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2015 Lexus CT 200h: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader April 2015

The 2015 Lexus CT 200h is an attempt to bridge the gap between stellar fuel economy and a sport-luxury driving experience. Typically, you have to choose one or the other. There are plenty of fuel-sippers humming around these days, of course, and there's never a shortage of premium cars with agile handling. But if you want all of the above in a single set of wheels, Lexus claims that the CT 200h just might be the only game in town.

Getting down to brass tacks, the CT's front-wheel-drive platform isn't an obvious choice for a performance car; it's derived from the previous-generation Toyota Corolla. Also, the CT is powered by the same gas-electric hybrid powerplant as the Toyota Prius, which means it has 134 horsepower and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), not exactly the stuff dreams are made of.

But as long as you don't care about track-ready reflexes or swift acceleration, the CT could very well hit the spot. It has stellar interior quality along with hatchback versatility, and although 43 miles per gallon in the city isn't Prius-perfect, it's nothing to sneeze at, either. Plus, this is the most affordable car in Lexus' lineup. Depending on your priorities, the 2015 Lexus CT 200h might end up being the perfect mix.

What's New for 2015?

The CT 200h is essentially unchanged, adding only a couple apps to the Enform App Suite and Siri Eyes Free voice-command functionality for Apple devices.

What We Like

Great fuel economy; handy hatchback; high-quality interior; quiet at speed; supportive front seats

What We Don't

Leisurely acceleration; cramped back seat; firm ride; not that sporty

How Much?

$33,125-$34,855

Fuel Economy

The front-wheel-drive CT 200h is motivated by a team consisting of a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine and an electric motor supported by a nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Total system power is 134 hp. If these details seem familiar, they are: The Prius uses the same system. As in the Prius, the transmission is a CVT. Lexus says that the CT 200h needs an eye-opening 9.8 seconds to hit 60 miles per hour from rest.

The Environmental Protection Agency's fuel economy estimates for the 2015 Lexus CT 200h stand at 43 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway, which is impressive for a luxury car. The Prius gets 51 mpg city/48 mpg hwy, however, so we're left wondering why the CT isn't more frugal than it already is.

Standard Features & Options

The 2015 Lexus CT 200h is offered in two trim levels: base and F SPORT.

The base CT 200h ($33,125) starts with such features as 17-inch alloy wheels, NuLuxe synthetic leather upholstery, a power driver's seat with adjustable lumbar support, a manual passenger seat, electroluminescent gauges with a hybrid status monitor, a trip computer, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth, Siri Eyes Free voice controls for Apple devices and a 6-speaker audio system with iPod/USB connectivity.

The F SPORT ($34,855) adds unique 17-in wheels, F SPORT exterior trim (including a mesh grille, a blacked-out roof and a rear spoiler), a sport-tuned suspension, a black headliner, aluminum pedals, silver dashboard trim and an F SPORT steering wheel. Note that the F SPORT with the Leather package is essentially an F SPORT with the Premium and Luxury packages (see below) equipped.

Options on the CT are mainly grouped into packages. The Premium package adds rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated front seats, a power passenger seat, a universal garage-door opener and a 10-speaker audio system. The Luxury package adds perforated leather upholstery, driver memory functions and auto-dimming exterior mirrors (with automatic reverse tilt-down).

The Navigation package requires the Premium package and brings a navigation system with a 7-in display, the mouselike Remote Touch interface, Lexus Enform mobile-app integration (including Facebook, Pandora and Yelp), advanced voice recognition and a rearview camera. The Display Audio package is a cheaper version of this bundle for those who can live without navigation.

A la carte options include LED headlights and a self-parking system.

Thanks in part to the battery pack located beneath the load floor, the CT 200h doesn't have much in the way of cargo capacity. Trunk space measures just 14.3 cu ft., which is tiny for a hatchback, while folding the rear seatbacks down opens up a maximum of 32.3 cu ft. Still, the option to fold those seatbacks makes the CT 200h handier than any sedan if you're on hauling duty.

Safety

The 2015 Lexus CT 200h comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and eight airbags (front, front-side, front-knee and full-length side-curtain). The optional adaptive cruise-control system includes a collision-mitigation system with automatic braking capability.

The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the CT its highest rating of Good in every crash-test category.

Behind the Wheel

Plop down in the CT 200h's driver's seat, and we think you'll agree Lexus has given this hybrid a decidedly sporty interior vibe. The seat itself is low-slung and pleasantly snug, while the central control panel rises rakishly toward the dashboard, creating a cockpitlike effect. The racy 3-spoke steering wheel (even racier with the F SPORT package) drums home the message that this is the rare hybrid with performance on its mind.

As you'd expect of a luxury hybrid, the CT 200h mostly has its technological bases covered. In addition to all the hybrid-specific gauges and readouts, the CT boasts an available hard-drive-based navigation system, which operates via Lexus' unusual computerlike touchpad controller and features a slick retractable display screen atop the dashboard. The controller strikes us as less intuitive and more labor-intensive than rival knob-based setups, but we suspect most drivers will acclimate well enough in time.

We've poked and prodded everything the CT's cabin has to offer, and we can report that the quality of the materials is outstanding for this price point. The crisp electroluminescent gauges exude a similarly premium attitude. The only memorable disappointments are the standard manually adjustable passenger seat and 6-speaker stereo, which both seem too humble for a luxury vehicle.

Another disappointment is the CT's tight back seat. Because the CT 200h is a Lexus, it's easy to forget that it's roughly the size of a Ford Focus, with similarly cramped rear quarters. If a 6-footer's behind the wheel, it'll be tough to squeeze an adult in back with any semblance of comfort.

Under the hood, the CT 200h doesn't have the oomph that many luxury shoppers expect. Unless you find the Prius to be a thrill ride, you'll likely be underwhelmed by the 134-hp CT's ponderous acceleration. The CVT isn't particularly responsive, either. Of course, if fuel economy is a priority, the CT is more or less peerless among premium vehicles.

On the road, the CT's sporty driving position instills confidence, but this Lexus prefers to maintain a moderate pace. When we attempted to hustle it along some winding roads, we were repeatedly slapped down by the intrusive, always-on stability-control system, which seems calibrated to prevent even the slightest squeal from the tires. The F SPORT package's sport-tuned suspension adds firmness, but you can't fully exploit its capabilities due to the conservative stability-control threshold. On the bright side, road and wind noise are well suppressed.

Other Cars to Consider

2015 Toyota Prius -- Equipped with the same powertrain as the CT, the cheaper, more spacious Prius is a natural reference point.

2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI -- The turbodiesel Golf hatchback delivers great fuel economy along with torque-rich driving performance, and its interior is quite upscale given its modest pricing.

2015 Honda CR-Z -- Maybe we're reaching here, but the CR-Z could be an interesting alternative if you don't care about having a back seat. Its hybrid-powered fuel economy isn't quite as awesome as the CT's, but the 2-seat CR-Z makes up for it with sportier handling and a pretty cool interior of its own.

Used Lexus ES 300h -- The Camry-based ES hybrid lacks the CT's hatchback versatility, but it compensates with superior acceleration and a plusher interior.

Autotrader's Advice

The CT 200h with Navigation comes with a lot of kit for the money, but we don't think the F SPORT package is worth the extra cash given its negligible impact on performance.

Find a Lexus CT 200h for sale

RELATED INVENTORY
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Used 2015 Lexus CT 200h Premium
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Certified 2015 Lexus CT 200h
Certified 2015 Lexus CT 200h
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Certified 2015 Lexus CT 200h
Certified 2015 Lexus CT 200h
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Certified 2015 Lexus CT 200h
Certified 2015 Lexus CT 200h
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Lexus CT 200h: New Car Review - Autotrader