Even as it successfully launched its Scion brand to attract the youth market, Toyota did little to attract a younger audience for its Lexus brand. The new CT200h hybrid hatch is an attempt to change that. Lexus hopes that its combination of performance and its green image will capture the attention of affluent buyers in their 30s and 40s.
Lexus is targeting this car at young, hip people who want the Toyota Prius fuel economy with Lexus style. As a 22-year-old, I'm definitely young, and I like to think I qualify as hip, which may explain why I was so taken with the CT200h. For one, I really like the slick hatchback styling, especially in white. The Lexus badge belies the (relatively) low price: A 60-something woman I know who drives a Subaru Forester guessed that the CT cost $60K but the starting MSRP is half that.
This is Lexus's effort to bring Toyota Prius owners into the Lexus fold in a small, sporty hatchback rather than the Lexus RX crossover or one of the larger Lexus hybrid sedans. The results are mixed. From a styling standpoint, I find the exterior to be kind of a generic hatchback; I walked around the car and could find few exterior styling features that would cue me that this vehicle is from a luxury automaker. I find the side rear door sheetmetal, which sweeps up behind the door glass in an odd way, to be particularly unattractive. The CT200h is not ugly, but I struggle to, at first glance, find any more street presence in it than in a Mazda3.
As my colleagues have stated, the CT200h is an interesting attempt to give the Lexus brand some character. Cars like the IS-F and LFA were supposed to move the needle in terms of performance, but I don't think they've done much to change the rather soft image of the Lexus brand. Let's face it, anyone considering a Lexus is more likely to be interested in fuel economy and residual values than 0-60 times or lateral grip. So Lexus is looking for a way to add a bit of curb appeal to a high-mpg package that revolves around a hybrid powertrain.
2011 Lexus CT200h Premium