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.
A couple of especially clever interior features: Instead of a touch screen, the Lexus Enform system, which debuted on the current-generation RX crossover, uses a trackball-like controller for the navigation and stereo, which "feels" like it snaps to the on-screen buttons. It's very convenient and easy to use. There's also a convenient adjustable mount that can hold phones or iPods upright near the auxiliary port -- it's very simple and highly useful.
The CT200h is based on the same platform as the European Toyota Avensis, which also underpins the Scion tC in our market, but its hybrid powertrain is essentially the same as that in the Toyota Prius. The CT200h's 9.8-second 0-to-60-mph time (per Toyota's testing) isn't exciting, but the ride-and-handling mix leans more toward premium-hatch than eco-warrior. The only negative is somewhat heavy, underassisted steering. Of the three drivetrain modes -- Eco, Normal, and Sport -- only the first seems to have an effect, evoking tortoise-like throttle response. Would I buy a Lexus CT200h? Probably not, but it's far more interesting than the Prius.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor