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Lexus CT200h review - A premium hatchback alternative - Ride and handling

A frugal choice, but lags well behind German rivals for driving entertainment

Evo rating
Price
from £21,000
  • Peerless Lexus service, reliability and tax-dodging emissions status
  • Eco focus makes for a dreary drive, yet the suspension is overly firm

Read the specification of the CT 200h and the compact, front-drive Lexus suggests it might offer an engaging driving experience. There’s much talk of a low centre of gravity, while the 2014 changes promised increased body rigidity thanks to new spot welds on the rear cross member and around the rear hatchback opening. There’s also a high rigidity front brace, while the steering wheel mounts, the column assembly itself and suspension members have all been reinforced for greater stiffness and improved response.

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In a class where you’re competing against the German premium brands the Lexus needs to be outstanding to succeed, and it just doesn’t manage that. The changes have improved the CT 200h, but it still trails its competition on driver appeal. The steering is direct enough, but there’s no feel; pressing the Sport button does little to change that - the heft required at the wheel increasing, but there's no notable improvement in immediacy or information. Grip levels are relatively modest, the tyres more economy-biased than performance orientated, which, given its powertrain, is hardly surprising.

The BMW 1 Series offers so much more rewarding handling and balance, while even Audi’s rather stodgy A3 is a more entertaining steer. A Mercedes-Benz A-Class, too, even if it shares one of the CT 200h’s defining characteristics of an overly busy ride. 

Choose the F Sport model and you get front and rear lateral performance dampers, which Lexus says are designed to absorb and minimise body vibrations and improve steering feel. Whether it’s successful is difficult to really ascertain, as the CT 200h just doesn’t have the powertrain or chassis that’ll encourage you to tip it into a bend with any sort of enthusiasm.

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