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2016 Lexus CT 200h: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader May 2016

Think of the 2016 Lexus CT 200h as a more posh Toyota Prius. They're both compact hatchbacks and use gasoline/electric hybrid drivetrains. As well as the higher price and higher-quality materials, the CT is touted by Lexus as having a sportier feel than most hybrids. That's a bit of stretch.

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, it has 134 horsepower and a continuously variable automatic transmission -- not exactly a recipe to whet an enthusiast's appetite.

In the plus column, the CT boasts stellar interior quality along with hatchback versatility. And although 43 miles per gallon in the city isn't Prius-perfect, it's still great. This is also the most affordable Lexus out there, and most buyers report excellent experiences with dealers.

What's New for 2016?

The grille receives a chromed surround, and a moonroof joins the options list. The subscription-only Lexus Enform Remote and Service Connect systems have also become available.

What We Like

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

What We Don't

Dull acceleration; cramped back seat; restricted cargo space

How Much?

$32,200-$33,930

Fuel Economy

The CT 200h is propelled by a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine and an electric motor running off a nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Total system power is 134 hp. A continually variable transmission sends that output to the front wheels.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates fuel economy at 43 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway. That's good for a premium car, but the 2015 Prius (using the same generation of hybrid drivetrain) returned 51 mpg city/48 mpg hwy, so the CT should be even more frugal than it already is. It's not like the curb weights are radically different: Last year's Prius tipped the scales at 3,072 pounds, compared with the 2016 CT's 3,130 pounds.

Standard Features & Options

The 2016 Lexus CT 200h comes in base and F SPORT trim levels.

The base trim ($32,200) starts with 17-inch alloy wheels, synthetic leather upholstery, a sunroof, keyless entry/ignition, heated mirrors with puddle lamps, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 10-way power driver's seat with adjustable lumbar support, a 4-way power adjustable front 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 a CD player, satellite radio and iPod/USB connectivity.

The F SPORT ($33,930) adds 17-in wheels, F SPORT exterior trim treatment (including a mesh grille, blacked-out roof and rear spoiler), a sport-tuned suspension, black headliner, aluminum pedals, silver dashboard trim and an F SPORT steering wheel.

For the most part, options are grouped into packages. The Premium package adds rain-sensing wipers, heated front seats, a power passenger seat, a universal garage-door opener, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a 10-speaker audio system. The Luxury package brings perforated leather upholstery, driver's-seat memory functions and auto-dimming exterior mirrors (with automatic tilt-down capability when selecting the reverse gear).

The Navigation package requires the Premium package and brings a navigation system with a 7-in display, the 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.

Individual options include low-beam LED headlights, a moonroof and parking sensors at both ends.

By placing the battery pack 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 seats down opens up a maximum of 34.8 cu ft. Still, the option to split and fold those seats helps make a reasonable case for practicality.

Safety

The 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 collision-mitigation technology with automatic braking.

The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the CT its highest rating of Good in every category. This car has not been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Behind the Wheel

Lexus has given this hybrid a sporty interior. The driver's seat is low-slung and pleasantly snug, while the central control panel rises toward the dashboard, creating a cockpitlike effect that's complemented by the 3-spoke steering wheel (and even more so by the F SPORT package's wheel).

Because it's a premium car, most technological bases are covered. As well as hybrid-specific gauges and readouts, the CT has an optional hard-drive-based navigation system, which features a slick retractable display screen and operates via the company's unusual computerlike touchpad controller. This controller seems less intuitive and more labor-intensive than rival knob-based setups, but most drivers should get used to it after a while.

The quality of materials is outstanding for this price, even when using eco-friendly sustainable elements here and there. The crisp electroluminescent gauges exude a similarly premium attitude. But the standard-issue stereo system seems too humble for a luxury vehicle.

Another disappointment is the tight back seat. Because this is a Lexus, it's easy to forget that it's roughly the size of a Ford Focus, offering similarly cramped rear quarters. With a tall driver, it'll be tough to fit an adult in the back seat with any semblance of comfort.

Nor does the CT 200h have the kind of muscle expected from a luxury marque. The acceleration is underwhelming at best (going from a standstill to 60 miles per hour takes a yawn-inducing 9.8 seconds), and the transmission isn't particularly responsive either. If fuel economy is a priority, though, this could all become much more bearable.

Even though the sporty driving position instills confidence, this Lexus prefers to maintain a moderate pace. Attempt to make speedy progress along some winding roads, and the intrusive, always-on stability control system (which seems calibrated to prevent even the slightest squeal from the tires) will immediately put a damper on things. The F SPORT's suspension is firmer, but its capabilities can never be fully exploited because of this conservative stability-control threshold. On the bright side, road and wind noise are well suppressed.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Toyota Prius -- A new generation debuts for this model year that sips fuel to the tune of 54 mpg city/50 mpg hwy.

2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron -- Also new for 2016, this is a premium plug-in hybrid. With 17 miles of electric-only range, it achieves the equivalent of 86 mpg in mixed driving -- but, of course, it's more expensive.

2016 Honda CR-Z -- 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 cool interior.

2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid -- This is another newcomer for 2016, and it's about time Toyota made a hybrid version of its popular compact crossover. It returns 31 mpg city/34 mpg hwy but has more space than the CT.

2016 BMW 328d Wagon -- It's not a hybrid, but it drives superbly, offers plenty of space for people and things (maximum cargo space is 53 cu ft.) and achieves 36 combined mpg with its diesel-powered engine (with rear-wheel drive).

Used Lexus ES 300h -- The Camry-based ES hybrid doesn't have the CT's hatchback versatility, but it compensates with superior acceleration and a plusher interior.

Autotrader's Advice

The basic CT 200h comes well stocked for the money. The F SPORT package isn't worth the extra cost. It would be nice to have a rearview camera, but with the advent of smartphone apps, the navigation option may not be so vital.

Find a Lexus CT 200h for sale

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.
2016 Lexus CT 200h: New Car Review - Autotrader