The CT200h is not only the least expensive Lexus, it's also the most fuel efficient. It wraps Toyota Prius mechanicals in a lower, sportier four-door hatchback body. Unfortunately, the styling's sporty promise is mostly unfulfilled. The CT200h does offer more niceties than a Prius, but it's neither as roomy nor as economical. It's also more expensive, but the extra money buys a premium-level interior. The cabin is well finished and nicely padded, and the optional nav system brings with it a mouselike controller to access items on the pop-up screen. The CT200h uses the same powertrain as the Prius, a 1.8-liter four with battery assist and a continuously variable transmission. There's a choice of driving modes: EV (which you're kicked out of before you even leave the parking lot), Eco (which totally kills throttle response), Normal, and Sport (which calls up higher steering efforts and quicker throttle mapping). Even in Sport mode, the CT200h is slow: Lexus puts the 0-to-60-mph time at a shade under ten seconds, and the CVT has the tiny four-cylinder droning at the top of its rev band when you ask for quick acceleration. In mellower driving, the electric motor's torque helps to mask the weak engine. The chassis is a happier affair, with far better steering than the lifeless Prius's and an absence of body roll -- the latter at a cost of considerable impact harshness. The CT200h may appeal to a Prius shopper willing to trade some practicality and fuel economy for a little Lexus luxury. Buyers looking for a more sporty driving experience might check out the Audi A3 TDI.
Trim levels: CT200h, Premium
Body style: Wagon, 5-passenger
Engine: 1.8L I-4/electric hybrid, 134 hp, 105 lb-ft
Transmission: Continuously variable
Passenger volume: 86.1 cu ft
Cargo space: (rear seats up) 14.3 cu ft
The biggest news for 2012 is the optional F Sport package, which adds a bit of style -- a unique grille, a rear spoiler, special interior trim -- and a bit of substance, in the form of seventeen-inch wheels and revised suspension tuning. In response to complaints that silent-running hybrids in EV mode might pose a danger to pedestrians, the CT200h adds an external sound system that broadcasts an alert noise at low speeds.
Front, knee, side, and side curtain air bags; ABS; and stability and traction control are standard. A vehicle-proximity-notification system for pedestrians; precollision warning, included with active cruise control; and a backup camera are optional. The Safety Connect telematics system includes collision response and a one-year subscription.
EPA Fuel Economy
All: 43 mpg city/40 mpg highway
- Excellent gas mileage
Nicely trimmed interior
Inexpensive for a Lexus
You Won't Like
- Leisurely acceleration
A small hybrid hatchback that tries to be both sporty and economical.
If You Like This Vehicle
- Audi A3 TDI
Volkswagen Golf TDI