Car reviews - Lexus - CT - 200h F-Sport
Premium interior touches, sharp handling, good fuel economy, comfortable front seats, large touchscreen
Room for improvement
Harsh ride, underwhelming engine performance, overly busy interior, ageing powertrain and chassis, average NVH levels
Some premium touches struggle to save the otherwise mediocre Lexus CT200h F-Sport
24 Jan 2020
Have you ever liked the idea of owning a small, efficient hybrid car, but have been put off by a lack of comfort and luxury features? The Lexus CT200h might be car for you.
First introduced in 2011 with updates in 2014 and 2017, the CT200h is now getting quite long in the tooth, however Lexus has tried to keep it fresh with additions to spec and safety features.
We took the most sports-focused version of the CT range, the F-Sport, out to see whether it still stands up to newer alternative-powertrain offerings in the Australian market.
With a direct ancestry that stretches all the way back to 2011, the CT200h is at a disadvantage against other, fresher luxury offerings with more sophisticated hybrid technology.
The CT200h is underpinned by Toyota’s MC platform, shared by the likes of the NX, Toyota Prius V and previous-generation Prius, which has now been replaced the Toyota New Generation Architecture (TNGA) platform on a number of hybrids such as the Corolla and Camry.
Hopping into the CT for the first time, it becomes clear that Lexus has done a fine job of masking the CT’s old underpinnings by adding a number of premium touches, but there is no escaping the age underneath.
For a car priced at $50,400, the CT200h F-Sport has a number of interior features that give the impression of a more expensive model, and help to lift the cabin overall.
A large infotainment screen (10.3 inches, up from 7.0) with Toyota’s latest infotainment system, smatterings of leather on the upholstery, gear shifter and chunky sports steering wheel, sunroof (a $2500 option), heated seats and soft plastics combine to give the CT200h a more upmarket feel.
This is let down somewhat by an overly cluttered dashboard and centre console, a problem that has plagued recent Toyota and Lexus models.
The air-conditioning cluster is a confusing mess of buttons and read-outs, while underneath, the assortment of controls could be packaged in a much more ergonomic way, and preferably without the use of cheap dark plastic.
Also, Lexus would be doing everyone a favour if they did away with their confusing mousepad-style infotainment controller, which creates more headaches than it solves. If the brand is insisting on using a controller for its infotainment, maybe take a peek inside a BMW 5 Series or Audi A4.
There were a couple of other gripes with the CT’s interior such as the mediocre audio system and super-deep cupholders that won’t fit anything smaller than a water bottle (in coffee-obsessed Melbourne, this is a problem!).
The old platform also presented some issues, such as poor head and legroom for rear occupants (compounded by the absence of cupholders or A/C vents), and a shallow boot with 375L of luggage volume.
Powering the CT200h is a hybrid system used in other Toyota models, namely a 73kW/142Nm 1.8-litre Atkinson cycle petrol engine mated to a 60kW/207Nm electric motor and 650-volt nickel-metal hydride battery for a combined system output of 100kW.
The hybrid powertrain drives the front wheels via a continuously-variable transmission, which allows for an official combined fuel consumption figure of 4.1 litres per 100km and CO2 emissions of 95 grams per km.
With a zero-to-100km/h time of 10.3 seconds, it is safe to say that the CT200h’s performance is sluggish, particularly with a lack of torque despite the help of a torque-heavy electric motor.
While other Toyota hybrids such as the new-generation Camry feel sprightly and nimble, the same cannot be said of the CT200h, with its mediocre outputs and 1465kg kerb weight not helping.
Futhermore, the CT200h doesn’t feel as sophisticated as the Camry, with noise from the engine and regenerative braking system being more intrusive.
Nevertheless, Toyota and Lexus set up their hybrids in a smart way, doing a good job of distributing power between the wheels, battery and engine.
During our week with the CT200h we recorded a fuel economy figure of 5.2 litres per 100km – a frugal figure however you look at it – however it should be noted that the 1.8-litre engine sips 95RON fuel.
Along with its blacked-out styling elements, one of the signature facets of the F Sport is its sporty suspension tune and 17-inch alloy wheels, which would make sense on the car if it inherently had a performance bent, but with its ageing chassis and mediocre engine performance, it seems like a poor fit.
Without any real performance credentials, the stiff set-up of the F Sport only serves to create a harsh day-to-day ride quality that also increases road noise inside the cabin – a big no-no for a brand that prides itself on luxury.
Realistically, Lexus should aim to provide CT200h buyers with a comfortable and luxurious ride, as befitting of a luxury brand.
On the flipside, the stiff suspension creates a sharp and direct steering feel, which allows for nimble handling characteristics from a relatively heavy front-drive hatch riding on an old chassis.
However, the priority should be to make the CT comfortable, which we think would be of greater day-to-day benefit for owners than a sharp and nimble steering feel.
Warranty and servicing
All Lexus vehicles come with a four-year/100,000km warranty, matching that of its main Japanese rival, Infiniti.
Service intervals for Lexus models are marked at every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first.
After a week with the CT200h F Sport, we came away slightly confused with the type of car it is trying to be. On one hand, it has a sporty bent, with its stiff suspension, sharp steering and blacked-out exterior styling.
On the other hand, the CT is not really suited to the sporty life – its fuel-saving powertrain is anaemic and the chassis is not well suited to a sportscar.
It ended up feeling like the CT200h didn’t really nail either element – however given its age, we are hopeful an all-new model built on the TNGA platform isn’t too far around the corner.
Nissan Leaf from $49,990 plus on-roads
For those who want to take their green credentials a step further, the all-electric Nissan Leaf hatch could be of interest. Its 110kW/320Nm powertrain offers solid pure-EV performance however its sub-300km range could scare some buyers off.
Mini Countryman S E All4 PHEV from $57,200 plus on-roads
Mini’s funky Countryman small SUV range is topped by the plug-in hybrid S E version, teaming a 100kW/220Nm three-pot petrol engine to a 65kW/165Nm electric motor for combined 165kW/385Nm output and 2.1L/100km fuel economy. 4Okm of pure-electric driving range is also available.
Model release date: 1 October 2017
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