2012 Lexus CT 200h F Sport

As we discovered the first time we spent a week with one, the Lexus CT 200h is an intriguingly Euro-centric player in the entry tier of the premium market. With a starting price of $29,120 in 2012 (plus $895 for delivery), the CT represents the least expensive way to get into a new Lexus. At that price, it seems like a reasonable choice. For just a few dollars short of $40,000, our test car – a loaded F Sport model, a new trim level for 2012 – lost pretty much all of its value proposition. Still, the CT is an entertaining small hatchback that returns excellent fuel mileage.

Driving Notes:
  • 134 total horsepower – 98 from the 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and the rest from the integrated electric motor – and 105 pound-feet of torque isn't enough gumption to earn a badge with the word 'Sport'. 0-60 takes 9.8 seconds and the top speed is just 113 miles per hour. The base Fiat 500, which has been called every variation of the world slow, is just as quick, albeit with a manual gearbox.
  • We've never been big fans of continuously variable transmissions, and the one used in the CT hybrid isn't going to change our minds. The engine drones at 4,000 RPM way too often, especially in Sport mode.
  • We wish there was an option to default the CT to Sport mode, as its more aggressive throttle mapping and quicker steering setup makes the CT much more engaging to drive. Plus, we prefer the digital tach display in Sport over the normal Eco dummy gauge that appears left of the central speedometer.
  • Eco mode turns the act of driving the CT 200h into a chore, yet it doesn't seem to have any meaningful impact on fuel mileage in regular driving. While it won't remember to start in Sport, it will remember to put you in Eco mode if that's how it was set when the car was last shut off. That's irritating.
  • F Sport mods don't make the CT 200h any quicker, but we're told handling has been improved a notch through retuned suspension bits. We found the CT F Sport's ride and handling compromise to be just right for Goldilocks. As far as appearances go, we dig the funky duds and think the F Sport bodykit and bespoke wheels are well done.
  • Why reinvent the gear-shifter? A little T-shaped nub sticks out of the center stack, with an offbeat h-pattern that requires an additional button labeled 'P' to put into park. Is this really necessary? Plus, a sporty car in this price bracket that doesn't offer a manual transmission really ought to feature paddles.
  • The 2012 CT uses an older version of Remote Touch control than the brand-new GS. Although it does include haptic feedback, it does not allow the directional controller to double as a selector. Instead, there's a separate 'Enter' button on either side. Not our favorite way to move a cursor or make selections. We also found ourselves bumping the joystick when using the climate and audio controls or when resting our arms on the console.
  • This is a small car. While I was able to fit my six-foot, two-inch frame comfortably behind the wheel, don't expect adults to spend too much time in the back. On the plus side, there's a reasonable 14.3 cubic feet of storage under the hatch with the seats up.
  • Fuel mileage remains a strong suit. We weren't able to match the EPA-estimated 43 city/40 highway, but we hauled four adults (driver included) around Phoenix, Arizona for an afternoon with the air conditioner blasting and still recorded mileage in the high 30s.