Thankfully the weather Gods were on my side as I went to collect our CT200h F Sport for this review – a stark contrast from the torrential downpours I battled whilstreviewing IS300h F Sportrecently. The autumnal sun proved to be just what we needed to make the most of our test car’s glistening “F Sport White” metallic paint (£610). I’m personally a big fan of metallic/pearl white finishes on cars but if it were my choice it would be a pretty close call with the also rather nice “Ultra Blue” finish.
Lexus F Sport models are traditionally the most aesthetically pleasing models in their respective ranges and the CT200h F Sport is no exception. The car gets a unique and more aggressive version of the company’s signature honeycomb spindle grill – something that graces even the flagship RC F. There’s also other enhancements to the front bumper, flared side skirts, unique wheels and a rear diffuser. In the right colour combination there’s no questioning that the CT200h F Sport is a good looking car. As with other models in the Lexus range, the car certainly stands out against the competition and is sure to attract some head turning in the company car park, thanks to its unique styling and hybrid drive train.
In typical Lexus fashion, the CT200h interior is a nice place to be. The seats are comfortable and supportive (with plenty of electric adjustment in the F Sport model), plus there’s a nice selection of gadgetry and F Sport touches. There’s a rather nice F Sport badged steering wheel, which feels nice to use – if not quite as chunky to grip as some others. You also get aluminium pedals which adds a little extra quality and helps to set this model apart from others. I can’t help but thinking that Lexus should have extended the silver/carbon inlay that sits above the glove box to also feature on the surrounds that house the window switches. Currently they use some slightly cheaper looking black plastic which spoils things a little if I’m being fussy.
Overall cabin quality is good though with quality materials used in most places. The Lexus connoisseurs out there will be quick to point out that some cabin materials are not quite as good as other models in the Lexus range, and while they are correct to an extent I’d say the CT200h still holds its own compared to rivals in its class. Yes, the CT200h is the cheapest way into new Lexus ownership, but that doesn’t mean it steers wildly away from the brand ethos. Apart from some of the lower rent plastics that sit lower down in the cabin, there are also plenty of nice touches too. The contrasting stitching looks smart and the extra bits of leather material that feature on the centre console and on top of the dash give a real feeling that this a compact luxury car – something that Lexus are very keen to point out.
For a car in this class, the CT200h provides a reasonable amount of cabin space considering its hybrid drive train and the space lost to batteries. Rear leg room is OK if not spectacular. You could happily take 4 adults around town but it would start to feel a little cramped in the back on a longer journey, although to be fair this car really isn’t built to be a long distance cruiser. When you take a closer look at the boot space this is really the only obvious pointer that the car is a hybrid. At first glance it is fairly shallow but there is more to the car’s boot space than first meets the eye. Firstly, in what appears to be a rather rare move these days, the CT200h actually comes with a space saver spare wheel – a welcome change from the all too common air compressor and foam. Secondly, if you remove the various storage trays from under the carpet in the boot, it appears that Lexus could have actually given owners a deeper boot, albeit not a flat one. If you combine some of this additional space/trays there’s actually quite a bit of space – especially when you remember that being a hatchback you can still fold the seats down and remove the parcel shelf/divider. Practical if not class leading then, but probably sufficient for most people in the market for a car of this size.
One thing that many of you will already know if you’re familiar with the brand is that you’re never left wanting for kit in a Lexus, and the company tends to be a bit more fair when it comes to options than rivals. Where other manufacturers models can easily see their list prices increase substantially with a few tick boxes on the options list, Lexus generally prefer to include far more as standard, therefore significantly undercutting other similarly specified cars. The problem with Lexus tends to come when you’re used to driving a top of the range model (SE-L or now Premier) and then you have a go in lower spec or mid range model. Even in a “lower spec” Lexus, all the basics and more are usually there, but you know you’ve been spoiled when you miss things such as ventilated seats and an electric rear blind. Most people would just be happy with heated seats and window tints!
The CT200h F Sport sits one tier below the top of the range Premier model in terms of standard kit, but as the F Sport is the better looking of the two, it’s not unusual for F Sport owners to spec their cars up a little bit to almost Premier levels of kit – should the options list allow.
This particular car only had a few options added to it though. It had the Lexus “Premium Navigation” system (£1,995) that includes a DVD player, 10 speakers, reversing camera and connected services. Although a little pricey it’s probably the most worthwhile option offered on this car. It was also fitted with the protection pack (£350) consisting of rubber boot mat, cargo net, rubber floor mats and bumper protection plate. The car’s F Sport White paintwork (£610) brings the total as tested of this particular car to £29,950, up from a list price for the F Sport of £26,995. The CT200h range currently starts from £21,245 for the entry level “S” model, increasing to £29,745 for a Premier.
The premium navigation works well enough and if you have tried the system in other Lexus models its a familiar affair. If you’ve never used a Lexus remote touch system before then it takes a bit of getting used and it can be fiddly particularly when entering in individual characters. Having said that, it’s intuitive enough to use, and I actually find the system far easier to use than the standard Lexus navigation with the rotary controller, in terms of menu navigation anyway.
With the Premium Navigation package, you get the upgraded sound system with 10 speakers, which while not quite up to the standard of the Mark Levinson system found in the Premier model, it’s not all that far off. It still includes a sub woofer in the boot so bass is nice and punchy too. I’m not too sure what Lexus were thinking in putting the USB ports under a flap in the centre console though rather than in the arm rest as in other models. This makes it for more difficult to leave a device permanently and discreetly hidden away.
Other standard features include heated leather electric seats with driver’s side memory, keyless start and entry, LED running lights, dual zone climate control, Bluetooth, USB and DAB radio. In fact, the only notable omissions from the Premier model are the LED headlights (the F Sport sticks to standard halogens) and the Mark Levinson sounds system. I must say I think the LED headlights would have looked great on this car considering it’s the F Sport. Put it this way though, you’re unlikely to be disappointed with the specification levels found on this car. As standard, it’s far more generously equipped than most rivals at this price.
Handling and Ride
The pre-facelift version of the CT200h was well known for being a little on the firm side, and Lexus has worked hard on the facelift model to counter some of these criticisms. By increasing structural rigidity with 20 additional spot welds, Lexus were then able to work on the car’s spring rates to help deliver a more compliant ride. Not only this, but the company have also added increased sound deadening to give occupants an experience far more akin to the rest of the Lexus range.
So has it transformed the car? Well, yes pretty much. For those of you who have driven the pre-facelift model, the first thing you will notice is definitely the change in ride quality. The car is still firm yes, but the extra suppleness that Lexus have now managed to fettle in means that the car is much more competent at soaking up broken surfaces on all but the most pot hole ridden roads. This being the F Sport model of course featuring firmer sports suspension anyway, I’d expect the standard suspension bearing models to be even more compliant. However, if you’re worried about firm suspension but still fancy the looks of the F Sport, I’d suggest taking it for a24 hour test driveand testing it over a decent selection of road surfaces anyway.
In all honesty though, I think Lexus have done a pretty good job on the chassis of this car. It’s got plenty of grip and the body roll is kept fairly well in check at least with the sports suspension anyway. It certainly gives you plenty of confidence through tight and twisty bits that the car will hold on and go where you want it to. If I were to be a bit fussy I’d say that the steering is a little too light for my taste, something that is particularly evident when pushing on a bit.
Let’s get one thing straight here – this model may be called an F Sport, but a hot hatch it certainly is not, and that’s not the point of this car. The F Sport philosophy to Lexus is all about styling and handling. The proper “F” models are the fast ones in the Lexus range (think RC F, IS F, GS F), so the CT200h F Sport is about taking a luxury compact hybrid and making it look a bit sportier and handle better.
In terms of straight line performance then the figures are the same as the rest of the CT200h range, giving the car a 0-62 mph time of 10.3 seconds and a top speed of 112 mph. It’s not exactly a rocket ship then, but I’d describe performance as absolutely adequate for the car it is. It has enough power for most situations (track days aside) and can happily keep pace with traffic where needed. The car does sometimes feel a little quicker than the figures would suggest too, thanks to the extra 153 Ib ft of torque provided from the electric motor that gives the engine and its 105 Ib ft of torque a bit of a lift. The car also produces 136 bhp as a combined output.
To be quite honest though, the CT200h is far more suited to a more gentle and controlled style of driving, and that way you’re also able to extract the best economy and also refinement from the hybrid system and its automatic CVT gearbox. The EV mode is usually happy to cut in as soon as you hit traffic, and if you’re careful you can also use the electric motor to maintain speeds of up to around 40 mph, depending on the road gradient.
The car has three modes in which you can drive; Normal (default), Eco and Sport that can be accessed by a rotary control on the centre console. As the car defaults to normal, this tends to be the place it will spend most of its time and gives a decent balance of responsiveness and fuel economy. Eco mode dulls the throttle response down far too much for my liking, presumably to maximise the amount of time you spend in EV mode where possible. Sport mode is the most responsive and this does go some way to eliminate the delay in throttle response caused by the CVT transmission but it’s still not instantaneous. Sport mode does give you a rather cool digital rev counter in place of the power/eco/charge gauge that you get on normal and Eco though.
Braking performance is strong on this car although you may find they are a little bit snatchy until you get used to it thanks to the way the car regenerates energy to charge the batteries while braking.
Being the type of car that it is, the running costs are clearly a significant area of interest when it comes to this car. On the combined cycle, the CT200h claims a frugal 68.9 mpg, and with a CO2 output of 94 g/km, the car is currently VED band A so no road tax to pay. This will of course be different for new cars purchased after March 2017 when the new rules come into force. Interestingly, other versions of the CT200h do also boast slightly higher mpg figures and slightly lower CO2 outputs, though this can be attributed to the F Sport’s larger wheels.
As you would expect from lab tested economy figures, these do tend to be slightly optimistic, though the same can be said for many cars these days. It really does depend on how you drive it, which seems obvious but being a hybrid it really does count here. Economy is largely based on the amount of mileage you can extract from the EV mode. From experience, if you drive it like you drive any other car, you are likely to achieve mid 40’s to low 50’s mpg. If you learn how to drive the hybrid system properly though, high 50’s to low 60’s and beyond are definitely achievable. It’s all about practice and learning how to extract the best from the system. Of course, there are other factors to be taken into account such as temperature and air conditioning use, but it’s more down to driver input than anything else.
The other thing that’s worth taking into account is that the CT200h and indeed any hybrid system will not necessarily give you the best fuel economy from long motorway runs, unlike conventional engined cars. This is because the higher speeds you (normally) achieve on motorways do not give the hybrid system a chance to do its thing and you are permanently relying on the petrol engine rather than the electric motor. The best place to extract better economy from the CT200h is on longer journeys that involve slower to medium speed roads with moderate traffic. This lets everything warm up nicely whilst still allowing the electric motor to cut in and out where appropriate. Having said that, thanks to its reasonably frugal 1.8 litre petrol engine, the CT200h will still achieve decent fuel economy on motorways, if not up there with the best small diesels. Probably best not to get started on diesel emissions and certain German manufacturers though. Needless to say the current scandal will likely only help out Lexus and other manufacturers who are experts at utilising hybrid and other alternative technologies rather than just sticking with traditional diesels. The low CO2 ratings really help to make this car an attractive proposition for company car drivers too, with a lower BIK than many diesel rivals.
Whilst the Lexus CT200h F Sport is not without its faults in places, if you’re looking for a small premium car with great build quality, bags of kit and low running costs, then this car could certainly be the one for you. The interior is nice place to spend time, plus lets not forget that Lexus have a great name when it comes to reliability and customer service. Some even say that once you’ve bought into the whole Lexus ethos, it’s hard to drive anything else. The Lexus CT200h certainly provides a stylish and affordable way into Lexus ownership that’s sure to turn heads when you creep silently through a car park.
If you’ve not driven the latest model, it’s certainly worth taking advantage of our 24 hour test drive offer by clicking the button below.