Lexus CT 200h review: Lexus CT 200h

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Typical Price: £23,485.00
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4.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

4.5 stars 9 user reviews

The Good Great handling; feels luxurious; innovative user interface.

The Bad Not very fast; slightly awkward styling; uses Prius hybrid tech but isn't as green.

The Bottom Line The Lexus CT 200h hybrid is greener than many of its rivals and offers good fuel economy. Despite its lacklustre straight-line performance, it's also a blast to drive.

8.8 Overall

Imagine, if necessary, that you're a young, well-to-do 20- or 30-something looking for a compact luxury car. Conventional logic dictates you should buy an Audi A3 or  BMW 1-series , but those wishing to depart from the norm may want to consider the Japanese-built Lexus CT 200h luxury hybrid.

Not only does this car have a badge that will make onlookers solemnly nod in respect, plus an options list that could make a BMW blush, it also offers something its rivals can only dream of -- hybrid propulsion that delivers low-emission, high-economy driving. But is this car any good? We hopped in the £25,200 mid-range CT 200h SE-L to find out. The range starts at £23,485.

Halfway house

The 200h makes a good first impression, for the most part. Its front end has a keen, purposeful appearance, like it's angry with the road ahead. The 'hybrid' badges on the left and right sides spoil any illusion that the 200h is a mental tarmac shredder, but the prominent 'L' emblem on the front and rear will remind onlookers that you're driving something slightly more special than the average Prius .

The back half of the 200h looks pretty decent too, but only if considered in isolation. Call us crazy, but the rear somehow clashes with the front. It's almost as if each end was designed by a separate Lexus team before being welded together.

The rear of the 200h looks like it belongs to a different car. 

Although the appeal of the car's exterior is debatable, we were very impressed by its cabin. It has a reassuringly expensive appearance and feel, and is littered with buttons, lights and enough gizmos to keep most tech heads entertained for hours.

Lex me entertain you

The 200h's interface is divided into two areas -- a display zone and a control zone. Taking pride of place in the display zone, which sits on the upper half of the dashboard, is a large, motorised, angle-adjustable, 8-inch TFT display.

The screen can't be controlled by touch, but that's not a huge issue, as it's positioned out of reach anyway. Interacting with the display is only possible by prodding buttons in the control zone, which sits on the lower half of the dashboard and on the centre console.

This main point of interest in the control zone is the Lexus Remote Touch interface, which works exactly like a joystick or mouse. Move the stick left, right, up or down, and a cursor on the display reacts accordingly. The cursor snaps reassuringly onto icons as it passes over them, while a brief vibration is sent through the joystick to affirm you've selected something that can be interacted with.

The system is extremely easy to use while you're stationary or while the vehicle is in motion -- even more so, perhaps, than an ordinary touchscreen, since there's no need to exert yourself by physically holding your arm in the air.

Power cut

Despite its relatively exotic styling, the 200h is powered by the same components as the common, or garden, third-generation Toyota Prius. It uses a 98bhp 1.8-litre engine that ticks over using the Atkinson cycle -- a combustion process optimised for economy rather than performance. This is paired with an 81bhp electric motor that helps provide a combined power output of 134bhp.

You use this control, as you would a joystick, to move the cursor on the 8-inch screen (see below).

That's not a terribly impressive power figure, and it shows. Twist the car's driving-mode knob into the sport setting and the 200h gently eases itself from a standstill to 62mph in 10.3 seconds -- just a hundredth of a second quicker than the Prius. It continues at a relatively pedestrian pace until it reaches the same 112mph maximum speed as its rival.

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