An entry-level hybrid with a fun-to-drive F Sport option.
Sitting lower and coming in slightly shorter than the Toyota Prius, the Lexus CT200h (CT) is the smallest hybrid model for Toyota’s luxury brand. Now in its seventh year, the CT will soon follow the Prius and receive an update of its own. In the meantime, shoppers looking for a small hybrid hatchback with sporty driving characteristics would do well to consider this year’s model.
2017 Lexus CT 200h
The Lexus CT shares its drivetrain with the wildly popular Prius, but there are some important differences. Most notably, the CT is in its first generation and has yet to benefit from the changes made to the Prius in 2016 when that hybrid’s current-generation model was introduced. As a new model is being prepared (likely for 2018), the 2017 Lexus CT offers three new color choices. That’s the extent of the changes offered for a hybrid offered in standard and F Sport trims.
Speaking of trims, the standard model retails from $31,250, while the F Sport version fetches $32,980. All CT models are front-wheel drive and offer room for up to five.
If you’re not familiar with the CT 200h, its diminutive size may surprise you. Lexus took a risk developing this product as it operates in a segment where only the CT and the Audi A3 e-Tron compete.
Measuring 171.2 inches from stem to stern, the CT is nearly a foot shorter than the compact NX SUV and the small IS sedan. Working to the CT’s advantage is its front-wheel drive layout, what bodes well on the interior room (more about that later).
The spindle grille look on the CT is measured — and that means it doesn’t overwhelm the front fascia. Distinctive hood creases, body sculpting, a high beltline, and a roofline that sweeps back to the hatchback contributes to this model’s sporty look. At the rear, you’ll find an integrated hatch spoiler, wraparound glass and combination lamps, and a diffuser-like tail.
The F Sport package represents a modest $1,730 investment to get a sportier look along with a specially tuned suspension with sport-tuned dampers and springs. The hatchback’s 17-inch wheels feature a special two-tone graphite and machine finish. You’ll also find a mesh version of the spindle grille, a black contrast roof and a rear spoiler with two large air ducts. Completing the expression is mesh and fog lamp inserts with black surrounds and special exterior color choices.
Lexus provides space for five, but in reality the CT is best suited for two. Okay, if you need to squeeze one or two people in the back, while moving your seat forward, this can be done.
The cabin is comfortable for the driver and front passenger, supplying ample bolstering and sufficient room for me to move my 6-foot frame around. The overlapping three-dial instrument panel offers a sporty presentation even if one of those dials is dedicated to hybrid information.
The center stack is marked by a color display occupying an alcove set within the dashboard. The floating panel connecting the center console with the dashboard should be familiar to Lexus fans. What takes some getting used to is the transmission shifter with the “park” feature occupying a button immediately below the stick — I wonder how many times people put the car in reverse, thinking they were in park?
The Lexus Remote Touch controller offers its own drama, at least for some people. Personally, I like the mouse-like design — once you’re familiar with the location of the pad, buttons, and switches, you’ll get the hang of it. Distractibility is always a potential problem with any system requiring your eyes to veer away from the road ahead. So, use the voice commands wherever possible — it worked great when it came to fetching directions. Those directions, by the way, come courtesy of an available navigation package ($3,480).
Opt for the luxury package ($2,170) and you can upgrade from NuLuxe to leather seats. But I have to say the NuLuxe does an excellent job of imitating leather — it has the look and feel of the real thing and importantly for some folks is that no animals were harmed in the process. Anyway, the luxury package also brings in heated and front seats, and other features.
As for storage space, the hatchback offers 14.3 cubic feet of storage space. The 60-40 split folding rear seat expands that space, although Lexus doesn’t publish that number.
Let’s get one very important point out of the way first: the 2017 Lexus CT200h makes an EPA-estimated 43 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway for a combined 42 mpg. My numbers came in slightly lower: 39.3 mpg for mostly highway driving. But I’ll take it.
On the road, the CT is not a performance beast. At least if you place the emphasis on off-the-mark acceleration or passing power. Even in sport mode (eco and normal are the other two), there’s no appreciable difference in performance. Remember, we’re talking about a hybrid model here, not the RC F. That means you’ll draw 98 horsepower and 105 pound-feet of torque from the gas engine.
One of two electric motor generators sends 80 horsepower to drive the front wheels and supplies regeneration while braking (energy sent to the nickel metal hydride battery pack for use later). The other generator works the engine starter and manages the transmission ratio control.
But there is one benefit that will appeal to people who like tackling the twisties. Even though the CT is front-wheel drive it weighs just 3,130 pounds and has what feels like an improved front to rear weight distribution. Then again, it is nose heavy with 59 percent of the weight up front and 41 percent in the rear. It just doesn’t seem that way when tackling the twisties.
Enhancing the handling experience is the available F Sport package as you’ll gain sport-tuned dampers and springs. Just don’t look for copious amounts of power to aid you as you press forward — it just isn’t there.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2016 Lexus CT 200h its highest score: Top Safety Pick+. Testing for the 2017 model has not yet been accomplished, but we’re confident this model will retain its high score.
Besides the usual safety features — traction control, a suite of airbags, and stability control — buyers can opt for a pre-collision package ($1,500) with dynamic cruise control, what enables the CT to achieve its lofty safety rating.
With standard and F Sport trims available, your purchase decision comes down to two things: luxury efficiency on a budget or a combination of efficiency and performance when choosing the F Sport.
Personally, I would skip the F Sport — if you’re looking for a measure of performance, then head to the IS line. You won’t enjoy the fuel efficiency of the hybrid, but you’ll gain performance characteristics in a tidy package for a slightly higher price.
The CT offers an ideal blend of a sport hatchback design, premium features, and outstanding fuel economy. The person who admires Prius, but wants to upgrade to Lexus may find it delivers everything they want. Keep in mind that this model is shorter than the Prius and doesn’t have the interior space of the Toyota. The ideal purchaser may be the individual looking for a commuter car and the promise of 40 mpg. You’ll get that along with the CT’s green credentials wrapped in a Lexus package.
See Also — Driven: 2016 Lexus ES 300h