By Keith Buglewicz
KBB Expert Rating: 8.9
The 2017 Lexus CT 200h is what happens when you let the luxury division build a fuel-sipping hybrid. It's literally a previous-generation Toyota Prius underneath, with the CT 200h and Prius sharing a hybrid powertrain, suspension and other basic underpinnings. But the disguise is nearly perfect, as you'd be hard-pressed to tell any family resemblance just by looking. There's the massive Lexus-signature "spindle" grille, for starters, and the interior leather and wood trim are exactly the kind of thing the Prius is NOT known for. All the extra finery hurts fuel economy, but the CT 200h gets a bit more power, and it's still a fuel-economy leader in a luxury class that includes the Audi A3 e-tron and Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class.
The 2017 Lexus CT 200h remains the least expensive way to park a new Lexus in your garage. On top of that, the CT 200h is the Lexus that boosts your green credentials, with its fuel-sipping hybrid powertrain reducing your carbon footprint, all while still letting you drive a luxury-branded car.
The simple fact is that the CT 200h doesn't offer the performance to back up its sporty looks. Sure, it's more fun than a Prius, but that's not exactly a high bar to clear. Alternatives like the BMW i3 are arguably more fun, and offer battery-only power.
KBB Expert Ratings
The 2017 Lexus CT 200h gets a couple of new colors this year, and that's about it. It has less to do with Lexus not wanting to mess with a good thing, and more to do with the fact that it's likely the CT will soon be replaced.
While the CT 200h is definitely more fun to drive than the Toyota Prius upon which it is based, it's still far from what we'd call "exhilarating," and it doesn't...
... live up to the promise of its exterior styling. This isn't a fast car, or even a very quick one, and sporty-luxury buyers would be better served with an Audi A3 or even the Cadillac ELR. But, let's just say actual speed isn't so important to you, and instead you want something that looks nice, offers lots of creature comforts, first-class reliability, and most important, ridiculously good fuel economy. In that case, the CT 200h is exactly the right car. And, to be fair, it's not totally devoid of driving charm, thanks to a Sport mode that sharpens the steering and throttle response. An F-Sport model adds stiffer springs, dampers and anti-roll bars, albeit at the expense of the ride quality.
SELECTABLE DRIVING MODES
There are three ways to drive the CT 200h, according to the dial on the center console. Eco maximizes fuel economy with less aggressive throttle response, while Sport does the opposite, giving the little Lexus a more aggressive response by increasing battery output. Normal mode should be self-explanatory.
Fuel economy may not be something luxury owners brag about, but it's actually hard to get bad fuel economy in the Lexus CT 200h. Even in Sport mode you'll still do better than you could by feathering a non-hybrid's gas pedal everywhere you go.
This is not a roomy car, and that goes double for the tight rear seat, so keep that in mind if you decide to carpool. However, we have no complaints about the materials or workmanship, which are right in line with the kind of craftsmanship we expect from Lexus. There's plenty of side support on the front seats for when you decide to take Sport mode seriously, and we like the high-tech look of the bright gauges and multifunction display. The eco-consciousness inside includes lightweight simulated leather, bamboo speaker frames, plus floor mats and other interior trim made from 30-percent plant-based materials.
Even if you park a CT 200h next to a 3rd-generation Prius, you'd be hard-pressed to tell they were actually brothers under the skin. The Prius was a wedge, with styling dictated by whatever the wind tunnel demanded. But with less of an emphasis on ultimate fuel economy, the CT 200h boasts a big Lexus "spindle" grille, sharp creases, muscular wheel arches, all of which look good but don't exactly enhance fuel economy. While it promises performance it doesn't deliver, it's still a sharp and classy way to get around town, even if the fuel-conscious 17-inch wheels look a little dopey.
Standard equipment on the 2017 Lexus CT 200h is something it has in common with every Lexus vehicle: knowing you're driving an extremely nice, well-put-together car. But beyond that happy fuzzy feeling are features like keyless entry, dual-zone climate control, 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. You'd think leather-wrapped this and high-end the other wouldn't be extra on a luxury car, but a lot of times those features are actually optional. The Premium model adds heated front seats, rain-sensing wipers and a moonroof.
Option packages for the 2017 CT 200h hybrid start with a Seat Comfort package, which adds heated seats and a power passenger seat. The F Sport package gives the suspension some bite and dresses up the exterior. The Navigation Package adds a voice-command HDD tilt-screen nav system, and includes a rearview camera, the Lexus Remote Touch controller, the Lexus Enform emergency-notification system, and other features. If you want real hides, the leather package adds them, plus auto-dimming mirrors and memory driver's seat. The optional dynamic cruise control is combined with a Pre-Collision System that warns of an impending crash.
The 2017 CT 200h hybrid gets 43 mpg in the city, a top-tier bragging right by any automaker's estimation. But it serves mainly as a testament to how optimized the Prius is, which got up to 50 mpg in the city. True, the Lexus is tuned to deliver power versus saving fuel, and the addition of heavier luxury equipment doesn't help. Under the hood are a 98-horsepower 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder engine and an 80-horsepower electric-drive motor, which don’t exactly deliver the kind of acceleration you'd expect from a car that looks as swift as the little CT does. It takes about 10 leisurely seconds to get from a standstill to 60 mph, disappointing compared to its competition.
1.8-liter inline-4/AC 650-volt permanent-magnet motor
98 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm (gasoline engine)/80 horsepower (electric motor)/134 horsepower (combined)
105 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 43/40 mpg
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
You'll pay a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of a little more than $32,200 for a base-model 2017 Lexus CT 200h, including the $975 destination charge, making it the least expensive new Lexus you can buy. That's before options, which add to the cost of course, but even after adding navigation, dynamic cruise control and the F Sport package, the little Lexus still squeaks in under the $40,000 mark. That's a bargain, really, so go ahead and load it up! The prices compare nicely to other entry-level small-luxury cars, like the Audi A3, which offers better performance for a little more money. Check the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price before buying to see what consumers in your area are paying for the CT 200h. The overall excellent reliability history of Lexus cars generally, and the Toyota Prius specifically, bodes well for the resale value of the CT 200h hybrid.