THE Lexus CT is certainly one of the more recognisable hybrids on sale today, offering unique looks alongside a low-emissions powertrain.
What is it?
It’s also been immensely popular, with 27,000 units shifted in the UK alone since it first went on sale in 2011.
Now, it’s been updated, gaining a range of enhanced visual elements as well as a larger suite of safety systems.
In much the same way as the recently-updated NX compact SUV, the CT’s additions are relatively minor.
The prominent front grille has been given a new design, while the daytime running lights have been repositioned above the main headlamp units.
In addition, a new range of 16- and 17-inch alloy wheel designs have been released.
A range of semi-autonomous safety systems have also been included – though no mechanical changes have been made to the car.
What’s under the bonnet?
The CT makes use of the same engine as the previous model. This puts a 2.0-litre petrol engine combined with a 60kW electric motor.
Together, they produce 134bhp and 207Nm of torque, with power sent to the front wheels via a CVT gearbox.
Of course, good economy figures are the name of the game with a hybrid, and the CT delivers in this respect, with Lexus claiming 74.3mpg on a combined cycle and 88g/km CO2 of emissions.
Performance isn’t what you’d call brisk, however, with the sprint to 60mph taking 10 seconds accompanied by a top speed of 112mph.
What’s it like to drive?
Unfortunately for the CT, the hybrid game has moved on a fair amount since it first made its appearance six years ago.
They’ve become far more rounded, more car-like and – in general – better.
Though the CT makes sense around town – it’s quiet, relatively refined and returns its best economy here – it simply doesn’t make sense on longer journeys.
It’s mainly down to the CVT gearbox.
Any press of the throttle is met with an ungodly amount of drone, with the whole powertrain struggling to bring the car up to speed.
In truth, you could live with it if other-wordly performance was being delivered at the same time, but the reality is that you’re putting up with a huge amount of noise for very little forward motion.
If you’re looking for a car to mainly use around town then you could most likely live with the CT’s foibles, but you’re unlikely to be able to put up with them if you’re travelling further afield.
That said, the steering is surprisingly sweet, with plenty of weight to it. It’s just a shame that the CT hasn’t got the pace to properly exploit it.
How does it look?
We actually quite like the look the CT. Though the visual updates may only be minor, they’ve done enough to help lift the overall look of the car.
It’s still quite a stand-out in terms of design, and looks worlds away from the more conventional hatchbacks on sale at the moment. Certainly, in brighter colours such as Blue and Red it looks refreshingly different from its rivals.
This is down to our thoughts, though it’s likely that the CT’s styling will divide opinion – though at least it’s not boring.
What’s it like inside?
The materials used throughout the CT’s cabin are of a good quality, there’s no question about that.
However, the location of the major controls makes the interior quite difficult to negotiate.
The heating buttons, for instance, are located high up while the driving mode dial is placed in an area you’d usually expect to find the audio controls – so you’re often caught changing modes instead of turning up the stereo’s volume.
However, the seats are comfortable and provide a good amount of support, and the overall fit-and-finish of the entire cabin is very good. It’s just a shame that it’s let down by a rather confusing layout.
What’s the spec like?
Even base cars get a good amount of standard equipment, with features such as a six-speaker sound system and 16-inch alloy wheels fitted on SE cars.
However, only SE Plus cars and above come with Lexus’ latest safety system. Called Safety System +, it incorporates adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and automatic high beam, as well as other features. It’s a package well worth opting for.
F-Sport cars, like our test car, feature a more dynamic bodykit, and a new pattern for the grille.
Inside, it benefits from new interior upholstery choices as well as a greater variety of trims to pick.
It also comes with a larger infotainment screen, up to 10.3 inches from seven. It’s clear and easy to read, though the ‘mouse’ controller for it lacks the precision of rival systems.
The Lexus CT still remains a quirky, premium alternative to other more mainstream offerings.
However, thanks to relatively underwhelming performance and a lack of interior cohesiveness, the CT really struggles to keep its head above water.
That said, if you’re after a car that won’t cost the earth to run but will help you stand out, then this Lexus could be for you.
Model as tested: Lexus CT200h F-Sport
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol engine linked to electric motor
Max speed: 112mph
0-60mph: 10 seconds