Lexus CT 200h Review

The petrol-electric hybrid Lexus CT 200h

The petrol-electric hybrid Lexus CT 200h

The petrol-electric hybrid Lexus CT 200h delivers a luxurious and sporty feel, yet it only emits 94 g/km CO2 along with 68.9 mpg – which are class-leading figures.

Lexus CT 200h Road Test

Model/Engine size: CT 200h SE-I 1.8-litre petrol engine and electric motor
Fuel: Petrol-electric hybrid
Fuel economy combined: 68.9 mpg
Green Car Guide rating: 9/10

It’s a new car and it’s the first time Lexus has offered a hybrid car in this premium compact hatchback segment. It’s also the only full hybrid model in this class. This is a very important market segment for Lexus, where the company hopes to attract younger buyers to the brand.

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The powertrain is based on that of the Toyota Prius, so the key question is, does the CT 200h have a sufficiently premium feel to differentiate it from the Prius?

People are now becoming familiar with the hybrid concept. The CT 200h has a 98 bhp 1.8-litre petrol engine, and an 82 bhp electric motor powered by a battery. The two methods of propulsion work together to produce a total of 134 bhp, pretty much seamlessly, to deliver performance with the greatest level of efficiency.

The CT200h’s hybrid system has different modes – EV, Eco, and Normal (all of these fall under what Lexus calls the ‘Relaxing’ driving mood); and Sport (or ‘Dynamic’ mood).

Lexus CT 200h

In Normal mode, the petrol engine and electric motor work together. Under certain conditions the petrol engine may also work by itself (just as the electric motor can also operate alone).

Eco mode makes the car focus on efficiency rather than performance; in this mode the car’s responses aren’t dynamic.

Electric or EV mode is as it says on the tin, and this results in zero emissions. This is only available for approximately 1 mile, and only up to 28 mph. In typical operating conditions, the petrol engine is likely to cut in before you reach this distance.

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Then there’s Sport mode, which results in a more responsive driving experience. As with the Prius, we have a situation where the car can get through the official fuel consumption tests in Normal mode, but then it’s likely to be driven in Sport mode by most people who want a responsive car. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll enjoy 68.9 mpg if you drive everywhere in Sport mode.

As it’s a petrol-electric hybrid, it’s better than a diesel in terms of local air quality, thanks to its virtually zero NOx levels, and of course there are no particulates. In electric mode there are zero emissions.

As with other hybrids, it’s very energy-efficient; the car captures energy that would otherwise have been lost when braking, and you will be emitting zero emissions when the car is at a standstill. The car even recovers heat from the exhaust to help the car warm up more quickly from cold, so helping it to operate more efficiently.

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Lexus says that it has made all efforts to ensure the CT 200h is better to drive than the average hybrid, and they’re right. They’ve been careful to create a low centre of gravity, high levels of rigidity, and the car has a ‘lateral performance damper system’ that aims to improve ride comfort.

As soon as you pull away in the CT 200h you can feel that this is a different driving experience to most hybrids. The driving position is quite low, and the car feels tight and responsive, in terms of steering, suspension and powertrain. The brakes are effective but they have a slightly unusual feel compared to conventional cars.

The CT 200h, along with all other hybrids from the Toyota/Lexus stable, has a CVT transmission. Apart from the shift lever being somewhat unconventional when compared to most cars, the operation of the CVT may not be to everyone’s taste, as it often feels like it’s revving away without any resultant forward progress. However it seems that the Lexus engineers have been working to reduce this sensation.

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Of course it’s a Lexus so we’d expect impressive levels of refinement, and the CT 200h does not disappoint. It’s quiet and there’s no sense of any mechanical workings in progress.

The car is compact which helps with the tight handling. However it’s not too small to prevent it being a useable family car. Boot space is adequate, but rear legroom could be more generous.

Our slightly unusual test involved a drive into London to meet a deadline, and some ‘green’ cars would have proved very frustrating to drive under such conditions, but the CT 200h proved to be responsive and comfortable, with good performance and an interior environment that made life in traffic jams a bit more bearable.

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The interior feels more special than a Prius, and you get a chunky, thick-rimmed steering wheel. You have dials right in front of the driver, which is a huge improvement over the Prius, which has centrally-mounted instruments. You also have a ‘Remote Touch’ mouse-like controller for the sat nav and other features on the central screen. There are lots of switches and controls on the dashboard, to the extent that’s it all a bit overwhelming at first, but you’d no doubt get used to where they all are and and what they all do if you owned the car.

The CT 200h comes in three equipment grades – SE-I, SE-L and SE-L Premier. The respective prices are £23,485, £25,200, and £30,635. This makes it pretty expensive for a compact hatchback.

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Lexus, in defence of the pricing, will say that the car will be cheap to run, and that it will retain its value well. Because of its emissions level, you would pay zero road tax and enjoy exemption from the London Congestion Charge. Company car drivers will also benefit from the lowest 10 per cent rating for benefit-in-kind company car tax.

Apart from a more accessible price, what else would we like to see improved? Well number one on our list has to be the styling; although it’s appreciated that certain design elements are in the interests of good aerodynamics, in our view it looks rather fussy – for this price we’d prefer it to look more elegant.

It’s possible that buyers will be less concerned about the price because they will be soothed by the excellent levels of customer service from their local dealer. This is something that should be expected, as Lexus has won a total of ten JD Power customer satisfaction awards.

View of the Lexus CT 200h dashboard from the driver's seat

Summary and review of the Lexus CT 200h

The Lexus CT 200h really shows that car makers have made progress. To be able to buy a car that has such a premium feel, and a good driving experience, that also emits only 94 g/km CO2 and can manage almost 70 mpg, is something that both car makers and car buyers wouldn’t have thought possible only a few years ago.

For combining luxury and low emissions, together with a driving experience that really moves the hybrid forward, the Lexus CT 200h gets a Green-Car-Guide rating of 9 out of 10. Crucially, the CT 200h does feel more special than a Prius. If the Lexus designers could make the car look more elegant, if the engineers could keep working to improve the CVT transmission, and if the marketing department could give it more accessible pricing for this size of car, it may get a 10 out of 10.

Paul Clarke

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Car details and fuel economy data

Fuel economy extra urban: 70.6 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 68.9 mpg
CO2 emissions: 94 g/km
Green rating: VED band A – first year £0
Weight: 1410 Kg
Company car tax liability (2010/11): 10%
Price: £23,485 (From £23,485 to £30,635)
Insurance group: 15E
Power: 134 bhp
Max speed: 112 mph
0-62mph: 10.3 seconds