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2012 Lexus CT 200h (photos)

Lexus proves that a small luxury car can be desirable. The CT 200h wins for its looks and fuel economy, but its Prius power train doesn't deliver the power.

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Wayne Cunningham
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1 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
The CT 200h represents Lexus' second effort at a compact luxury car, the first being the mundane-looking HS 250h. For 2012, Lexus offers an F Sport package, with which this car is equipped.
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2 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
The CT 200h shows standard Lexus styling language in compact form, with a much smaller grille than found on other models. LED running lights give the CT 200h a distinct look at night. The F Sport package adds an aggressive front air dam.
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3 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
The hybrid power train in the CT 200h is essentially the same as in the Toyota Prius, with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine complemented by an electric drive system. It makes a total of 134 horsepower. With the CT 200h's heavier weight and inferior aerodynamics, it gets worse fuel economy and slower acceleration than the Prius.
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The F Sport package adds a rear spoiler just above the rear window, which gives the car a much cooler look than standard versions. This spoiler is the single best reason to get the F Sport package.
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5 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
The F Sport package means a lower and more sport-tuned suspension, but Lexus does not sacrifice much in the way of ride comfort. The CT 200h feels like it would handle very well if it had the on-demand power necessary for fast driving.
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Getting into the cargo area requires some ducking and bending, typical in a compact hatchback.
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7 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
Power-adjustable front seats are bolstered just enough, maintaining the cabin's accessibility and comfort while keeping driver and passenger planted.
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8 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
The rear seat area is functional, but shows less attention than the front.
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Lexus uses a flip-up motorized LCD for the infotainment functions. The tilt is adjustable.
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10 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
The electric power-steering boost is very obvious in the CT 200h, the wheel turning easily and emitting a whirring sound at slow speeds.
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11 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
Lexus integrates phone and audio controls smoothly with the wheel spokes.
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12 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
The drive mode selector is a strange little chrome handle, and there's a dial for choosing between Normal, Eco, and Sport modes.
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13 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
Aluminum pedal covers come as part of the F Sport package.
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14 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
This joystick controller is one of the more innovative cabin tech interfaces in the automotive industry. It works just like a mouse, so should be intuitive for most people.
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15 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
The joystick controls this cursor on the LCD, letting you select from the available icons.
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The power animation on the LCD shows when the engine and the electric motor are driving the wheels.
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17 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
The backup camera is very basic, merely showing the view, without distance or trajectory lines.
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Lexus' navigation system has been little changed in the last few years. The hard-drive-stored maps show traffic data.
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19 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
The Bluetooth phone system downloads a phone's contact list, making it available on the LCD. The phone system also works through voice command.
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20 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
The stereo offers a good selection of modern music sources, such as satellite radio and Bluetooth streaming audio.
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21 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
The USB port for the stereo is set in the console, with a very inconvenient hatch facing away from the driver and no cable pass-through.
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22 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
The music library interface lets you select music by artist, album, and genre.
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23 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
The play screen also shows "repeat" and "random" buttons.
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Although it has 10 speakers, the audio system in the CT 200h does not rise to the heights of the Mark Levinson systems used in other Lexus models.
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