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2017 Lexus CT200h: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader March 2017

The 2017 Lexus CT200h is a fine example of how parent company Toyota has hybrid drivetrains down to a fine art. When it's smooth enough to go into a Lexus, it's smooth enough for anything.

Think of the CT as a posher Toyota Prius. They're both compact hatchbacks. As well as the higher price and higher-quality materials, the CT is also touted by Lexus as having more of a sporty feel than most hybrids. That's a bit of a stretch. Its front-wheel-drive platform isn't an obvious choice for a performance car, because it's derived from the previous generation Toyota Corolla. Also, it has mere 134 horsepower and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) — not exactly a recipe to satisfy an enthusiast's appetite.

In the plus column is 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, and most buyers report excellent experiences with dealers.

What's New for 2017?

Exterior paint choices now include Atomic Silver, Caviar, Autumn Shimmer and Blue Vortex Metallic.

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?

$32,225-$32,980

Fuel Economy

The CT200h 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 horsepower. A CVT sends that output to the front wheels.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates fuel economy at 43 mpg city, 40 mpg highway and 42 mpg combined.

That's good for a premium car, but the 2015 Prius (using the same generation of hybrid drivetrain) returned 51 mpg city/48 mpg highway/50 mpg combined, so the CT should be even more frugal than it already is. It's not like the curb weights are radically different; The 2015 Prius tips the scales at 3,072 pounds compared with the CT's 3,130 pounds.

Standard Features & Options

The 2017 Lexus CT200h comes in base and F Sport trim levels.

The base CT200h ($32,225) starts with 17-in alloy wheels, synthetic leather upholstery, sunroof, keyless entry/ignition, heated mirrors with puddle lamps, leather-wrapped steering wheel with tilt/telescope adjustment, 10-way power driver's seat with adjustable lumbar support, 4-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, electro-luminescent gauges with hybrid status monitor, trip computer, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth, Siri Eyes Free voice control for Apple devices, and a 6-speaker audio system with CD, satellite radio, auxiliary input and a USB socket.

F Sport ($33,955) adds 17-in wheels, F Sport exterior trim treatment (including mesh grille, blacked-out roof and rear spoiler), sport 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, universal garage door opener and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The Luxury package brings perforated leather upholstery, driver's seat memory functions and auto-dimming exterior mirrors (with automatic tilt-down when selecting reverse gear).

The Navigation package requires the Premium or Luxury package and brings a navigation system with a 7-in display, Remote Touch interface, 10-speaker premium audio system, 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, moonroof, and parking sensors at both ends.

By placing the battery pack beneath the load floor, the CT 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 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.

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 cockpit-like effect that's complemented by the 3-spoke steering wheel (even more so by the wheel in the F Sport package).

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 computer-like touchpad controller. This controller seems less intuitive and more labor-intensive than rival knob-based setups, but most drivers should soon become familiar with it.

The quality of materials is outstanding for this price, even when using eco-friendly sustainable elements here and there. The crisp electro-luminescent 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. The CT is roughly the size of a Ford Focus, offering similarly cramped rear quarters. With a tall driver, it'll be tough to squeeze an adult behind with any semblance of comfort.

Additionally, the car does not have the kind of muscle normally associated with a luxury marque. The acceleration is underwhelming at best (zero to 60 mph 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

2017 Toyota Prius -- Sips fuel to the tune of 54 mpg city/50 mpg highway/52 mpg combined.

2017 Audi A3 Sportback E-tron -- A premium compact plug-in hybrid. With 17 miles of EV range, it achieves the equivalent of 86 mpg in mixed driving. More expensive, though.

2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid -- A hybrid version of Toyota's popular compact crossover. Returns 31/34/33 mpg, but has more space than the CT.

2017 BMW 328d xDrive Wagon -- Not a hybrid, but drives superbly, offers plenty of space for people and things (maximum cargo space is 53 cu ft.), and achieves 34 combined mpg with its diesel-powered engine.

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

It isn't worth splashing out extra for the F Sport since the basic car comes so well equipped and there isn't much sportiness in the mix anyway. Also, smartphone apps have made navigation not so important. It's still a good idea to get the rearview camera, though.

Find a Lexus CT 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.
2017 Lexus CT200h: New Car Review - Autotrader