Do you remember the 2009 Frankfurt International Motor Show? Probably not, but that was the moment that the world was first introduced to the idea of a mid-sized compact Lexus in the form of the LF-Ch concept. The LF-Ch was a vaguely slammed two-door hatch sat on the biggest chrome alloys you’ve ever seen but, more importantly – it was a hybrid.
Six months later in Geneva out popped the much less slammed, much soberer Lexus CT, ready to go on sale at the start of 2011. It launched in the form of the CT200h – CT standing for “Creative Touring” and 200h referring to the 2.0-litre engine and hybrid set up (all quite logical). Five years later it received a facelift with the current expansive Lexus grille and in 2017 it was refreshed again to bring it into line with the rest of the family.
The CT’s design follows that of most of its competitors: engine out the front, boxy cabin section to give maximum headroom and boot space. The facelift has made it a more appealing vision and inside the similar interior has been given one final sprinkling of tech. Lexus are not ones for a fussy interior, preferring to appoint their cabins logically and without clutter. Our test car (in F Sport trim) comes with heated seats (controlled by a rather novel rotating knob, which at first seems odd and later feels more pleasing) a bigger 10.3-inch infotainment system, adaptive cruise control, DAB radio and Lexus’s Safety System+ – autonomous braking, lane departure, traffic sign recognition. The screen is a good addition and controls Sat Nav, audio and the settings for the hybrid system, but Lexus’s user interface, based on a small knob on the lower console, is still a bit tricky to get used to.
Between them the CT200h’s engine and electric motor manage to produce a combined 134bhp, which is delivered reasonably smoothly through a CVT gearbox. The CT weighs a little over 1,600kgs with its batteries so 62mph is hit in 10.3 seconds. Buyers are far more likely to have been attracted by the impressive kit list or the visual of a stylish, slightly posh hybrid than the performance. Many will spend their lives in and around town where CT will spend a lot of its time in all electric mode, which can be turned on using a switch on the centre console. In this mode you will be robbed of the extra oomph from the petrol power unit, but can cruise around happily until the batteries run out of juice. Take it out and about and you’ll easily manage to pass 50mpg, and with a little coaxing can probably get close to the official combined rate of 68.9mpg. The steering is rather wooden and the CVT ‘box does mean that out of town acceleration is rather noisy, but the CT is spacious inside and comfortable on a cruise.
The CT is nearing the end of its life now, this latest version is perhaps one last refresh before the second-generation car comes along. While it has its detractors the CT200h was a more important car than it seems, we can probably forgive the faults when we consider this was the very first hybrid to be introduced to the segment, leading the way for an awful lot of others. Outside of town it’s not the most awe-inspiring of experiences, but with a family in mind the extra mpg and decent space mean that this is an attractive option, especially given the list of standard kit means you can avoid the perils of options package shopping.