing and won't disappoint. The cabin looks modern and high-end, with the exception being the radio's dated layout and display screen. There is reasonable luggage room — 14.3 cubic feet — and the hatchback configuration with folding rear seats makes for cargo-carrying flexibility that other entry-level luxury sedans can't match.
Used Lexus CT 200h Models
The Lexus CT 200h debuted for the 2011 model year. The following year, Lexus offered the CT 200h's optional F Sport package with sportier body pieces, special 17-inch tires and flashier interior detailing.
For the 2014 model year, the CT 200h received a face-lift that brought it more in line with the rest of the Lexus lineup. Mechanically it remained unchanged, but a handful of new features debuted. These items include LED low-beam headlights, a black-painted roof for the F Sport package, a new steering wheel, an updated Remote Touch interface and improved speakers for the audio system. Since then, the CT 200h has received only minor changes.