Review: 2015 Lexus CT 200h

Is compact fun and sporty or small and limiting? We spent a week driving the 2015 Lexus CT 200h around town testing gas mileage, cargo area, and horsepower. What we learned surprised us.

Under the Hood The Lexus CT200h features a 1.8-liter inline 4-cylinder engine paired with a high-output, electric-drive motor that produce a combined 134 horsepower. The power runs through an electronically-controlled continuously variable transmission to the front wheels.

The powertrain can be configured via the Lexus Drive Mode Select to set the CT200h in Normal, ECO, or Sport mode. The vehicle can also be set to run exclusively in EV mode. 2014_Lexus_CT_200h_019_1

Exterior

When the CT200h was introduced in early 2010, it was primarily intended for the European market. It fortunately made it to the North American market, and, even better for us, it kept a lot of the European style that makes it such a head turner.

European manufacturers have been churning out sexy, sporty compact hatches for years and the CT200h can fall in line with the best of them as far as looks go.

The design is low and appears to hug the road. The front and rear fascia wrap around fog lamps and reflectors and add to the low-slung sporty aesthetic.

The back hatch features a small back glass that necessitates use of the standard rearview camera when backing. The wiper for the back glass is an even smaller scale and is pretty much like one of those dogs that lives in a famous lady’s purse. They are both tiny and neither serves much purpose; however, both are adorable enough to be forgiven.

2014_Lexus_CT_200h_042_1Interior

The inside of the CT200h is unmistakably Lexus. It is efficient, clean, and just makes sense. We are pretty sure there is not an inch of wasted space on the stack, console, or wheel. This is a good thing as there was not much space to start with. The CT is built on the Corolla/Matrix chassis (Auris if you speak European) and while it is still a premium vehicle, it is a compact.

While there is no denying while you’re inside the CT200h that it is a compact vehicle, it never really feels small. Controls are within reach and intuitively laid out. They are closer together, and configured differently than the marque’s other, larger vehicles, but the design is such they never feel cramped.

The center console is a work of art. The front seat cupholders, while necessarily farther back in the layout than is most comfortable, will securely contain all but the biggest of gulps. The remote touch controller is in a natural position for the driver’s hand, and the electronic gearbox control leaves just enough room for a couple of small storage areas.

Seating is comfortable for both rows, but your bigger friends won’t be happy in the back for a long ride. While it is easy in a car this size to bump against doors and the center console among other fixtures, the premium materials almost make it a pleasurable experience.

2014_Lexus_CT_200h_039_1Infotainment

The CT200h’s infotainment screen is a useful, easily readable 8” screen mounted high in the dash so it is eye level for the driver. While it is high enough to help the driver keep their eyes on the road, it is integrated into the dash mirroring the interior’s clean design without looking like an add-on. The Lexus remote touch controller has become one of our favorite features to scroll through infotainment screen options, some of which include smartphone compatible apps as part of the Enform App Suite.

All of the controls are sensible and easy to figure out. Separate HVAC controls are mounted below the infotainment screen integrated in a sleek stripe along the dash. Audio controls are a part of the sophisticated looking center stack/console unit and are some of the simplest we have seen in a tier of vehicles that sometimes seems as if premium manufacturers equate luxury with a lot of buttons.

The Drive

The CT200h’s ride is Lexus smooth and supremely comfortable. The engine and motor do not combine to make a great deal of horsepower, but we never felt the car was lacking. There was never the feeling it was struggling or that the engine was thrashing itself to keep up.

While you won’t win any drag races in the CT200h, the ride still manages to feel sporty. Lexus engineered the suspension to make the compact wagon feel quick and responsive. The car is surefooted and constantly feels one with the road. Steering and braking are both sharp and responsive without feeling abrupt or too sensitive.

The cruise control was brilliant. We stayed within one to two MPH of the speed we set regardless of the road. One of our favorite stretches to test a vehicle is a stretch of interstate that runs across rolling hills of almost identical size and steepness. A subpar cruise control will generally demonstrate its shortcomings on this stretch by overcompensating for the ups and downs. The CT200h stayed true to speed and was truly impressive.

Important Numbers for Families

  • 11.9 – The CT 200h’s gas tank is only 11.9 gallons which makes it under $30 to fill completely at current prices meaning you can go 400+ miles for under $30. We tested it. It’s true. Swoon.
  • 102.4 – The wheelbase of the CT 200h is comparable to other compact competitors. It’s one inch shorter than the 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI and one inch longer than the 2015 Kia Soul.

Family 5 Test

  1. Car Seats – We all know the CT 200h isn’t built for large families but you can comfortably fit two kids in car seats or boosters in the second row. Your growing tweens will also be comfortable once they get out of the safety seats. Do grandma a favor, however, and don’t ask her to sit between the kids.
  2. Coffee Cups – The cupholders are positioned a little further back than we like but the reach wasn’t uncomfortable or weird. They are functional for bottles, cans, and cups with no issues.
  3. Luggage –  If a pack n’ play is on your list of must haves for your family’s road trip, you’ll want to set off in something else. If you’re a family of four who doesn’t need a hamper full of toys and space for sleeping bags, you’ll have no problem fitting what you need for a trip inside the CT 200h.
  4. Golf Clubs – You’re not going to win any contests if you and your buddies are trying to see which of you can fit the most golf clubs in your vehicle. There’s room for two, maybe three. You can fit more if the rear seats are down but unless your robbing the PGA Superstore you’ll never need to worry about that.
  5. Groceries – Despite its compact cargo area, the hot hatch did well with grocery bag capacity holding a large shopping trip’s worth of large paper bags without blocking very much of the view in out the rear windshield. Because of battery placement, this is something other EVs and hybrids like the Ford C-Max Energi had issues with.

Bottom Line

The Lexus CT200h is the kid in you grew up with who was super smart and good-looking. Boy racer good looks turn heads everywhere the CT200h is driven. Fuel efficiency in the 42MPG range make sure this five-door can be driven lots of places to be seen. The car is good enough we just might find ourselves shopping for one in the near future.

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To see more pictures and video from this vehicle test and future tests, follow Drive My Family on InstagramTwitterFacebook, and Vine (@DriveMyFamily).

all photos courtesy of Lexus

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