The 2012 Lexus CT 200h is about four inches shorter in wheelbase than a Prius, and almost six inches shorter overall, but the interior remains roomy--and the driver's seating position is particularly good. You sit somewhat lower, which makes the CT feel sportier, and the rear seat backs fold flat for a roomy cargo area when there are only two occupants.
Part of what helps the CT combine a feeling of spaciousness with a sporty driving feel is its seating position, which in front and in back was completely redesigned and reconceived versus the Prius and HS 250h. Engineers and interior designers made sure that the 'H-point' of the front seats—the height of the front passengers' hip joints—is actually below the car's center of mass. Otherwise, the front seats themselves are very comfortable and supportive.
In back, there's not much legroom, and some adults will find headroom tight. But there's a lot of versatility in the package; the 60/40-split seatbacks fold forward in one fluid motion, providing a flat cargo floor that's a little higher than in comparable gas-only hatchbacks, but low enough to allow enough height for small pieces of furniture, for example. Even with the seatbacks up, there's enough room for a large load of groceries, and a retractable cargo cover helps keep valuables out of sight.
Otherwise, there are lots of small cubbies in the CT. A large, shallow cargo tray good for smartphones is just inches away from a USB input and power plug. But an oversight--one that hints that the CT wasn't originally intended for North America--is that there are no cupholders for rear passengers. Provided you don't need Big Gulp-sized ones, those in front are perfectly fine for the Lexus crowd.
The cabin is outfitted in rich materials that look borrowed from more expensive Lexus models, although there are a few details that scream out parts-bin—like the old-style LCD display on the base sound system, which doesn't match the font or display used for climate control; and the chrome shift lever, which seemed to be magnet for fingerprint smudges. Center-console plastics seem to be a little cheap-looking and hollow-feeling for a luxury brand, too.
And the more we use Remote Touch—a computer-mouse-like controller that requires you to keep your eyes on the screen for the entire time you're making a selection—the more we wish for either a touch screen, touchpad, or a controller that has tactile feedback.While there's a surprising amount of engine noise when you're accelerating in the 2012 CT 200h, we noticed almost no wind or road noise, and at cruising speeds it felt quieter than other luxury compacts.