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.
The performance angle simply doesn't add up. The CT200h's European styling and hybrid powertrain converge with Lexus luxury to make for a great vehicle, but it's not a sporty car. With the same powertrain as the Toyota Prius, the CT200h's total output peaks at only 134 horsepower. That's not exactly what I would call sporty.
On the other hand, the CT200h is undeniably efficient, with EPA-rated combined fuel economy of 42 mpg. I had no trouble meeting that figure on my 30-mile round trip in city driving.
To me, the CT200h makes perfect sense for someone seeking an entry-level luxury vehicle with excellent fuel economy. Someone seeking an entry-level luxury vehicle with excellent fuel economy and sporty performance should, I think, look elsewhere.
Steve Diehlman, Assistant Web Producer
Mechanically, the CT200h isn't all that different from the Lexus HS250h, and yet I find the smaller hatchback a much more compelling car than the milquetoast HS. The similarity stems from Toyota's hybrid system, which imbues cars with exceptional fuel economy and enough detachment and lack of spirit to garner the "appliance" label. In the CT200h, Lexus uses the smaller 1.8-liter four-cylinder to boost fuel economy well above the HS's 35/34-mpg rating. While I didn't match the EPA's 43/40-mpg rating -- I don't have the patience to drive in a manner wherein I could achieve those numbers -- I was impressed with the 38-mpg average I achieved in 650 miles of mostly highway driving.
Lexus would like you to think of the CT200h as a sporty, dynamic little fun hatch, but that's quite a stretch. It isn't fast and it isn't very engaging, yet I'm drawn to the CT200h for the way it combines Lexus's signature comfortable luxury with a newfound sense of style. The lighted sill plates, cool blue illumination, and stitched leather coverings on the center console and instrument cluster are surprises from this traditionally conservative brand. The ivory leather seats are masterfully sculpted and well padded. The ride moves Lexus into never-before-seen levels of firmness (save for the IS-F, or the LFA) but still prioritizes ride comfort. It is by no means sporty, but the CT200h is stylish, comfortable, and efficient, and as a fresh, unique car for the brand, it's an absolute winner.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor