You can think of the Lexus CT 200h as a more elegant Toyota Prius. Although they share the same platform, engineering and execution are the distinguishing factors. Car and Driver didn’t have much to say about the CT, which isn’t a good sign from a magazine lauded for editorializing most vehicles with wit, attitude and humor.
While the CT does provide an arguably more stylish package than a comparable Prius, like the Prius it’s not terribly exciting to drive. But that’s not why you buy one. Lexus only produced the CT 200h from 2011 to 2017. Still, within that short time it was able to garner a cult following.
If you’re in the market for a 2012 Lexus CT 200h, these are some common problems that while they shouldn’t deter you from a purchase. They’re nevertheless something to watch out for as you shop in the used car market.
1. CVT Issues
It’s not that there are a lot of complaints about the Lexus CT 200h, mind you. In fact, 2012 was one of the best years for the first generation. But it hasn’t been without its issues. And among them is the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). CVTs were created to help automobiles achieve better fuel economy by shifting the transmission into more efficient gears during a drive. I bet you can already see the problem.
All this constant shifting means it won’t be long before the transmission needs replacing. The one saving grace is that all CVTs are not made the same. But when it comes to the CVT shifting the 2012 Lexus CT 200h, some owners have reported issues with vibration and shuddering when accelerating.
2. Hybrid Battery Problems
The 2012 Lexus CT 200h was a part of the first generation which lasted from 2011 to 2013. While it had the fewest consumer complaints. One issue you’re sure to hear about has to do with the hybrid battery. Typically, the battery in the CT200h can last up to 200,000 miles, which is the life expectancy of many cars.
But since you are buying this car used. I recommend that if it has a lot of miles on it. Or if it’s been sitting for a while. Just walk away. But if the deal is just too good to pass up, you’ll do well to figure in the price of a new battery into negotiations. And I do mean NEW. Yes, these batteries are expensive. But don’t sell yourself short by trying to cheap out on a used/refurbished battery.
3. Shuddering at Start Up
Some owners have reported shuddering upon initial startup of the CT200h. This seems to mostly occur after the car has passed 100K miles in summer or winter weather conditions.
The consensus on the CT200h forums seems to be that it’s a known issue with Lexus involving the EGR cooler, EGR pipe and moisture build up in the intake manifold. The Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) valve is responsible for lowering the car’s emissions. It doesn’t appear to be a debilitating issue for most drivers.
Owners report taking care of the problem by adding injector cleaner during fill ups. Or simply cleaning the EGR. It seems that as long as you keep the EGR and manifold clean, you shouldn’t experience this shuddering.
4. Audible Braking Noise
Another common issue with both the CT and Prius is brake noise. Owners describe this as a ticking or clicking noise like when you put a baseball card in the spokes of your bicycle and you’re breaking at speeds of less than 15 MPH. Others say that it’s accompanied by a squeezing sound.
Some Lexus dealerships have been able to isolate the problem to a faulty brake actuator. But from what we’ve been able to research this seems to mostly be an issue that happened when these cars were new with less than 40,000 miles on the odometer. Chances are you shouldn’t experience this in a used CT200h. But if you do, the brake actuator is the likely culprit.
5. Faulty Airbags
A common issue unifying all Toyotas is the airbags. Based on past research, it has something to do with the supplier for the air bags in Toyotas. But specific to the CT200h, the side-curtain airbags have been known to partially inflate randomly.
The bigger cause for concern is that the inflator can enter the passenger compartment of the vehicle and injure occupants – this is according to a Toyota press release. 482,000 Toyota Prius and Lexus CT200h hybrids in the U.S. were recalled to resolve this problem. You’ll want to find out if this recall issue has been addressed for any prospective CT200h you’re researching.
6. Excessive Oil Consumption
We’ve talked about Toyota’s VVT engine and issues with oil consumption here. The 2ZR-FE 1.8-liter VVT-I is a four-cylinder engine that’s been in production since 2007. Toyota puts it in everything. In the Prius and CT200h, it’s the 2ZR-FXE. While it’s mostly reliable, long-lasting and relatively trouble free, no engine is without issues.
As engines get older, they’re either going to leak or burn oil. Owners of the 2012 Lexus CT200h, however, have reported issues with what they feel is excessive oil consumption.
Toyota has issued a Technical Service Bulletin (TCB) to address this issue – but only for the Prius. On other 2ZR-FE engines this problem has been traced back to faulty piston rings that allow oil into the combustion chamber. For the time being, it looks like the only solution is to keep a keen eye on the oil level. Failure to do so will result in an eventual engine failure.
7. Slow Acceleration
This has also been described by owners as a one to two second lag in acceleration. Sometimes there’s a rattling sound that accompanies the slow acceleration, along with misfire codes for some owners.
Even after doing the suggested EGR and exhaust manifold clean and going as far as replacing the head gasket. The problem persists. Some say this has something to do with the engine input damper. Since the engine doesn’t have a clutch, it connects to the transaxle by the damper which is described as looking like a flywheel with four die springs.
Both Lexus and owners seem resolved to chalk the slow acceleration up to the fact this is simply a hybrid – that’s never been fast anyway – simply doing its thing. Just thought we’d let you know in case you buy a 2012 Lexus CT200h and experience the same issue.