If you’re looking for a luxurious small family car that’s inexpensive to run, the Lexus CT fits the bill. However, there are cheaper alternatives that are better to drive.
If you’re looking for an upmarket hatchback, but want hybrid power, the Lexus CT should be on your list of options.
The Lexus CT first appeared in 2011 and has been on sale for so long that it underwent not one but two refreshes since. The latest update was made in 2017 and while it did nothing to fundamentally change the car, it did bring a more modern look, keeping it in tune with the rest of the Lexus lineup.
Inside you get a well-built dashboard with some pretty high-end, soft-touch materials, but the rest is pretty dated to look at. The CT’s buttons are numerous and in order to control the top-spec infotainment, you need to operate a touchpad that’s tricky when stationary and near-impossible to use while on the move – no wonder other manufacturers haven’t adopted the touchpad.
What’s good though, is plentiful space up front and that the steering wheel adjusts for both reach and rake, making it easy to get a comfortable driving position. Bear in mind, however, that to get back-strain-easing lumbar support for the seats you need to go for a top-spec F Sport model.
Space in the back seats is pretty good – two adults can fit in reasonable comfort, but that can be said about most alternatives and a Ford Focus Vignale will be more comfortable for your rear-seat passengers on a long journey.
It’s a fairly similar story with the boot – the size of the CT’s load area is perfectly fine for a small family car meaning it can hold a family week’s away worth of luggage and can more than cope with the weekly shop. However, just about any alternative has the same amount of boot space and some, such as the Audi A3 Sportback, can be had with extra storage nets and hooks in the back, increasing practicality.
The Lexus CT200 makes sense as an affordable, yet still luxurious, town runabout, but it’s in dire need of an update that isn’t limited to how it looks.
Where the Lexus CT misses out arguably the most is its engine choice. Or lack thereof. In a similarly priced Audi A3, you can have petrol or diesel, manual or auto, four- or front-wheel drive, for example.
The Lexus CT? Your only option is a 1.8-litre petrol-hybrid with a CVT auto. If you do keep to low-speed city streets you can use the hybrid system to its maximum, saving you fuel in the long run.
However, the engine feels underpowered outside of town, so to keep up with traffic you almost always need the help of both petrol engine and electric motor thus putting a big dent in the fuel economy. The loud nature of the engine doesn’t help its case either, due to the CT’s CVT automatic gearbox.
Unfortunately, the Lexus CT feels bumpy most of the time and going for higher-spec models with their larger wheels only makes things worse. The reason for this is simple – the Lexus CT’s underpinnings are dated and a newer alternative such as the Audi A3 Sportback is much better at both comfort and being fun to drive.
On the upside, you get a good amount of standard equipment, including sat-nav fitted to all models alongside rear parking sensors, dual-zone climate control and a brace of safety assists such as lane-keep assist, auto emergency braking and automatic high-beam assist.
But all-told the Lexus CT is simply too dated to be competitive. It has fallen behind similarly-priced German alternatives in more areas that it is ahead making it a very niche choice. If you want a more modern Lexus alternative, it’s worth checking out the Lexus UX SUV.