What's it like?
Better, for sure. If the first CT200h was not an easy car to love, the second is at least a good deal easier to live with. Credit for that must go mostly to the spot welds. The extra pliancy that has been liberated from the suspension is immediately felt; on the F-Sport’s 17-inch wheels it may still lack the fluency and ripple-smoothing capacity of several major rivals but the brain-rattling abrasiveness of its predecessor has gone. Firm it remains, but not inadequately so.
The new relationship between engine speed and actual velocity is also far more convincing: there’s still not much pleasure to be wrung from interacting with the drivetrain at speed, but at least measured inputs are now characterised by a plausible rise in revs rather than the distant drone of a generator.
But it's at more middling speeds that the Lexus's better refinement is particularly appreciable, edging the CT200h closer to the noiseless, effortless prospect it ought to be.
Arguably it would be closer still if Lexus had taken the opportunity to lengthen the accelerator pedal travel; there is still too little difference between tickling the CT200h along and unsympathetically flooring it. That said, the latter is too often unavoidable: its maker may quote 10.3 seconds to 62mph, but the battery-laden hatchback feels a good deal slower than that, and isn’t responsive enough to make pulling out into tight gaps in the traffic an easy manoeuvre.
This modest facelift was never likely to fix that, although the wand ought to have been waved more wisely elsewhere. Lexus says the steering column has had its mounts stiffened, but it’s done nothing to alleviate the muddy deadweight encountered on input at the smaller, IS-donated wheel. Its utter lack of feedback swindles the otherwise grippy chassis out of any playfulness it may have had.
Worst of all though are the brakes, which thanks to the neediness of energy recuperation, plunge your face towards the dash with any input more forceful than that you’d employ to remove dust from a gnat’s wing.
Should I buy one?
Certainly there is more sense in asking that question now. For all its popularity, there was little to really recommend the CT200h other than its tax-evading emissions and famed Lexus build quality. The new version, given that it’s cheaper, much quieter and a good bit more comfortable, clearly has something more going for it. As a premium fleet option, it would be foolish not to at least consider it.
Nevertheless, the competition is fierce, and for all its clean-living cleverness, the CT200h still doesn’t commend itself to the keen driver or, indeed, those fixated with economy (Lexus claims 68.9mpg from the F Sport, but we didn’t see higher than 45mpg over three days). If either description covers you, we’d still advise paying the taxman slightly more for a small diesel engine and an all-round better car.