The Lexus CT 200h is a five-door hatchback powered by a hybrid gas-electric powertrain taken from the Toyota Prius. The CT 200h is 6 inches shorter than the Prius, or about the same overall length as the Audi A3 wagon.
You do not plug this car in, you fill the tank with gas. It's propelled at times by both the electric motor and its four-cylinder engine, but at very low speeds it can run in electric-only mode for very short periods of time. The CT 200h achieves an EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of 43/40 mpg City/Highway.
The Lexus CT 200h F Sport has slightly firmer shocks, but its sports appeal is mainly aesthetic: black leather, racy 17-inch alloy wheels, mesh grilles, big rear spoiler, aluminum pedals, perforated leather steering wheel, titanium-gray metal instrument panel trim, and F Sport badging.
Born of a hatchback, the CT 200h looks like no other Lexus, from the sides and rear. The shape of the CT 200h looks more European than Japanese, and its profile from all angles is very similar to that of the Audi. The design was determined largely by wind tunnel testing, and the coefficient of drag is a low 0.29 Cd. It makes boxy look stylish, with smooth and flowing lines, from the contours on the hood up to the long roofline and straight back to the spoiler with a little lip over the muscular liftgate. The details of the design, trim and wheels are flawless.
Inside, the cabin is cozy with a comfortable driver's seat. Everything is easy to reach. The steering wheel is slightly flat-bottomed, making climbing in and out a little easier, but our knees still rubbed, even with the adjustable steering wheel raised. Rear-seat legroom is tight. Cargo space is about the same as a compact sedan, small for a hatch. The view rearward is restricted, and we recommend the optional rearview camera that comes with the navigation system.
With the Prius powertrain, the CT 200h makes 98 horsepower from the 1.8-liter Atkinson Cycle gas engine and 80 hp 60 (kW) from the motor/generator, for a total of 134 hp, not much. Its 0-60 mph acceleration time of 9.8 seconds is the same lethargic pace as that of the Prius. It corners so well that a driver might be lured into treating the car in a sporty manner, but the small engine and electronically controlled continuously variable transmission cannot respond to that urge. The CT has four driving modes: EV, Eco, Normal and Sport. Don't count on going anywhere in EV, the all-electric mode: We couldn't cross the street from the bank to the grocery store in EV mode. The best fuel economy we were able to extract ourselves was 38 mpg, though we weren't striving to drive green.
We were surprised and delighted to discover the CT 200h handles so well, and the F Sport goes even better. In any model, the cornering is spirited and secure. This Lexus has impressive balance, with a low center of gravity and centralized moment of inertia. The chassis offers high torsional rigidity, using a double-wishbone rear suspension, and sophisticated performance dampers.
Ride quality is very good. We drove hard over a section of road with a lot of lumpy tar patches, and our Lexus took them in stride. The CT 200h is very maneuverable, able to make a U-turn in just 34.2 feet. The brakes are firm, too. It's very quiet inside the cabin at freeway speeds.
Changes for 2013 are minimal, although the lineup of option packages has been considerably rearranged.
The Lexus CT 200h ($31,850) comes standard with automatic dual-zone climate control with dust and pollen filter, NuLuxe-trimmed seats, leather-trimmed steering wheel, 10-way power driver seat, four-way manual front passenger seat, fold-flat rear seats, SmartAccess key system with pushbutton start, steering wheel audio controls, manual tilt and telescope steering wheel, Bluetooth wireless connectivity for streaming audio and hands-free phone, power locks with anti-lockout feature, power windows, power mirrors, cruise control, keyless entry, six-speaker AM/FM/CD system with MP3 and USB/iPod inputs, WMA capability, integrated XM Satellite Radio receiver with complementary 90-day subscription, 12-volt power outlet, automatic headlights, first aid kit, heated mirrors, illuminated glove box, power moonroof, and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Major option packages are stacked: You must take the Seat Comfort Package ($600), which combines heated front seats with a four-way power passenger seat, to be able to order the Premium Package ($1,125), includes 10-speaker audio with a six-disc changer and automatic sound leveling (ASL), auto-dimming inside mirror with compass, and Homelink. You can also choose a combination of the Premium Package with a rear-view camera ($1,475).
With those boxes ticked, you can now order the Leather Package ($1,930) which, in addition to perforated leather seats, adds auto-dimming outside mirrors with reverse tilt-down, memory for the driver's seat and mirrors, and rain-sensing wipers. Buying the Premium Package also entitles you to add HDD Navigation ($2,735), which includes a rearview camera, enhanced Bluetooth, Lexus Enform with destination assistance, Lexus Insider, remote touch navigation controller, voice-command recognition, XM NavTraffic, NavWeather, Sports, Stocks, and Fuel Prices; and deletes the compass. Order both leather and navigation, and you can add the Pre-Collision System with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control ($1,500).
The 2013 CT200h offers only a few stand-alone options, including Auto-leveling LED headlights with washers ($1,215), and new-for-2013 Intuitive Park Assist ($500). Dealers, however, can install a long list of accessories.
The F Sport package ($1,000) features special suspension tuning, black NuLuxe upholstery, high-gloss 17-inch alloy wheels, mesh grilles, big rear spoiler, aluminum pedals, perforated leather steering wheel, titanium-gray metal instrument panel trim, and special badging. F Sport is also available with leather ($2,930). Dealers can install more serious handling equipment such as lowered springs ($299) and heavy-duty anti-roll bars ($495).
Safety features include frontal airbags, side and knee airbags in front, full-length curtain airbags, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes with brake assist, traction control, whiplash injury lessening seats, Safety Connect with automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle location, emergency assist button and enhanced roadside assistance. Optional safety features include the rearview camera and the Pre-Collision System with Dynamic Cruise Control.