Powered by
Subscribe to the only car newsletter you’ll ever need

Driving Notes: the Lexus CT200h Sports Luxury


In 1997, Mercedes-Benz realised that there was enormous potential in producing an inexpensive, hatchback-bodied entry model to their range.  The philosophy was that this new ‘baby Benz’, the first-generation A-Class, would introduce younger buyers to the Mercedes brand much earlier, and if they liked the car, they would stay loyal to the brand for life.

Of course, the problem was that the first-gen A-Class was underdone and, well, not aspirational.  In fact, it was the first BMW 1-Series in 2004 that made it look like the premium hatchback was a good concept—and while the first two models were a letdown, the third-generation A-Class is now the class benchmark.

14/Lexus/CT/200h/Sports Luxury/Press/Interior

Lexus is conservative with entering new segments, and the Japanese brand tends to tread in the footsteps of its German role models.  So, it was no surprise when their own premium hatchback creation, the CT200h, appeared in 2010.  The model is now in its fourth year; it’s had a mid-life update.  So, is it any good?  Here are our driving notes from our first three days.

We’re driving a 2014 Lexus CT200h Sports Luxury, which lists for $56,990.
  • The driving experience is, well, austere.  This is mostly down to the fact that the CT200h more or less makes use of Toyota’s Prius powerplant: a 1.8-litre Atkinson-cycle petrol-electric hybrid with 100kW and 207Nm. Electric boost off the line is as sweet as ever, but sadly it runs out of steam almost immediately. The CT isn’t going anywhere fast. It looks much faster than it is.
  • Refinement is ‘okay’ by Lexus standards. The CVT automatic gearbox tends to slur, as most transmissions of this type do, but at idle the cabin is well-insulated and largely silent, but pick up the pace and wind noise is greater than you’d expect from this manufacturer, the ride over rough roads is quite unsettled, and when you demand power, the monotone petrol engine suddenly becomes rowdy.
  • Fuel economy is good – we’re averaging 5.8L / 100km – although if sheer efficiency is what you’re after, we’d be more convinced by a diesel.
  • The CT’s cabin is a benchmark for this segment: in the A-Class you can see the cost savings through the hard surfaces. Everything you interact with in the CT – including where your knees rest – are trimmed in supple trim. We note that the indicator stalks lack the typical Lexus heaviness, though. The dash layout is a demonstration of great ergonomics. It’s easy to locate and use the audio and climate controls which are laid out on an angled, cockpit-like centre stack.
  • We are in two minds about the car’s navigation system, which is controlled through Lexus’s second-generation Remote Touch system which is like a rollerball computer mouse.  It feels a little odd underhand, and given Lexus are ditching it for a trackpad in the upcoming NX SUV, we’re not convinced it’s the best system, or better than the rotary dials of the Mercedes or the BMW.  The screen is mounted very high, though, which is great for reducing distraction on the go.
  • Don’t go for the grey: it blends in far too much. The CT is available in some more interesting colours – particularly in the F Sport model which looks the best – including a unique yellow and bright blue.
  • There’s no need to spend such big money on the top-of-the-range Sports Luxury, which pushes right up to $64,000 on road.  That is far too expensive for what you’re getting: sure, this is a quality Lexus product, but it rides on the Corolla platform and uses the Prius engine, so dynamics are never going to be exciting enough to justify dropping more than $60,000 on a hatch.