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2015 Lexus CT 200h REVIEW

Edmunds.com logo Edmunds.com 4/4/2017

Con: Very pokey acceleration, and the engine is quite noisy in the process; not much storage or luggage space; available mouselike electronics interface can be distracting to use.

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Interior: With its emphasis on being environmentally friendly, the interior of the 2015 Lexus CT 200h doesn't have quite the same opulent feel of the traditional luxury models Lexus has built its reputation on. In place of the usual soft leather and gleaming wood trim, this hybrid's passenger cabin incorporates recycled and sustainably sourced materials wherever possible. That said, the cabin still has a premium look that sets it apart from many more mainstream hybrids.

For the most part, gauges and controls are well-placed and intuitive to use. The singular exception to this would be the laptop track pad-like Remote Touch system that's used to make selections on the large central display (included in the Display Audio and Navigation option packages), which is frequently too sensitive to use on the fly. Ultimately, it's a clever idea, but ends up being more frustrating than it's worth.

Up front, the seats are comfortable and well-bolstered for a sporty feel. The backseat also has decent head- and legroom for a couple of adults, though getting passengers in and out can often be complicated by the narrow rear door openings. Storage for cell phones and other items you'd like to keep close at hand is limited to a pint-sized glovebox and door pockets. When it comes time to really load up for a weekend away, there's a passable 14.3 cubic feet of cargo room behind the backseats, which grows to 34.8 cubic feet with them folded down. Both those measurements are on the small side compared to similarly sized hatchbacks.

Body: The 2015 Lexus CT 200h combines a hybrid powertrain with a compact, four-door hatchback layout that seats five passengers. It's offered in a single trim level.

Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, heated mirrors with built-in turn signals and puddle lamps, a sunroof, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery, an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar), split-folding rear seats, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Siri Eyes Free technology that connects to select smartphones and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio and a USB/iPod interface.

Naturally, there are a number of option packages available, but availability can vary depending on the region in which you live. The CT 200h's Seat Comfort package includes heated front seats and a four-way power front passenger seat. The Premium package adds automatic wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a 10-speaker audio system with a six-CD changer. The Leather package includes auto-dimming outside mirrors, leather upholstery and driver memory settings. The Navigation package features a rearview camera, voice-controlled navigation system, the Remote Touch interface, HD radio and Lexus' Enform app-based infotainment and Safety Connect emergency telematics systems.

A Display Audio package includes the premium 10-speaker sound system, plus a 7-inch display screen, a rearview camera, an additional USB port and the Remote Touch controller. The optional F Sport package bundles distinctive 17-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, a larger rear spoiler and a host of unique styling tweaks inside and out.

There are also a handful of stand-alone options, including LED (low-beam) headlights, adaptive cruise control with a pre-collision system, front and rear parking sensors and a back-up camera with the display built into the auto-dimming rearview mirror.

Driving: What you think of the 2015 Lexus CT 200h from behind the steering wheel has as much to do with your preconceived notions as it does with the car itself. If its sporty stance has led you to expect pulse-pounding performance, you're going to be sadly disappointed. Go in expecting to find a fuel-efficient car with a nimble feel and enough power to capably get you between Points A and B, however, and you'll likely find this hybrid to be pretty livable.

The reasoning behind these observations has to do with the fact that the gasoline-electric powertrain is tuned to maximize mpg rather than sprightly acceleration. The 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine can also sound labored when pushed hard, which isn't all that fitting for a car with a Lexus badge.

Otherwise the CT 200h's hybrid hardware performs admirably, with the switching back and forth between the gasoline engine and the electric motor happening so smoothly that you might not even notice. Same goes for the fuel-saving auto stop-start feature that kills the gasoline engine in situations like waiting for a red light to change, and then fires it back up again instantaneously when it's time to pull away.

As far as handling goes, the CT 200h feels relatively agile compared to most hybrids, a quality that's enhanced by the sharp reflexes of the steering hardware. The ride quality is good with the standard underpinnings, but may be a little jarring with the optional F Sport package's firmer suspension in parts of the country where winter-ravaged pavement is an ever-present annoyance.

What’s New: While there are no major changes for the 2015 Lexus CT 200h, it does get Siri Eyes Free functionality and additional voice commands for the available navigation system.

Power for the 2015 Lexus CT 200h hybrid comes from a 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine mated to a pair of electric motor/generators and a nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Total output is 134 hp, which is routed to the front wheels by way of a specialized continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).

In Edmunds testing, the CT 200h accelerated from zero to 60 mph in a slow 10.4 seconds. Fuel economy is where the CT 200h shines, however; the EPA estimates the CT 200h delivers 42 mpg in combined driving (43 city/40 highway).

Safety: Standard safety features on the 2015 Lexus CT 200h include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front- and rear-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and dual front knee airbags. Lexus' Safety Connect telematics system is also standard and includes functions like automatic collision notification, stolen-vehicle location and emergency assistance. A rearview camera and front and rear parking sensors are available as options.

The optional adaptive cruise control system includes a pre-collision feature that uses radar sensors to detect an imminent impact and responds by tightening the front seatbelts and initializing brake assist. In Edmunds brake testing, the CT's performance was acceptable, with the car stopping from 60 mph in 120 feet.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the CT 200h its highest rating of "Good" in moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests. Its head restraint/seat design also earned a "Good" rating for whiplash protection in rear impacts.

Pro: Excellent fuel economy; handles well for a hybrid; versatility provided by the CT 200h's hatchback design.

Edmunds Say: The 2015 Lexus CT 200h is a distinctive choice for a premium-brand hybrid car, thanks to its high fuel economy and moderately sporty handling. But it's also one of the slowest cars in its class.

Introduction: Are you somebody who desires an upscale car that's stylish enough to impress your friends and co-workers, but also one that's sufficiently practical to keep up with your active lifestyle and environmentally friendly enough to allow you to go to sleep at night with a clear conscience? Well, you might have come to the right vehicle review because that's exactly what the 2015 Lexus CT 200h is meant to be.

This luxury compact hatchback has been around for a while now, but it still manages to be pretty distinctive. The CT 200h's combination of attractive styling and upscale amenities is appealing, while its utilitarian four-door hatchback body style can accommodate a wider variety of cargo than your average sedan. What really sets the CT 200h apart from other luxury or luxury hybrid vehicles, however, is its fuel-efficient gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain that delivers an impressive EPA fuel economy rating of 42 mpg combined.

The CT 200h backs up its athletic looks with crisp handling that makes it feel a good bit more nimble than many hybrid models. Unfortunately, the car's sporty styling is ultimately writing checks the hybrid powertrain can't cash. With just 134 horsepower available, the CT 200h is no quicker than a Toyota Prius and is sorely lacking in the thrilling performance department. Also keep in mind that, while folding down the rear seats creates a flexible cargo hold with a good deal of space, the interior isn't exactly cavernous by modern compact crossover standards.

With those shortcomings in mind, buyers may want to consider other vehicles that might suit that trifecta of desires better. Although it's considerably more expensive, the 2015 BMW 328d wagon is a much more satisfying vehicle to drive and still provides very good fuel economy thanks to its diesel-fueled engine. On the other end of the price spectrum, the 2015 Ford C-Max Hybrid and new 2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen TDI are cheaper, yet still provide much of the same experience as the Lexus (and are quicker to boot).

All things considered, the 2015 Lexus CT 200h is likable enough, but it's only by taking a test-drive that you'll truly know whether you can live with its modest performance.

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