Modern Motoring: Reviewing the 2016 Lexus CT 200H

The Lexus CT 200H, their premium compact hatchback which utilizes hybrid technology, showed up five years ago and was the first vehicle in the lineup (starting in 2014) to have that unmistakable “spindle grill.” As I’m favourable towards the hatchback design, I’ve liked the CT 200H since it came out and even more so now. 

This luxury hybrid hatchback is priced smartly out of the box at $31,650, so it's well aligned with the first time car buyers and transitional folks who want something smaller yet luxurious. Yes, there's plenty of room for tick marks on the option sheet, but for having an italicized “L” on the bookends and wheels, it’s pretty affordable.

Appearance-wise, there are clean lines and that beautiful, classic hatchback look bathed in modern refinement, with wraparound rear glass that gives it an elegant touch. The overhangs are a bit long but doesn’t affect the beautiful profile of the car. There’s no mistaking it for anything but a hatchback, but there’s an athletic stance and sporty aura to it that aligns nicely with the luxury market. The 16” wheels look good and fill the wheel wells handsomely.

Beneath the hood is a 1.8L, four-cylinder Atkinson Cycle engine producing 134 horsepower and 142 lb-ft. of torque. Smartly, it’s the same parallel hybrid Synergy system found in the Prius. There’s a choice of three drive modes: EV, Eco and Sport. I found myself in the Eco mode most of the time with a sprinkling of Sport all in the name of research. Well, and fun. The electric engine consists of a nickel-metal hydride battery and Lexus says, “thanks to innovations like Regenerative Braking and an Exhaust Heat Recovery System, the Lexus CT hybrid never has to be plugged in. It recaptures and reuses waste energy to optimize efficiency.” Fuel efficiency, unsurprisingly for a hybrid, rates at 5.5 and 5.9 L/100km for highway and city on 45 L of fuel.

True, there’s not a ton of power beneath your right foot, but what Lexus supplies is plenty to do a mix of city and rural travelling. Getting up to highway speeds was never an issue for me. In true Lexus form, the steering and handling are crisp, driving feel has an air of excitement (no, I’m not kidding, even though it’s a hybrid), and the cornering, due to the low center of gravity, is enjoyable.

Inside, there’s plenty of luxury spread throughout, starting with the very comfortable
“Nu Luxe” heated and eight-way adjustable seats, to a clean and snazzy dashboard and centre console and an overall premium look and feel. The centre console is sloped and starts with a top mounted colour display screen, followed by air vents, a thin display showing climate controls, and ends off with audio controls and a mouse-like controller (think iDrive via BMW) that lets you navigate the top screen if you get the navigation option.

I’m not a huge fan of the gear shifter, as you’ve gotta pull left for N and then down to get to D.
Yes, they’ve got to keep an allowance for the B (battery) mode but I’d prefer the conventional single column gear shifting route.

A wonderful touch is the Lexus Remote Touch feature, which Lexus describes as: “Positioned perfectly, where your right hand rests most naturally on the centre console, RTI features a computer-mouse-like control, snap-to-technology, and one-touch confirmation that lets you feel when desired commands have been selected."

The big winner for me is that palm rest…it follows the natural curve of your hand and competes comfort wise with the right side of the steering wheel. Full marks from me for creating an elegant environment for the driver!

Audio-wise, here’s how Lexus describes their gorgeous sounding system: “A world's first, both the 6-speaker and available 10-speaker Sound Systems feature Automotive Speakers that employ sustainable bamboo charcoal-resin. Thinner, stiffer and lighter, they also possess a wider frequency range than conventional speaker diaphragms providing richer sound clarity and more refined acoustics — taking full advantage of the high-performance amplifiers.” Yup, that about says it perfectly. The sound is crisp and clear, which definitely adds to the luxury experience.

Here’s where things get interesting.
My tester was equipped with the “F Sport Series 2” option package, which gives you a ton of stuff, including two-tone leather seats, 17” F Sport wheels, backup camera, voice activated navigation, 10-speaker audio, rain sensing wipers and much, much more. This specific package will set you back $6,300. There’s also the “F Sport Series 1” with a fewer options, an Executive package, and a Touring package, all with various bells and whistles. The “out of the box” version is attractive enough (for me, anyway) and just because the CT 200H is their smallest offering, doesn’t mean it can’t be mighty sans options.

For those entering the luxury market, this is a great way to do it. And you can save a bit of cash at the pump while you save up to upgrade to your next Lexus. With lots of utility, good looks and a great interior, the 2016 Lexus CT 200H is a great choice in the compact hatchback market.

Enjoy the full gallery below: