The most fuel-efficient luxury car. The least expensive Lexus.
For nearly a decade, the Toyota Prius has dominated the hybrid market, selling more than all other gas-electric vehicles combined. But for all the great reasons to drive a Prius, the quintessential hybrid is far from the most engaging ride on the road. Let’s face it, hybrid fans: the essential and very important benefits of the Prius—great fuel economy and reduced emissions at the top of the list—comes with the penalty of a goody-goody high-tech dork factor.
The Lexus CT 200h—just arriving in U.S. dealerships—seeks to remove that stigma. Moreover, the Lexus CT represents the next phase of hybrids that are not just high-mileage mobility appliances providing basic transportation at a reasonable price, to cars with style, great handling and luxury features. Lexus calls it “the darker side of green.” This transition—also attempted by the Honda CR-Z two-seater hybrid—is necessary to move hybrids beyond its current mark of 3 percent of new car sales to a larger and younger market. “We are hoping to hit our 25- to 39-year-old target 36 times over the eight weeks of [our CT 200h] campaign,” said Dave Nordstrom, Lexus vice president of marketing, as reported in Automotive News. “With gas prices going up, we’re optimistic with how the car is being received. I don’t like what’s going on in Middle East, but it’s helping with this car.”
The CT 200h is Lexus’ fifth hybrid model, moving alongside the Lexus HS 250h—the luxury brand’s more recent (and milder) attempt to offer the Prius in a less nerdy shape. The somewhat plain Lexus HS 250h, a hybrid-specific model, is aimed at luxury buyers wanting a trunk instead of a hatchback. It uses the Camry Hybrid’s 2.4-liter engine and drivetrain to yield combined mileage of 35 mpg.
On the other hand, the CT 200h is five thousand bucks cheaper and a thousand miles cooler—aimed squarely at more youthful buyers. It uses the Prius’s 1.8-liter engine and hybrid system to boost combine mileage to 42 mpg. The CT 200h sits lower to the ground, has great lines, sharp edges, a more ergonomic cockpit, and wheels pushed to the corners. The model that HybridCars.com recently drove had 17-inch low-profile 215/45 tires mounted on the kind of wheels you’d expect to find on a Lexus IS. The Lexus CT 200h replaces the Prius torsion bar rear-end with a fully independent double wishbone. In our short ride in the CT 200h, we wouldn’t call it a speed demon—but its sportier feel and able road manners are a notch or two above the Prius.
The CT hybrid is five inches shorter than the Prius with a wheelbase four inches shorter. At the same time, the Lexus CT 200h maintains a practical hatchback design with an interior feel nearly as big as the Prius. Although it has a few pounds on the best-selling hybrid, the CT 200h moves into position as the second most fuel-efficient (non-plug) car on the market—essentially tied with the Honda Civic Hybrid and surpassed only by the 50-mpg Prius. The Lexus CT 200h, offered just below $30,000 or about the price of a fully loaded Prius, is the lowest price Lexus.