As is obvious from the brash new grille, the Lexus CT200h has been face-lifted for 2014.
The petrol-electric hybrid, that competes with the Audi A3 Sportback and BMW 1 Series, also gets revised suspension and – in base S trim with standard 15-inch wheels – even lower CO2 emissions of just 82g/km (down from 87g/km).
Only the S gets such angelic efficiency. Higher trim grades push emissions up to 94g/km, although all versions fall into the 10% band for company car tax (rising to 11% when the new brands are introduced in April).
List price has also been cut by between £1000 and £1500 depending on trim level, with prices now ranging from £20,995 up to £29,495. The only CT200h model that hasn’t had a reduction in price is the mid-spec Advance trim, which retains its £23,995 price tag but has been given substantial equipment upgrades, with front and rear parking sensors, heated front seats and sat-nav now standard.
Interior updates across the board include a new steering wheel (borrowed from the latest Lexus IS) and new 7.0-inch colour display.
What’s the 2014 Lexus CT200h like to drive?
In base S trim, complete with 15-inch wheels and new, softer suspension, the CT200h is more comfortable than ever, but unfortunately it still doesn't ride anywhere near as well as the class leaders. It's settled much of the time on the motorway, and at lower speeds it softens the edges of bumps and potholes reasonably well enough, but it’s still very choppy over rough town roads.
The 134bhp powertrain remains unchanged, so you get the eerie but enjoyable refinement of pure electric power at low speeds, in stark contrast with the buzzy 1.8-litre petrol motor, which kicks in regularly. As before, the CVT automatic gearbox is a frustration, allowing the petrol engine to rev into its harsh upper ranges even under moderate acceleration.
While the CT200h goes round corners perfectly well, the steering is slow and lacking even a remote sense of connection, and the brake pedal response is inconsistent and tricky to modulate for smooth stopping.
What’s the 2014 Lexus CT200h like inside?
The new colour screen that features on base versions is a big improvement. The majority of premium family cars now have high-tech infotainment systems, and the fact that there wasn't one in the CT was a big omission for a premium hatchback.
A high-set, clear display and rotary controller, not dissimilar to BMW’s iDrive, improves useability. The CT200h's standard system is also a lot easier to use than the fiddly mouse-controlled system that you get if you go for the £1995 Premium Navigation option.
A more basic £995 navigation system is another new addition for 2014, and it's both better value and easier to control as it utilises the standard rotary dial.
Otherwise, the Lexus remains unchanged, which means a comfortable driving position and a reasonably smart (if not class-leading) cabin.
As before, the rear seats are fine for children or shorter adults, but there is usefully more rear passenger legroom in plenty of rivals, including the Audi A3 Sportback and the cavernous Skoda Octavia.
It’s the same story in the Lexus’ boot, where the batteries required for the electric motor result in a high boot floor, and less overall space than you get in most rivals.
All models get a DAB radio, climate control, automatic wipers, two USB sockets and Bluetooth as standard.
Should I buy one?
The CT200h’s impressively low CO2 emissions make it one of the cheapest company car options in the class. As a 40% taxpayer, you'll pay just £70 a month (or £77 from April onwards when new tax bands are introduced). That is considerably less than it'd cost you to run an Audi A3 Sportback 1.6 TDI or a BMW 116d ED.
However, these low costs don't make up for the fact that the CT200h is a resolutely mediocre car, with neither the refinement, handling, practicality, nor the perceived cabin quality of key rivals. As a result, apart from a great reliability record and dealer service reputation, the CT200h remains very tricky to recommend as as a company car, let alone a private buy.
Efficiency aside, then, the Lexus CT still falls short in far too many areas.
What Car? says...
Engine size 1.8-litre petrol plus electric motor
Price from £20,995
Power 134bhp (combined)
Electric motor torque 153lb ft
0-62mph 10.3 seconds
Top speed 112mph
Fuel economy 78.5mpg