New Car Review: 2012 Lexus CT 200h Premium F Sport

Extreme closeup front 3/4 view of dark grey 2012 Lexus CT 200h Premium F Sport
The 2012 Lexus CT 200h Premium F Sport.
Regular TireKicker readers will recall that just 13 months ago we were puzzling over the place of the CT 200h in the universe...or at least in Lexus' lineup.

Our questions revolved around whether Lexus needed another small car (question since answered...they've killed off the over-priced HS 250h, the closest Lexus has ever come to the Cadillac Cimarron or Lincoln Versailles).

Well, sales are up 500% so far this year over last, so apparently, there is a market for a small Lexus hybrid hatchback.

Now...how about a performance model?

2012 Lexus CT 200h Premium F Sport rear 3/4 view.
Rear three-quarters view of the 2012 Lexus CT 200h Premium F Sport.
Well, let's re-phrase that.

How about a performance appearance package?

There are models in the Lexus lineup where F Sport adds a bit of dash to the driving experience (416 horsepower in the IS F Sport...some nifty handling upgrades in the GS 350 F Sport), but in this case, it's all about the look.

We start with a CT 200h Premium. Base price $31,750...an $850 bump from last year. For that you get a reasonably roomy five-seat (stick to four unless they're kids) hatchback hybrid with an EPA mileage estimate of 43 city/40 highway.

There's a 1.8 liter in-line four cylinder DOHC gasoline engine mated to Lexus Hybrid Drive's electric motor and connected to an electronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).  You also get electric power rack and pinion steering, four-wheel independent suspension, four-wheel power assisted front and rear disc brakes, 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, vehicle stability control, traction control, and electronic throttle control.

Smart Stop technology kills the gasoline engine at the right moments (like at stop lights) to help you save gas. And there's the usual plethora of airbags, side curtains, pre-tensioners and the like to keep you safe in the event of a crash. And there's integrated fog lamps, power adjustable outside mirrors with turn indicators, a rear wiper for the hatch, tire pressure monitoring and a first aid kit.

2012 Lexus CT 200h Premium F Sport interior.
The 2012 Lexus CT 200h Premium F Sport interior.
On the inside, the standard equipment list includes a power tilt-and-slide moonroof with a sliding sunshade, NuLuxe (read: not leather) interior trim, heated front seats, a three-spoke leather (read: not NuLuxe) trimmed steering wheel with audio and cruise control buttons, 10-way multi-adjustable power driver's seat including power lumbar support, push button start/stop, electroluminescent Optitron (read: neither leather nor NuLuxe  enough, Hagerty--) gauges, dual-zone automatic climate control, drive mode select (choices are Normal, Sport, ECO and EV), a driver information center with trip computer, a 6-speaker audio system with single in-dash CD player, USB, AUX, Bluetooth and Sirius XM, power windows, power door locks, a cargo cover and carpeted floor mats.

Again, that's all for $31,750.

And now come the options. The F Sport package gets you different 17 inch alloy wheels, a mesh upper and lower grille, a large rear spoiler, black headliner, aluminum sport pedals (see photo above), perforated leather trimmed steering wheel, leather trimmed shift knob, an F Sport exterior fender badge, metal door sill/scuff plates and metal tone interior trim.

And it costs $2,530.

Our tester didn't stop there. $1,100 went for an upgrade to the 10-speaker Lexus Premium Audio System, which has a 6-disc in-dash CD changer, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and Homelink. $1,215 was the tab for LED headlamps that are auto-leveling and have washers. And then there was $2,445 for a hard drive navigation system, including backup camera, Lexus Enform, Lexus Insider, voice command, NavTraffic, NavWeather and Sports & Stocks. For 90 days. After that, you have to subscribe.

The cargo mat, cargo net, wheel locks and key gloves (little leather....or is it NuLuxe?...pouches that hold the all in one miniaturized remote key fob)...$263.

Total price, including $875 delivery, processing and handling fee.....$39,978.

The one we drove last year was $35,819...and frankly, we thought that was a big chunk of change for a small car that needs to be in "Sport" mode to get to 60 in less (though not much less) than 10 seconds.  This one's 22 bucks shy of 40 grand.

If it was our money, we'd buy a top of the line Prius, check all the option boxes and pocket the ($7,000 worth of) change. And get 8 miles per gallon better mileage.

But people are buying the CT 200h...far more than bought them last year. So we'll ask the question again...do you see something here we're not seeing? Click on "Post A Comment" below to give us your thoughts.