2013 Lexus CT 200h

The CT 200h hatchback is a hybrid luxury compact that offers relatively sporty driving dynamics, excellent fuel economy and a comfortable cabin. It is positioned as the entry-level model in Lexus' lineup.

Recent Changes
The CT 200h was given a minor facelift for the latest model year. In addition to new wheel designs and paint colors, the CT gains a downsized version of the spindle grille that is found on other members of the Lexus lineup.

Toyota Bones
Though the CT 200h shares a basic platform with Toyota Corolla and Scion tC, it features more dynamic handling than its plebian siblings thanks to a number of revised suspension components, including a unique lateral performance damper system aimed at reducing body vibrations and providing for a linear steering feel.

The CT 200h features essentially the same hybrid powertrain as Toyota's successful Prius model - a 1.8-liter four-cylinder with Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) mated to a permanent-magnet synchronous electric motor. The gas-electric drivetrain features four different settings, including ECO, NORMAL and SPORT. The fourth EV setting, seen in some of Lexus' other recent hybrid offerings, allows the CT 200h to travel up to 1.2 miles at speeds up to 28 mph on all-electric power.

Total output is rated at 134 horsepower, resulting in a rather leisurely zero-to-60 time of 9.8 seconds. However, the CT 200h does return 43 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway.

Interior Design
Inside the CT 200h, Lexus promises a highly-focused driver's environment aimed at creating a "sporting driving experience." To achieve that, this hybrid features a low driver's seat with increased lateral and lumbar support, a sport-minded, wide grip steering wheel and an instrument cluster housing large, high-visibility, triple dials.

For the latest model year, the optional navigation system has been updated with the latest version of Lexus' Enform infotainment system. Enform provides access to Bing search, iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com, OpenTable, Pandora, Yelp and Facebook Places through compatible smart phones.

Thanks to its practical hatchback configuration, the CT 200h boasts a useful 14.6 cubic feet of cargo space. One downside of the cabin is a smattering of low-rent materials, a concession to the car's relatively low price.

Trim Level Breakdown
The base model CT 200h comes standard with imitation leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped shift knob, dual-zone automatic climate control, a smart key with push-button start, a power driver's seat, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo system with satellite radio and a USB input jack, Bluetooth smartphone connectivity, cruise control and LED daytime running lights.

The up-level CT 200h Premium adds a sunroof and heated seats. Exclusive to the Premium trim are optional leather seats, a navigation system and the F Sport Package.

F Sport Package
An optional F Sport Package (available only on Premium trim models) ups the handling and appearance antes with an F Sport-tuned suspension and 17-inch wheels with high-gloss finish.

On the cosmetic front, the CT 200h is aided by the addition of a new front grille with mesh pattern, metal front scuff plates, bespoke 17-inch wheels, perforated leather steering wheel, leather shift knob, aluminum sport pedals and metallic trim on the dash panel. F Sport buyers can order the car in Ultra White and Ultra Sonic Blue Mica.

Occupant Safety
This premium compact hybrid is equipped with a range of active, passive and pedestrian impact safety features, including an optional pre-emptive, Pre-Collision Safety system incorporating Adaptive Cruise Control.

Standard features include: Eight airbags including driver and front passenger knee airbags and Whiplash Injury Lessening front seats are fitted as standard, and an upgraded Electronically Controlled Braking-Regeneration system incorporates Anti-Lock brakes ,Brake Assist, Traction Control and Vehicle Stability Control and a hybrid version of the brake override system known as Smart Stop Technology.

Key Competitors
Though the CT 200h is the only premium compact hybrid on the market, buyers looking for a mix of sporty handling and luxury should look at the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class and the Audi A3.

Less upscale but more efficient rides like the Toyota Prius and Chevrolet Volt are also worth a look.