Lexus CT200h: C T or not C T, that is the question.

2014 Lexus CT 200h range - F Sport, Sports Luxury (right) and Luxury (left)

 

 

2014 Lexus CT 200h F Sport2014 Lexus CT 200h F Sport

 

 

 

Yes Yes Yes oh Yes: It’s a Lexus so will survive Armageddon

Oh dear me no: too expensive, too small, too slow

I like Lexus, I really do. They went through a rough patch a few years ago where the exterior design looked to have been done by Picasso, and not in a good way. Let’s not mince words, some models were heinous and the rest were frumpy. However, in a single generation every model has become a swan, with the exception of the CT200h. That model, I’m still undecided about.

The CT remains the best-selling Lexus because it is the cheapest Lexus, and it’s hybrid. However, for a few extra shekels you can have an IS, my favourite Lexus model (apart from the LFA), or save a few shekels and buy the Prius.

The CT had a mid life upgrade (details here) to bring it up to snuff but I notice few changes for the better. 2014 Lexus CT 200h reversing cameraThe exterior looks almost the same. I thought a redesign of the hatch might have improved the situation round back. The front looks Lexus enough, but the rear end is a trifle awkward and looks like it came from a different car. There are odd lines and curves all over the shop which would be OK if it looked right. I have a feeling because the Prius is noted for being Toyota’s uber-green Hollywood machine, Lexus wanted to make their baby equally identifiable, and in a way they have. Things are just not quite tickety-boo.

 

2014 Lexus CT 200h Sports Luxury2014 Lexus CT 200h Sports Luxury

The CT200h is really just a posher version of the Prius. Prices range from $45,500 to $63,571 on the road for the Lexus CT, and $37,900 to $50,335 for the Prius. The power and torque are the same, and both use Toyota Synergy Drive. The hybrid system was cunningly rebranded for the Lexus by slapping a big old Lexus sticker over the Toyota one. A diabolically clever plan that was also very thirfty. They both have the very un-sporty CVT, 5 doors including a hatch, similar interior space and are of a similar size, more or less. So the question you have to ask yourself is do you want to pay more for a badge with an L on it? Some do. Some wouldn’t be seen dead in a Toyota, and some wouldn’t be seen dead in Lexus, but some wouldn’t be seen dead in either.

The interior doesn’t appear to have changed much. It’s what we like to call “bijou”. There are still lots of 2014 Lexus CT 200h Sports Luxury interiorplastic that sparkles in the sun, and there are big friendly buttons for the near-sighted. It is still a big step down from the delicious IS which costs only a little more. To me, it lacks the expected Lexus quality. Here’s the punchline: the IS300h has 64kw more power with very little increase in fuel consumption. There is a considerable difference in quality and an even bigger difference in looks. It is 200mm longer in the wheelbase which translates into loads more interior space. The IS is drop dead gorgeous, and is only about 3 grand more expensive than the top CT. I know which I’d buy were I to find myself in the market for a hybrid from Toyota, or its posh sister, Lexus.

2014 Lexus CT 200h instruments in ECO mode2014 Lexus CT 200h headlamp

The audio is standard Toyota fare and works well. I strongly recommend not bothering with the voice control if you value your sanity. It is un-cooperative to say the least. At least the function is unimpaired using2014 Lexus CT 200h Sports Luxury interior the physical controls. One thing I have noticed with all Toyotas is the contrary nature of the USB connection. It works fine sometimes, but often requires unplugging then reinserting to stream your tunes. This is particularly the case when restarting the car or switching between sources, in other words, often. On some of the systems there is no “play” button in USB mode so you have to start it by pressing play on the phone. It is present in Bluetooth mode, but switching to USB sees the interface lose the play and stop buttons. It may well be that it doesn’t play nice with Iphone’s latest IOS incarnation, but that would be folly and would need sorting.

We took the CT for a spin on the open road and through the national park with the twists and turns. Frankly, 2014 Lexus CT 200h Luxury cargothe experience was noisy and lack-lustre. A tiny turbo would have made all the difference and I for one cannot understand why it hasn’t been done, especially for 63 grand. The cargo area is fairly shallow, which presumably is where the batteries are. The handling was adequate but the ride got choppy very quickly, and god forbid you should hit ruts mid corner. The whole shebang go metaphorically sideways and quickly gets untidy. You don’t feel as though you’ll actually let go, but half a ton of battery-pack in the bum doesn’t fill one with confidence. The CVT has 3 modes for eco, normal and sports driving but it’s really just 3 shades of the same beige.

I’ve last drove the CT200h when it was released a few years ago. It was a series of short drives to see how she went around town. After all, the punters like to know what they are buying. The facts and figures can be gotten easily from Lexus’ website, but it’s the nuts and bolts ownership that’s the real story. That of course goes with all cars, and all reviews. The trips to Coles and David Jones were a doddle, but I could see that longer journeys would not be quite so amicable. The bijou cabin would feel tight, perhaps even a smidge claustrophobic. The chaps in the cheap seats would need to be vertically challenged to survive. There rear isn’t capacious enough for beefy boys on a journey longer than an airport run, but then, where do the bags go? I could see everyone piling into a taxi instead.

2014 Lexus CT 200h range - F Sport, Sports Luxury (right) and Luxury (left)

Although Lexus is one of my favourite brands, the CT is not my favourite model. It’s meant to be sporty and frugal. And although it isn’t too bad on fuel, sporty is a stretch too far. There is the wretched 3 mode CVT transmission for a start. This should never be seen in anything with aspirations above shopping cart. The steering is ok-ish but the handling is a little on the heavy side, and the performance is leisurely to say the least. Overtaking needs advanced planning with more than 1-up. 4 beefy lads would make for a very interesting driving experience. I just can’t imagine anyone getting out of it after a drive through a misty mountain pass saying “I want to do it again”, unless of course they had to get home the same way.

Would I buy one? No. I’d spend less and buy the bigger Prius, or more and buy the even bigger and more luxurious IS300h.

Model

Prius

CT200h

IS300h

Price range

$37,917-$50,335

$44,721-$62,521

$65,306-$74,966

Power (combined)

100

100

164kw

Torque

207

207

221Nm

Econ L/100k-CO2

3.9 L – 89gms

4.1L – 95gms

4.9L – 113gms

Length

4480

4350

4665

width

1745

1765

1810

Height

1505

1455

1430

Wheelbase

2700

2600

2800

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