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Lexus CT Review

Find out more about the Lexus CT in the latest Motors.co.uk Review

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6
Out of 10
Average Price £17,748
Model Review

Lexus introduced the CT in 2011 as the brand's first hatchback model. First shown at the Frankfurt motor show in 2009, as the LF-Ch Concept, the CT was also the first 'compact premium' hybrid car.

Only available as the CT200h specification, the CT is based on the third generation of Toyota Prius, using the same platform and engine technology. Known as 'Hybrid Synergy Drive' in Toyotas, the 'Lexus Hybrid Drive' mates a novel petrol engine that employs Atkinson Cycle technology to improve fuel efficiency with a battery-powered electric motor.

Unlike the Prius, the CT isn't a pure grab for eco credentials. Instead it's a premium car that happens to be a hybrid. That means that although the CT has an impressive drag coefficient of 0.28 (normal cars are around 10% worse), it doesn't have the same focus on small gains as the Prius.

There's relatively large wheels and premium comforts that add weight – the CT comes in at 1.4 tonnes – so it doesn't post the same kind of economy figures as its sibling. Still, most models since 2011 return nearly 70mpg on paper, with more possible if you're willing to live with a lower spec car.

It's been a significant model for Lexus. In its first full year in the UK, it sold almost as many units as the Toyota Prius – the difference was just seven cars – and it made up around half of Lexus sales. It has since been overtaken by other cars, but it still represents about a quarter of Lexus's UK sales volume.

Latest model

There has only been one generation of CT so far, although the car was facelifted in 2014. It's of an age now where cars are typically replaced, but its future is uncertain – whether there'll be a new CT or a different vehicle to replace it – at this point.

It shares a platform with the previous generation of Toyota Prius, and uses the same engine technology - termed “Lexus Hybrid Drive” in this application. This teams a 1.8-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine to a 60kW electric motor, to produce a total system output of 134hp when both engines are working together.The CT has a small electric-only range, but most of the time it will use and recover power as it needs to, operating the engines according to what's necessary at any given time.

The CT has a small electric-only range, but most of the time it will use and recover power as it needs to, operating the engines according to what's necessary at any given time.

Depending on the model you choose, the CT will have a fuel economy of 68-78mpg, and all models have emissions under 100g/km CO2. Performance is adequate, with 60mph coming up in just over ten seconds – quicker than similarly frugal, conventional diesel cars, but with greater harm done to the efficiency credentials in doing so.

Lexus changed the trim line-up for 2017, into a rather confusing specification tree rather than the normal hierarchy. It has three separate lines, with the entry-level S and higher grade Advance representing a value line, the Sport, Sport Plus and F Sport acting as a sporting line, and a more comfort-oriented line in the Executive, Luxury and Premier models.

The CT is a rival for other premium hatchback models, like the BMW 1 Series and Infiniti Q30, but adds the hybrid tech that's rarely offered on a car this size. The closest natural rivals are the Audi A3 e-tron and VW Golf GTE, but these are plug-in hybrids and markedly more expensive as a result.

 

Value for money

Given that the CT starts at under £23,000 – less than a new Prius – it might seem like decent value for money. It undercuts conventional rivals and significantly undercuts hybrid rivals.

However, the CT isn't a particularly quick vehicle, and the rivals beat it on both performance and on-paper fuel economy, never mind equipment. The entry level car may have dual zone climate control and a seven-inch touchscreen with DAB and Bluetooth, but there's no navigation, no cruise control, no reversing camera and only fabric seats. Thanks to the quirky way the CT's range is set up, it's difficult to find a complete car without heading to the options list, but the Sport and Executive models acquit themselves well for £24,355 and seem to be the best value in the range.

A good chunk of what you pay for is the hybrid system, but the CT also comes loaded with safety kit. It's officially rated at 78.5mpg and 87g/km CO2, although this only applies to the entry-level S model. Others, presumably due to the larger, 17-inch wheels, rate at 68.9mpg and 94g/km. A smaller, 16-inch option is available on some of these cars and are well worth thinking about if you're bothered by mpg. Thanks to new VED bands, these figures are no longer good enough to qualify for free road tax, but any car under 100g/km is still relatively cheap.

Depreciation might be a concern, as second-hand buyers are still concerned about battery life. Average mileage CTs tend not to hold value as well as you might hope, but low mileage examples will fare better. Insurance is inexpensive too, with most models sitting in band 15, and only the top specification cars hitting group 17 – firmly in the lower half of the insurance group system.

 

Looks and image

The Lexus brand has an unsual image, thanks in part to its own split personality. It might be most well-known in the UK for its luxury cars, with the giant LS400 as one of its earliest models, but it also has a strong motorsport history. Lexus has competed at the Nurburgring 24 Hours, has won the Japanese touring car championship (JGTC) and produced, rather incongruously, a £300,000 supercar called the LF-A.

However, its origins as Toyota's upmarket brand are well-known, and there will be more than a few people who'll comment that it's 'just a Toyota' or 'the Japanese Mercedes'.

The CT200h doesn't really hit either the luxury or the sporting aspects of Lexus. Essentially it's a more premium version of the Toyota Prius, but the links between the two cars aren't obvious to outside eyes, especially as Lexus has a great many hybrid models in its range now. This frees it of some of the eco-bore image.

Space and practicality

Despite the premium badge, the CT is essentially an ordinary five-door family car. That gives it decent family credentials, but it's limited in some areas.

Thanks to the battery pack for the electric motors, rear space is not the best, although it's not the worst in the class either. Headroom is not significantly worse in the back than the front, but legroom is a little constrained – and it would get rather cosy if you tried to fit three abreast.

Luggage space is hit and miss. 375 litres with the rear seats in place is fair. It increases to 985 litres with the rear seats folded, which again isn't a great deal but it's a good, flat space and there's no lip to get over. You won't be able to tow anything for extra space either, as the CT isn't rated for towing.

The CT200h has an excellent safety rating, with a five-star result from EuroNCAP when tested in 2011. The CT rated at 94% for adult occupant safety. Lexus fits eight airbags as standard, along with stability control and traction control. Although more recent tests are more stringent, it's likely that the Lexus would still score very well.

 

Engines

The CT200h has only one engine option available. It's a hybrid petrol-electric engine similar to that found in the Toyota Prius.

The petrol part is a 1.8-litre, four-cylinder 'Atkinson Cycle' engine. This produces 97hp, which doesn't seem like much for a 1.8-litre, but the engine uses a clever system of valve-timing designed to gain efficiency at the expense of a little power. The CT is also powered by a 60kW electric motor which produces the equivalent of 81hp. With the two engines working together, peak power output is 134hp.

Together the engines drive a continuously variable transmission, which results in a 0-60mph time of 10.1 seconds, , with a top speed of 112mph. On paper the CT200h will achieve a best fuel economy of 78.5mpg for the S model, and 68.9mpg for other models. This gives the S model a 87g/km CO2 rating, while the others are rated at 94g/km.

 

Running costs

The CT has an unusual running cost calculation, with the areas you'd expect it to perform well being weaker than the ones you'd anticipate being costly.

On paper, the CT returns around 70mpg for most models and nearly 80mpg in the best case. The difference can be put down to the 15-inch wheels on the best-performing S model and 17-inch wheels on the others, so it's well worth considering the 16-inch options if this concerns you. However, in the real world the CT isn't quite so impressive – mid-55s is a fair target – as the relative lack of performance means you may need to wring it out a bit.

The recent changes to the VED bands means that the CT isn't as cheap on tax as you may think. That frugal S model is £100 in the first year, while the rest of the range is £120, and all models are £140 for subsequent years.

Insurance is an unexpectedly strong suit, as no CT model exceeds group 17. Considering that the car is a premium, hybrid car from a premium brand, that's rather low. Depreciation is strong too, but rather dependant on mileage.

While premium brands might mean high service and repair bills, the CT's costs on this front are reasonable. It is, in effect, a Toyota Prius under the skin and the pleasant interior, so it's no more expensive to keep on the road. The high-powered electrical systems might tie you to main dealers though.

Things to look out for

Lexus has an almost unimpeachable reliability record, and as a brand it consistently hits the top of reliability and customer satisfaction surveys. The CT has made up a large proportion of the company's sales since 2011, and you can reasonably infer that it has played a large part in that reliability record.

There have been two product recalls regarding the CT, with 34,000 Prius and CT models recalled for a curtain airbag issue, and 54,000 Prius, Auris and CT models recalled over a potential fuel leak issue. These both affect early 2011 and 2012 cars, but otherwise it's the picture of health.

For second-hand cars, watch out for high mileage cars that might have seen a lot of charge cycles – the battery being drained to minimum – due to motorway use. There are no known battery issues, but failures are more likely on well-worn components. Also note that the original 8 year/100,000 mile hybrid system warranty is now a 5 year/60,000 mile one.

 

Rivals

What qualifies as a rival for the CT depends on whether you're interested in the hybrid aspect or not. The BMW 1 Series, Audi A3, Volkswagen Golf, Mercedes A Class and Infiniti Q30 would all class as similarly sized and premium hatchbacks, but only the Audi and Golf can bring some battery tech too. Indeed the A3 e-tron and Golf GTE will be the closest rivals of all.

Elsewhere, Kia and sister brand Hyundai produce similar hybrids. The Kia Niro and Hyundai Ioniq, while not necessarily holding the same premium credentials, are viable alternatives.

Unusually, there's a number of in-house rivals too, as Toyota has a huge number of vehicles with the same hybrid tech. This includes the Prius on which the CT is based, but also the Auris, which is similar in form. The C-HR crossover will also have something of a draw, with unusual styling and a high-riding body.

 

Depreciation warning

For the most part, the CT is a fairly solid performer when it comes to residuals. It's a little unusual, as Lexus is a niche premium manufacturer and that doesn't tend to bode well for depreciation, but the connection with Toyota and reputation for reliability seems to keep prices up a little.

There are some caveats though. Mileage seems to be a more important factor with hybrids than conventionally fuelled vehicles, perhaps due to battery longevity concerns. This means that while you can expect the average CT to hold around 50% of its value after three years, a low mileage example will do far better – but a CT with average mileage for any other car will do far worse.

The dizzying array of trim levels will also have an effect. People expect certain things from their premium car and if you pick a trim level that doesn't have them, you're fighting a losing battle. It can be difficult to navigate the CT's various trims, but pick a car with heated seats, navigation and at least the synthetic leather option and you won't go far wrong. Stray too far up the list though, or pick too many expensive options, and you'll see your return fall again.

Which CT to Pick

Trims Explained

The Lexus CT is available in eight different specifications. These should be considered as three separate tiers, with S and Advance as value-oriented models, Sport, Sport Plus and F Sport as sporting models and Executive, Luxury and Premier as more comfort-focused models.

S

Standard equipment on the entry-level S model includes the Lexus Media Display, with six speakers, 7-inch display screen and rotary dial controller, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, DAB radio, six-way, manually-adjustable driver's seat, dual zone climate control system, heated door mirrors, and rain-sensing wipers.

Prices start from £22,585

Sport

The Sport model adds cruise control, a part-synthetic leather interior, navigation and reversing camera. There's an external upgrade that adds a sports body kit and privacy glass, along with an upgrade from 15-inch to 17-inch alloy wheels, and the model also gains front foglights.

£24,355

Executive Edition

The Executive Edition can adds much of the same equipment, but loses the sports styling in favour of heated front seats, and a full synthetic leather interior. The 17-inch alloy wheels are a different finish too.

£24,355

Advance

Advance gains smart entry, privacy glass and front and rear parking sensors, compared to the Executive trim, but curiously loses the synthetic leather interior for the S model's fabric.

£25,605

Luxury

There's very little difference between Advance and Luxury grades, with a full leather interior added and, very strangely, the navigation system becoming a mere option. Otherwise the two specifications are identical.

£26,105

Sport Plus

Sport Plus regains the navigation and retains the smart entry system, but uses the same part-leather interior and exterior sports bodykit of the Sport model, with the addition of a sunroof. Heated seats and parking sensors are also added above the Sport grade, while the spare wheel is deleted.

£26,855

F Sport

The F Sport model adds to this with a unique F Sport body kit and wheels, sports suspension with lateral damping and aluminium pedals with interior aluminium accents. Navigation is downgraded to optional equipment, but you can specify an upgraded Premium navigation system.

£26,855

Premier

The top specification is Premier. Compared to the Luxury grade it adds power-adjustable seats with driver memory function, a 13-speaker Mark Levinson sound and navigation system, LED headlights and daytime running lights, and auto-dimming, memory door mirrors with puddle lights.

What to look out for

  1. Petrol-electric hybrid
  2. Automatic/CVT gearbox only
  3. Five star EuroNCAP rating
  4. 78.5mpg for S model, 68.9mpg for others
  5. Good standard safety gear
  6. No navigation on entry cars
  7. 375 litre boot with seats up
  8. Low insurance groups: 15-17
  9. Good residual values

Review Rating

"While the Japanese firm may want the tagline to read ‘world’s first compact premium hybrid’, look beyond the company spiel and in fact the Lexus CT200h is merely an affordable way in to the Lexus brand and an avenue for the manufacturer to try and pull in ‘younger’ buyers.... Read More"