Quick, name Toyota's hybrid. Now do the same for Lexus. You no doubt said Prius in your first response, but may be scratching your head for the other. The luxury brand of Toyota actually offers five gas-electric vehicles, but unlike its mainstream corporate sibling with its eponymous hybrid the Toyota Prius, Lexus isn't as well-known for such vehicles.
That's a shame, because it produces a variety of them, from the ES midsize sedan to the RX SUV and even a hybrid variant of the flagship LS sedan. All offer fuel-efficient powertrains that pair a gasoline engine and battery-powered electric motor, along with the luxurious amenities and quality craftsmanship for which Lexus is known. For this Quick Take we're focusing on the only dedicated hybrid in the lineup, the Lexus CT200h, a 5-passenger compact hatchback.
Least Expensive Lexus
In addition to being the baby of Lexus' lineup of hybrids, the CT is the least-expensive new Lexus you can buy. The 2014 Lexus CT200h starts just shy of $33,000, or roughly $4,000 less than the Lexus IS entry-level sedan. Of course, that price is more than $7,500 beyond a base Prius, and about $13,000 over a subcompact Prius C. So if you're looking for an inexpensive hybrid, it's wiser to start with the Toyota family.
But while the Lexus CT Hybrid uses the same powertrain as the Prius, the car's accoutrements and driving experience differ. Step inside the 2014 Lexus CT and you'll find it puts just as much emphasis on being a high-class experience as it does striving for high-mileage efficiency. Our $39,095 test car was loaded with both the Leather Package and a navigation bundle that included Lexus' mouse-like controller and 10-speaker premium audio system. It proved to be a comfortable and rewarding place, and felt every bit in step with Lexus' larger and pricier cars.
Efficiency over Flash
On the road, Lexus' baby hybrid also feels like its own car. As with the Prius, this is not a fast car -- no matter how sporty it may look. With just 134 total horsepower, getting to 60 mph takes nearly 10 seconds. That admittedly sounds leisurely compared with most other modern cars, but thankfully it doesn't feel like a lifetime. For short freeway onramps, I rotated the CT's Drive Mode Select knob to Sport for better throttle response, and never feared being devoured by a fast-approaching semi-truck. In cornering the Lexus felt notably spryer than the Prius, not a surprise given its sport-tuned suspension.
On the efficiency front, the CT has a 42 mpg combined fuel economy rating. That's highly enviable, but notably less than the Prius' eye-popping 50 mpg combined rating. Though the Lexus CT200h is smaller than the Prius, it's a little heavier and not as aerodynamic. This results in the lower fuel economy as well as added wind noise since the CT isn't as slippery as the Prius. And speaking of wind-type noise, several times I thought a rear window was open, but in reality the sound was created intermittently by a vent near the rear-right passenger seat used to cool the internal battery pack, similar to one in the Prius.
Despite these shortcomings and the CT's smaller cargo space vs. the Prius, this hybrid would still be welcome in my garage. The fact that it offers entry to the Lexus brand at the lowest price, attains 40-plus mpg without much thought, is for the most part a comfortable driver and has the inherent versatility of a hatchback add up to a winning combination.
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