"A frugal petrol-electric car that delivers on its promise of low running costs but falls some way short of the comfort normally offered by Lexus models."
The CT200h offers plenty of positives, including ultra-low running costs and a well appointed cabin, but it's also let down in a number of key areas. It seems as though engineers have sacrificed comfort in the pursuit of agile, sporty handling, but it may have been better suited to a more comfortable ride in the first place. When compared with efficient diesel rivals such as the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3 you realise that the CT200h doesn't offer good enough fuel returns to make it stand out in this competitive segment.
With the powertrain from the Toyota Prius as its base, Lexus claims the CT200h is a sporty small car which boasts brilliant economy and low running costs. Despite the combined power output of 134bhp, it feels quite slow – 0-62mph takes 10.3 seconds – but the CT corners well, thanks to a stiff chassis. Keen drivers may feel a bit let down by the steering, which doesn't offer much feedback. A 'Sport' setting weights up the steering, but it doesn't improve the amount of information passed through it to the driver.
Lexus models are normally known for their comfortable ride and quiet, luxurious cabins. The CT200h excels for the latter, but the ride is uncharacteristically firm. It's a little too stiff and can jolt passengers on rough roads. Cruising at low speeds on electric power is a practically silent affair, but push the engine too hard and the way the CVT gearbox works can cause the engine revs to rise noisily.
If you want to know how reliable the hybrid set-up will be, you only have to look at the stellar reliability record of the Toyota Prius. Add that to the fantastic reliability record held by Lexus, and owners should find very little that goes wrong. Safety is also good, with eight airbags on offer but there's not yet an official NCAP crash safety rating. As with all Lexus models, interior quality is fantastic.
The CT200h's clever powertrain does hinder practicality slightly. The batteries are located underneath the rear seats and do impinge slightly in the boot. That means that rear passengers are a little short on headroom and boot space stands at 375-litres. Fold the rear seats flat and this increases to 985 litres, but is still short of rivals such as the Audi A3 Sportback.
Value for money
For a premium hatchback, the CT200h is actually priced pretty competitively. All models get alloy wheels, air-con and electric windows. Moving up the range you'll find leather seats included and the most expensive cars get sat-nav and an upgraded stereo as standard.
Running costs will be among the lowest in this class thanks to emissions of just 96g/km and combined fuel economy of 68.9mpg. Those numbers mean that the CT200h is road tax exempt, and once registered it also gets into London's Congestion Charging zone for free.