Having been around since 2011, the biggest problem that the Lexus CT 200h had was that it was a bit too inconspicuous. However, with black metallic paint, dark 17-inch wheels, and now carrying Lexus’s spindle grille, the CT 200h’s new look has brought it out from obscurity to decent-looking hatch. So, if the CT 200h was so obscure, what compelled people to actually buy one? To answer that you will have to look at the Toyota Prius.
The Toyota Prius is great if all you want is a fuel-efficient car, but if you want looks or performance then the Prius falls short in both departments by quite some margin. This is where the Lexus CT 200h comes in; it gives you the fuel efficiency of a Prius without having to suffer through its looks. You also get a much better interior design, more equipment and higher quality materials than a Prius. As for performance, you get the same hybrid system as a Prius – a 1.8-litre petrol engine and electric motor producing a total of 136hp. The petrol engine has a torque figure of 142Nm, while the electric motor produces 207Nm. This means an acceleration time of 10.3 seconds and a top speed of 180km/h. Claimed manufacturer fuel consumption figures are 4.1l/100km in the city, 3.6l/100km on the highway, and 3.8l/100km on the combined cycle. Impressive figures, but it must be said the trip computer showed that I averaged around 6.2l/100km in the two weeks I had the car, so it will be very difficult to match those figures.
Price and equipment
Prices for a CT 200h start at CHF 35,100, where as a CT 200h F Sport costs CHF 45,400. Add options like HDD navigation and optional carpets and the price comes up to CHF 48,945. Standard equipment includes: front and rear parking sensors; tinted rear windows; LED headlamps; a sports steering wheel; aluminium-plated pedals; leather upholstery; as well as a roof spoiler.
Does F Sport mean sporty?
The CT 200h – like the Prius – isn’t a fast car by any means, but the F Sport package means that it gets upgraded dampers. With that said, if you decide to go around corners with moderate levels of enthusiasm, you’ll find that it does a decent job at staying planted, and doesn’t reward the driver with too much body roll either. However, if you decide to be more aggressive, then it begins to understeer. But it’s the engine and transmission combination that ultimately makes the F-Sport fall short in delivering a truly thrilling drive. If it maybe had a 200hp powertrain with a manual or some kind of quick-shifting automated transmission, it would have done a more convincing job at being sporty.
A good daily driver?
It might not be the most exciting car to drive in a sporty manner, but the CT 200h does do a good job at being a regular, everyday type of car. Even with the firmer F Sport suspension, the ride is still quite good whether it’s over rough city streets or bumpy country roads. The steering – although lacking in true road feel – has just the right amount of weight for everyday commutes and manoeuvring around parking lots, while the response to driver inputs is also quite decent.
You can drive the CT 200h in one of four modes: ECO, NORMAL, SPORT, or EV mode. Of these modes NORMAL and SPORT were the modes I preferred, because the throttle response in ECO mode is so sluggish that you can sense drivers behind you getting annoyed by how unwilling the car is to move away from traffic lights. The sluggishness is there in the name of fuel economy, the lower the throttle response the less fuel being used to get it moving. EV mode is okay for driving around slow in 30km/h residential areas, other than that the car will automatically call up on the petrol engine if it senses that you’re stepping on the gas pedal too hard (which isn’t that hard) or if you go over 30km/h. NORMAL mode – which I used most of the time – made it at least feel like an adequately-powered hatchback, while SPORT mode gave it a surprisingly sharp throttle response, and the power gauge turns in to a rev counter.
On the inside
The inside of this car is among the nicest of any hatchback on sale today. You have high quality controls and the layout of the instruments is on point. The seats on this press car were leather with alcantara inserts, and were very comfortable and supportive. It might be a bit small on the inside, but there’s adequate space for four average-sized adults and room for two big suitcases in the trunk. You can get four big suitcases and a few smaller items if you fold the rear seats.
The user interface has some very good graphics, although the mouse-like device used to select functions takes a bit of time to get used to, but you soon get the hang of it. The sound quality from Bluetooth connected devices is quite good, however when your phone is pairing with the car none of the other radio or navigation functions work, and it can take up to two minutes for the pairing to complete – which is strange because even cars like the Toyota Aygo connect instantly once the car has memorized your device.
It's rather different...
Apart from being as fuel-efficient as a Toyota Prius, the other selling point for the CT 200h is being one of a few luxury-oriented hatchbacks on sale today. While the F Sport package sharpens the driving characteristics a little bit, it can’t really be called sporty – mainly due to its powertrain and its limited handling. As a daily run around though, the CT 200h performs very well and its low CO2 levels – as low as 82g/km – means you’ll be able to avoid several taxes in many European countries. There’s still a bit of Prius DNA in the CT 200h, but it’s still an interesting alternative to the millions of diesel hatchbacks scattered all over European roads.
Written by Alex Kisiri