Lexus CT 200h Removes Hybrid Dork Factor

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.”

“Unlike any hybrid you have ever met.” Maybe you’ve seen the television commercial—airing on NCAA basketball events and Comedy Central—where the CT 200h drives in an Escher-esque urban environment, with techno music providing the backbeat.

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.

Lexus CT 200h

Lexus CT 200h (Photo: HybridCars.com, 2011. All rights reserved.)

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.


  • Max Reid

    This should sell well, since in the other 3 sedan’s, the trunk space is lost to battery. Also with a hatch, this model has the resemblance of Prius and also with 42 MPG (highest among luxury), it may cross the 1,000 unit sales mark. Lets see. Also around this timeline, we are expecting Sonata and Civic Hybrids with Lithium battery.

    In another news there is Suzuki selling a Fuel Cell Scooter
    http://newenergyandfuel.com/http:/newenergyandfuel/com/2011/03/17/the-first-viable-fuel-cell-motor-scooter/

    It has thermal efficiency of 50% which is the highest among vehicles.
    I wish automakers follow this.

  • KMCoates

    In case there is any doubt about Lexus’ intent to change the image of the hybrid, check out this tricked out CT from the Chicago Auto Show in February!
    http://www.kbb.com/car-news/all-the-latest/lexus-five-axis-project-ct-_-2011-chicago-auto-show

  • Anonymous

    Good going on the hybrid! Toyota needs to work on it’s styling. Let’s face it, this does not exude style.

  • Anonymous

    I think CT200h went on sale on March-1, so this is a full month of sale. Should be interesting to see how much it sold.

    Perhaps it should equalize HS250h in sales, since this vehicle may have lot more cargo space.

  • LosFelizRider

    I just saw one in the parking lot of an apartment complex in La Jolla California. Exterior color was the “Pearl”, that super-light blue-white.

    It looked fabulous. Very clean and sporty, very Euro. The pics I’ve been seeing online on various blogs and magazine sites don’t do the car justice; it looks much better in-the-flesh.

    I own a 2007 RX400h and love it. But it’s not sporty – too high and heavy. Great MPG, emissions, power, and luxury though.

    The CT should go over well. Say what you will, but this is a necessary evolution of hybrid cars if they’re ever to become serious alternatives to the mass market buyer/driver.

  • aidenptz@yahoo.com

    This is Euro-sporty meets Fast&Furious import tuner. Audi hatchback meets Nissan Z. VERY COOL.
    Good job, Toyota.

  • Aiden

    This is Euro-sporty meets Fast&Furious import tuner. Audi hatchback meets Nissan Z. VERY COOL.
    Good job, Toyota.

  • Aiden

    While the outgoing 2004-09 Prius did look like a lab experiment, who cares? It got people’s attention–and the sales show it. A million Toyota hybrids sold, nearly all of them Priuses, by the end of the 2nd-generation’s product run.

    At any rate, the current Prius looks positively sporty, with its chiseled back end. I don’t know of any other hatchback that looks this cool.

  • Aiden

    While the outgoing 2004-09 Prius did look like a lab experiment, who cares? It got people’s attention–and the sales show it. A million Toyota hybrids sold, nearly all of them Priuses, by the end of the 2nd-generation’s product run.

    At any rate, the current Prius looks positively sporty, with its chiseled back end. I don’t know of any other hatchback that looks this cool.

  • Greg

    I like this car, it is now on my short list of potential cars to replace my Acura MDX. Shame on you Acura for not having any hybrids or clean diesels.

  • Anonymous

    In the U.K., Autocar reported 0-60 mph in 11.1 sec., “slower than a Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion [TDI]“.

  • jammy1

    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..Top Business Hosting