If you’d told me 10 years ago that Lexus would have a hatchback in their range of cars I would have told you where to go, especially since the made-for-America brand features a model range full of luxurious sedans and SUVs.
Yet, today, the Lexus hatchback is a thing.
The CT 200h is the most affordable Lexus you can buy, sitting just above $30,000 in Canada.
There’s a reason why it’s cheap inexpensive: the CT 200h is a Prius wearing a knock-off Armani suit.
What is the Lexus CT 200h?
So, a car costing over $30,000 is still not a bargain purchase in the grand scheme of things. But, when it comes to the luxury segment, this is almost as low as you can go in Canada. With that comes a fair number of trade-offs.
First and foremost, the CT 200h uses exactly the same 1.8L 4-cylinder engine and hybrid powertrain as the Toyota Prius, producing -- wait for it -- 134 hp. That’s it. That’s all.
It also has the same continuously variable transmission, ensuring the 4-pot will scream a torturous tune as you mash the pedal to get around trucks on two-lane highways.
Prices start at $30,950 for the base model and reach to $39,350 for the CT 200h Technology Package.
It’s not all bad though.
Driving the 2014 Lexus CT 200h
Cheap and cheerful: is a great way to describe a car with humble origins possessing the ability to put a smile on your face. Datsun 510, Toyota Corolla AE86, and fourth-gen Honda Civics all fit in this category (American cars built around the same period in automotive history were certainly cheap, but devoid of any amount of cheer). In a way, the Lexus hatch fits into this category.
Before I even stepped inside the Lexus, I had preconceived notions of hatred flowing through my gas-filled veins.
“What the hell is this?” I said openly.
The claimed 0-100 km/hr time is near 10 seconds with a top speed limited by drag. Sure, other hatchbacks might be the same when it comes to top speed, but none of them sport Lexus badges.
Yet, as I drove the CT 200h over the course of my weeklong test, it started to make sense, surprisingly.
Driving dynamics, especially for a hybrid electric vehicle, are spot on. You can push the little Lexus through sweeping corners and it will put a smile (albeit, a small one) on your face as you exit. There is some athleticism built into the car, and you could even call it sporty (gasp!), in the same way the Honda CR-Z can be a decent amount of fun in a pinch.
Even though the powertrain is quite dull, at least it’s fairly refined. Toyota really has perfected the hybrid system since introducing it to the world in 1997; smooth and without the stop/start roughness of prior generation’s systems.
Steering is quite precise though its lack of weighting results in a feeling of disconnection. That’s not a bad thing though, as most of these cars will do duty on city streets and in parking lots at low speeds, places where heavy steering can take a toll on the driver.
If there’s one thing about the CT 200h that’s a complete letdown (other than it’s lack of power), it would be the brakes. They don’t feel much different than the Prius with that same “squeezing a wet sponge” feel as many hybrids with regenerative braking
Also, don’t expect Prius-level fuel economy. While the CT may share its mechanicals with the lesser Toyota, less-than-slick aerodynamics and additional weight solidly put fuel consumption in the 5.0-6.0L/100km range.
Inside and Out of the 2014 Lexus CT 200h
Much like the Mercedes-Benz CLA 250, the Lexus CT 200h is another case of “don’t judge a book by its cover” in reverse.
The exterior design isn’t attention grabbing, nor does it break the Lexus mold. Instead, it follows a very disciplined design language that’s made its way throughout the entire Lexus lineup.
The signature spindle grille is featured prominently between headlights similar in shape to other products from Toyota’s luxury brand. It also does a phenomenal job of hiding its true Prius lineage, making the Lexus version attractive to those who’d never consider a Prius, even if it were the last car available on earth.
Those same headlights give the CT 200h the appearance of a Mitsubishi Lancer in profile, showing some aggression in a compact form, while the rest of the CT’s silhouette is decidedly traditional when it comes to hatchbacks. The upgraded 17” wheels (part of the Premium Package) fill its wheel wells nicely and are very much in proportion while offering up a bit more flare than your typical hybrid econobox.
Around back, the CT 200h is rather simple, with fairly horizontal taillights and a handsome spoiler hanging over the rear glass.
The CT’s interior is another story entirely.
One expects a certain level of luxury when purchasing a Lexus, but it’s all rather…dull. The controls are a bit wonky in the CT 200h, finishes are flat, and it’s a bit on the noisy side.
Negatives aside, the seats are quite comfortable and supportive and there’s loads of headroom for those with taller frames. Ergonomics are as good or better than anything else in the price range, though the Lexus Display Audio isn’t very pretty and some people will balk at the screen’s placement atop the dash.
Another thing: cargo capability is severely hampered by the CT 200h’s battery placement. The volume behind the rear seats is pretty cramped in comparison to its non-hybrid competition.
For those looking to make grocery runs as you dart about the city, the Lexus CT 200h is a fairly solid choice as a hybrid hatchback. However, if you are looking for a hybrid there are better options and equally so for hatchbacks at the same price.
Comparing the 2014 Lexus CT200h
While the CT 200h wears a luxury badge, it’s more likely to be cross-shopped with the Ford Focus Titanium, Honda CR-Z, Mazda3 GT, Subaru Impreza 5-door Limited Package, and Volkswagen Jetta Turbo Hybrid.