2017 Lexus CT 200h review: A frugal hybrid that is showing its age

To accommodate different driving preferences, a 2017 Lexus CT 200h motorist can engage one of four driving modes: normal, which has a throttle response like a regular gasoline-powered car; Eco, which adjusts air conditioning and reduces throttle response to maximize fuel efficiency; sport, which increases throttle response for better acceleration; and EV, which moves the car on electric power alone. It can only be used for short distances with a mere toe tap on the accelerator.

Generally when I drive a hybrid I try to achieve maximum fuel mileage and that also means a light foot on the accelerator and the Eco setting whenever possible. For the first couple of days I followed that formula and saw my miles per gallon range between 43 around town and, oddly, 46 on the open road. This compares favorably with the EPA estimate of 43 mpg city/40 mpg highway.

Then I decided to try the sport setting, which adds a modicum of excitement to the driving experience, but sacrifices some fuel mileage for that peppier throttle response. To my surprise, the Lexus still averaged about 42 miles per gallon of regular grade gasoline over more than 100 miles of urban and suburban motoring on level roads. This matches the EPA’s estimate of combined city/highway driving.

To be fair, the fuel mileage would obviously drop somewhat if the car had a full load of four passengers and was moving through hilly terrain.

When I think of Lexus, I think of a soft and smooth ride, with passenger comfort taking precedence over sporty performance. On paper, this should be supplied by the CT 200h’s fully independent suspension.

But, there was a surprise. Handling was reasonably poised, with accurate steering and no excess body lean along twisty roads. However, ride quality was pretty harsh whenever the road surface was less than glass-like. The CT 200h did not have the luxury feel of any other Lexus I have driven.

In addition, there was a numb feeling to the brake pedal, which is typical of many hybrid cars because the brakes have a secondary duty to help recharge the battery pack.

This Lexus’ idea of luxury showed up best on the car’s interior, where there were quality materials throughout, comfortable optional leather seats and a fair amount of modern technology.

Lexus CT 200h front seats

Lexus CT 200h front seats

The Lexus CT 200h soldiers on with a list of safety features that may exceed the available equipment offered back in 2010, but does not match all of the most up-to-date technology available today.

Standard on the test car were a full complement of airbags and side curtains; antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and emergency braking assist; traction control, stability control; smart-stop technology; Lexus Enform safety connect, which provides automatic collision and stolen car notification; and an SOS button for emergency assistance.

Optional, but not on the test car, is adaptive cruise control and a pre-collision system that uses sensors to detect when a collision is imminent and then tightens the seat belts and applies emergency braking assist.

Not available are such modern features as blind-spot detection and lane-departure warning.

Included in the base price of $31,250 were keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone climate control, 10-way power driver’s seat, multi-information display in center console screen, 6-speaker sound system with CD player and satellite radio availability; and Bluetooth hands-free telephone and audio.

Lexus CT 200h rear seat

Lexus CT 200h rear seat

An optional luxury package ($2,145) included the leather seating, front seat heaters, power front-passenger seat, and rain sensing windshield wipers.

The navigation package ($3,480) added a backup camera, premium 10-speaker audio system, and the Lexus Enform infotainment system with a suite of apps. Intuitive parking assist costs $500 and a sunroof adds $1,100.