Review: 2012 Lexus CT 200h – Small Efficient Luxury with No Competition?

2012 lexus ct 200h headlights

What are your choices if you are looking for a luxurious and very fuel efficient city car? This 2012 Lexus CT 200h is one of the very few choices. Yes, there are other more fuel efficient small cars and also bigger and much more expensive hybrids, plugins, and EVs. However, the Lexus CT aims to carve its own niche as a luxurious and efficient car for the affluent city dweller.

The CT 200h is Lexus’ entry level hybrid car. It has a small footprint and Toyota’s proven Prius running gear underneath. It’s smaller than the Toyota’s ubiquitous hybrid vehicle, but where the Prius has more of a utilitarian character – the CT adds style and elegance into the mix.

2012 lexus ct 200h hybrid rear 2013

When the CT 200h first appeared in 2011, it was the first Lexus to wear the now mandatory corporate spindle grill. For the 2012 year, it gets updated headlights with LED driving lights. I think this exterior treatment works very well on the CT and makes this small hatchback instantly recognizable as a Lexus.

It’s strange to say, but the CT interior is already showing its age even though it’s only two years old. This is most evident in the older version of Lexus audio/entertainment interface. The system uses Lexus’ well-known mouse/joystick controller, but many of the menu screens on the 2012 model are not in color and do not look premium enough for the brand. Although, this has been enhanced for the 2013 car with more colorful icons and menus.

2012 lexus ct 200h hybrid interior dash 2013

The CT 200h interior is tight but cozy. Settling my 6’2” frame into the driver seat is not unlike buckling into a cockpit of a racecar. The wide center console is the primary reason for this sensation. There was simply no room to shift my legs or stretch out.  It’s a great short trip car, but the tight space would not be a great environment on a long road trip.  The seat has good side bolsters and the steering wheel can be positioned just right.  This interior can easily put any driver into a sporty mood.

The CT 200h uses a basically identical Hybrid Synergy Drive drivetrain as does the Prius. It’s a 1.8 liter four cylinder Atkinson cycle motor combined with Nickel batteries and an electric motor. Combined system output in the CT is 134 horsepower and 142 lb-ft of torque. Of course, a CVT delivers the power to the front wheels. Perhaps, the best part of this setup is 42 MPG combined rating and the fact that it does not require premium fuel. Of course, the not-so-good part is the relatively slow acceleration.

lexus ct 200h hybrid synergy drive engine motor

My test car came with the optional $2,330 F Sport package that includes a sport tuned suspension, unique 17 inch wheels, aluminum pedals, a large rear spoiler, and some other cosmetic enhancements. Unfortunately, this F Sport package does not provide an added boost of power.  This F Sport feels stable and confident in the twisties.  The relatively low center of gravity helps eliminate body roll and the balance of the car is neutral.  You can feel the road imperfections via the sporty suspension and low profile tires, but it does not beat you up.  The steering provides good feedback, but it’s not at the true sports car levels.

Another area where this Lexus shines is that it does not have almost any competition.  The only competitor that I can come up with in the small and efficient entry-level luxury segment is the Audi A3 TDI.  The German diesel is not as efficient in the city, but it has a bigger usable interior and a mountain of torque that makes for a very fun driving experience.  Nobody else comes close to match the CT 200h with luxurious appointments and Hybrid efficiency.  Perhaps, this is why Lexus sells a lot of these hatchbacks (almost 18,000 sold in 2012).

Starting Retail Price City/Hwy MPG HP / Lb-Ft Passenger/Cargo Cu-Ft
2013 Lexus CT 200h $32,050 43/40 134/142 86.1/14.3
2013 Audi A3 TDI $30,250 30/42 140/236 89/19.5

On the TFLcar scale of:

  • Buy it!
  • Lease it!
  • Rent it!
  • … or Forget it!

I give the 2012 Lexus CT 200h F Sport a Lease It!

It’s difficult for me to justify the $39,940 sticker price on my tester.  The CT 200h is a good car, but it has less usable interior space than the small Toyota Prius C. The 40.2 MPG average I got after a week on my regular loop is not that impressive, if you know that over Hybrids can do better.  If you like the Lexus brand and do not have children to lug about, then the 200h can be a good little car for you.

Please see this 2012 Lexus CT 200h in this affordable luxury TFLcar video Mashup.

Andre Smirnov
Andre Smirnov

Andre Smirnov is a life-long automotive enthusiast, software engineer, writer, and reporter. He has been writing and reporting at TFLcar since 2011. When not working or spending time with the family – you can find him tinkering in the garage or scouring the internet and other media for various automotive, mechanical, and computer related information.