The Sunday Times Driving Placeholder
Statistically impressive but dynamically too flawed to maintain credibility.
Pros
Fabulous interior design
Build quality
Fuel economy in town
Cons
Joyless engine and gearbox combination
Dull handling
Poor ride

Lexus CT 200h review

It’s green – and wooden, too

More Info

What is it?

Lexus is proud that it is the first of the premium manufacturers to launch a hybrid into the compact sector. Nor is the CT 200h that has blazed the trail quite the “posh Prius” that it has been characterised as. It uses the Prius’s drivetrain, but its structure and bodywork are all new. This is just as well: sending a Prius into battle against the Audi A3, new Mercedes A-class and BMW 1-series would not have had a pretty outcome.

The drive

The 134bhp petrol-electric powertrain is the only available mechanical specification, model pricing being affected by equipment alone. The combination may pass muster in a Prius but under the bonnet of a car hoping to challenge the might of the German premium brands, its wheezing note and CVT gearbox, which makes it sound as if it has a permanently slipping clutch, leave a lot to be desired.

If official figures are given the benefit of the doubt, it still offers unbeaten economy and emissions, but in reality you’ll need to spend most of your time in town for the CT to lighten the load on your pocket more than a small diesel.

And wherever you go, you’ll never escape the fact that by any standards, let alone those of its terrifyingly capable rivals, the CT is just no fun to drive. It’s not just the poor quality and limited performance; the only thing more wooden than its handling is its ride quality. All the hardware is there, including double wishbone rear suspension, but even the best ingredients have to be skilfully combined to make a recipe work, and in this case Lexus appears to have been reading from the wrong cookbook.

The interior


 

Here the CT is on much firmer ground. The cabin is not exactly spacious but that should not be expected from a car in this class. There’s room for four adults at a slight squeeze and even a fifth with a bit of understanding on all sides.

But the unexpected bonus in here is the quality of the fittings and the class of the driving environment. It’s as if Lexus has decided to apply the same standards to the CT as to its larger luxury cars. Soft-touch plastics and rich leathers abound, switches are deftly damped and information is presented to the driver more clearly and attractively than in any other car in the category — or any other category.

What to look out for when buying a used Lexus CT 200h

The key issue that most CT owners report is disappointing fuel consumption. Unsurprisingly, how the car is driven makes a big difference to how much petrol it uses, but it’s also worth doing a tank-brimming exercise and working out the consumption for real; the car’s trip computer isn’t always that accurate, although it’ll give you a pretty good idea. At least the CT seems to be proving to be very well built, with no reliability or build quality issues to be aware of yet — and there haven’t been any recalls either.

The one to buy

Lexus CT 200h SE-L

Factfile

Engine:
134bhp @ 5200rpm
Power:
134bhp @ 5200rpm
Torque:
105 lb ft @ 2800rpm
Transmission:
Continuously variable
Acceleration:
0-60mph in 10sec
Top speed:
113mph
Fuel
68.9mpg (combined)
CO2:
94g/km
Road tax band:
Dimensions:
L 4320mm, W 1765mm, H 1440mm

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