Expert review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.
The lowest-priced car in Lexus’ lineup, the CT 200h four-door hatchback is also the most fuel-efficient with a 43 mpg rating in city driving. The car uses a hybrid powertrain system similar to that of the Toyota Prius, but is filled with luxury and tech amenities in a compact package.
You'll Like The 2012 Lexus CT If...
The 5-door 2012 CT 200h may appeal to you if you want a well-equipped small hatchback car with sporty handling and the best fuel economy wearing a Lexus badge.
You May Not Like The 2012 Lexus CT If...
The CT 200h may not speak to you if you expect a luxury brand entry, even one that saves the planet, to be quiet, smooth-riding, powerful and roomy.
All-new for the 2011 model year, the 2012 CT 200h is little changed. Nebula Gray Pearl paint replaces Smoky Granite Mica this year. Also, new is a Vehicle Proximity Notification System that beeps when the little Lexus hybrid is in electric mode to alert cyclists and pedestrians.
Though snug, Lexus didn’t scrimp on materials in the CT 200h cabin. The form-fitting front bucket seats are generously bolstered for lateral support. Attractive and brightly lit gauges are complemented by a prominent 8-inch LCD multi-display screen and sensuously curved, billet-like console shifter. Beyond the sporty, the CT 200h gains green cred with standard simulated leather that’s 60% lighter than real hides, speaker frames made from bamboo, and floormats and other interior trim constructed from 30% plant-based materials. Missing, however, are paddle shifters for manual control of the continuously-variable automatic transmission.
Far from being an old man’s gray Lexus sedan, the 2012 CT 200h looks like a hot hatch with class. It may be a hybrid with Prius internals, but the image it projects, from its jutting, low-slung nose and arrowhead LED running lamps to its muscular wheel arches, steeply raked roofline and deep rear spoiler, is one of sporty sophistication. Slightly smallish in the wheel openings are the 17-inch tires, but larger ones might hurt the car’s excellent fuel economy. The CT 200h doesn’t look out of place next to an Audi A3, BMW 1 Series or Mazda Mazda3 5-door.
There is no getting around it, compared to the similarly sized and priced Audi A3, the Lexus CT 200h feels down on power. It just LOOKS faster than it drives. Freeway onramps just seem longer. The hybrid hatchback’s blending of internal combustion and electric propulsion is as seamless as it is in a Prius. In fact, the pictogram that shows how the gas and electric systems are collaborating is an immense source of driver entertainment. Which is not to say the CT 200h isn’t fun to drive on a back stretch of the twisties, it’s just more fun doing so in Sport mode.
As the Lexus brand’s most affordable 2012 model, the base CT 200h retails for just over $29,000, while the CT 200h Premium sells for just under $32,000. Well-equipped models with options like navigation, leather, premium audio and dynamic cruise control can approach the $40,000 level. The Lexus CT 200h hatchback is comparably priced to the Audi A3. Based on the reliability history of Lexus models and the Prius architecture, the CT 200h should perform well above average when it comes to resale value. Kelley Blue Book estimates that the 2012 CT 200h will retain 51% of its value after three years. One value alternative is the Mazda Mazda3 5-door, which offers a lot of the same sporty style and sharp handling, plus much better acceleration for $10,000 less, but the Mazda doesn’t come close to the CT 200h’s excellent fuel economy.
Among other Lexus luxury touches, the base model comes with keyless entry, dual-zone A/C, a 10-way power driver’s seat, a 6-speaker audio system, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, Bluetooth interface and SiriusXM satellite radio. Opting for the Premium model adds heated front seats and a moonroof. There is no base cruise control system, just the expensive dynamic system sold as an option.
The comprehensive CT 200h Navigation Package adds a backup camera, voice-command HDD tilt-screen nav system with remote controller, Lexus Enform emergency notification system, NavTraffic and other features. The better kitted-out CT 200hs will also have the Leather Package, which besides real leather also includes rain-sense wipers, electrochromic mirrors and memory driver’s seat. The optional dynamic cruise control is combined with a Pre-Collision System that warns of an impending crash. Also available is an F-Sport Package that adds sportier-still suspension, high-gloss wheels, a mesh grille and larger rear spoiler, and further interior leather trim and metallic accents. A power passenger seat, however, is not available.
SELECTABLE DRIVING MODESLexus CT 200h drivers can choose between the Normal mode, which provides all-electric propulsion up to one mile at up to 28 mph, an Eco mode that slows throttle response to save gas, and a Sport that maxes engine revs, quickens steering and increases battery power.NAVIGATION WITH REMOTE TOUCH CONTROLLERThis mouse-like device with haptic feedback just forward of the shifter gives the driver full control over the infotainment system without ever lifting a hand from the console.
Under the Hood
By channeling the Prius’s renowned 98-hp 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder engine and 80-hp electric drive motor, the Lexus CT 200h is way ahead of the competition in the fuel economy department – 43 mpg in the EPA city cycle is nothing to sneeze at. But the 10-second 0-60 mph acceleration performance that feels so socially responsible in a Prius is a bit of a letdown in a sporty luxury-brand car that looks like it should run with Audis and BMWs.1.8-liter inline-4/AC 650-volt permanent-magnet motor98 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm (gas engine)/80 horsepower (electric motor)/134 horsepower (combined)105 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 43/40 mpg
Though you wouldn’t know it by looking at its tidy sport-hatchback design, the 2012 Lexus CT 200h shares key underpinnings with the Toyota Prius, including its 1.8-liter engine and hybrid electric drive architecture. Handling is on the sporty side and steering is responsive. The CT 200h is the least-expensive Lexus, yet offers a nicely trimmed, feature-filled cabin. But rear seat room and cargo space are cramped and rearward visibility is poor. Road noise is intrusive for a Lexus, and the ride is choppy at times. EPA fuel economy estimates are excellent for a luxury car, but fall 8 mpg below the Prius.