Gareth Butterfield takes another drive in Lexus’s CT200h to see if it’s now worth a second look
I CAN remember vividly the launch of the Lexus CT200h. It was a while ago, believe it or not, this is a car that’s had a comparatively long shelf-life so far, but Lexus has given it a few tweaks.
You’d have to park the new one and the old one together to properly appreciate the extent of its visual nip and tuck, but there’s now some modern daytime running lights above the headlights and more aggressive vent motifs set into the bumpers.
There’s now a few less models to choose from, but still five to go at and Lexus has sharpened up the infotainment system with a bigger screen on all but the base models.
The other thing I remember the CT200 for is its modern looks and the way it introduced hybrid power into a premium hatchback. That was unusual at the time and it’s only now just starting to catch on. That’s probably why Lexus only felt the need to give it a spruce-up. It’s also fair to say its looks haven’t aged that much, either.
But while it’s always been sharp-suited it didn’t always make sense as an overall package. At the time it was launched diesels ruled the roost when it came to hatchbacks and hybrids weren’t as popular as they are now.
However, in 2018, hybrids are everywhere and diesel is the new moonshine, so either the CT200h was ahead of its time, or its moment to shine has finally come. Hence, I guess, why I’m now reviewing a slightly-altered new version.
The other clever thing Lexus appears to have done is kept the CT200h’s price keen. Its true competitors, and they are still few and far between, cost more and often rely on plug-in technology, which not everyone is as keen on. By sticking to the tech it began with, the hybrid Ct200h with its simple, proven, Prius-style hybrid system is familiar, reliable and popular.
This mean’s you’ll enjoy claimed near-70mpg figures, 94g/km CO2 emissions, a low price, Lexus build quality and a huge dealer network backing up your long warranty.
So it’s the perfect car then, surely? Well, there are a few issues. For starters, it feels heavy. It might look sporty, but it isn’t. The CVT gearbox makes for a perceived lack of progress and no real clout and the electric motors do little to help as they’re for economy rather than performance.
If I was to be really cruel I’d say the cabin feels a trifle cramped, the steering is a little on the heavy side and the infotainment system – despite its upgrade – still feels a bit low-tech.
But, let’s remember one important point. This is still a Lexus. Therefore it exudes quality, it’s exceptionally comfortable and there’s a wonderful individuality to be savoured.
It might be a hatchback at the bottom of the Lexus pecking order, but they’ve still paid proper attention to getting the details spot on, and it feels a lot more expensive than its £23,500 base-price tag might have you believe.
So while the CT200h was ahead of its time when it first came out, Lexus has done a reasonable job of ensuring it doesn’t fall behind the times now. It’s still valid today and it still feels fresh enough to warrant your attention.
It turns out, in fact, it was a better car from day one than we all gave it credit for.