Looking for a luxury branded vehicle that can deliver Prius grade levels of fuel economy without telling the world that you’re driving a Prius? Lexus thinks that it has the solution with the 2016 Lexus CT 200h, but can this sporty looking eco warrior successfully deliver stellar fuel economy while also living up to the lofty expectations that comes with donning the iconic Lexus badge?
The exterior styling of the CT certainly does a stellar job of hiding its Prius roots. Wheras the Toyota’s styling can be best described as being boring and outright amorphous, Lexus designers went for a sportier theme with the CT and incorporated muscular wheel arches, a bold front grille, and bright LED accented headlights into the design. The side profile also retains a sporty flair though it is also where the CT’s origins as a Prius are the most profound.
The rear fascia also retains a classy theme but thankfully does not go overboard in its attempts to balance out the styling. F-Sport grade models go a step further and add a mesh treatment to the front spindle grille as well as slightly bigger performance wheels. This emphasis on bold performance should please buyers that don’t want to sacrifice street presence for the sake of maximum MPG’s, and it also allows the CT to stand out against the Nissan Leaf as well as the BMW i3.
The interior of the CT does a good job following typical Lexus practice when it comes to high quality materials and workmanship with the interior of my Fire Agate Pearl tester boasting plenty of faux leather and soft plastic trim elements (real leather is optional). However, unlike many Lexus products, the CT’s interior is a bit tight with the rear seats in particular being a tad cramped especially in regards to leg room. Despite the relatively cozy accommodations, the front seats of my tester were comfortable, and offered commendable levels of side bolstering which was a plus during spirited driving.
The gauges were also bright and futuristic looking with the digital Eco gauge having the ability to switch to a more sport oriented tachometer when Sport mode is selected via the drive selector. Many buttons and switches were easy to reach and use, but the lone exception was the mouse-esque control for the Lexus Remote Control Touch system. Mounted on the center console, the controller operates a cursor that is used to navigate to various functions on the 7.0 inch infotainment system.
While this seems like a great idea in theory, the system is very clunky in practice with the mouse being too sensitive to directional input. The end result is chronic overshooting with the mouse requiring precise movements to ensure that you reach the proper icon which can be distracting when driving. Hopefully Lexus will eventually shelve this annoying feature, and equip this car with a more conventional control unit to help improve ease of use. While they are at it, they can also move the screen a bit closer for easier viewing.
Performance for the CT comes from the 1.8 liter Atkinson cycle four cylinder engine that powered the last generation Prius. This blast from the past is good for 98 horsepower and is paired with a 30 horsepower electric motor. While this engine did miss out on the updates that are found under the hood of the current Prius, it is still a very frugal piece of technology with Lexus claiming that it is capable of achieving 43 mpg in the city and a respectable 40 mpg on the highway.
However there is a price to pay for its fuel sipping abilities, and that is found in its leisurely performance numbers. This is apparent out on the road where the CT does not like to be rushed, with the engine in my tester loudly voicing its displeasure during hard acceleration. Instead, the CT prefers to take its time getting up to speed, and will reward the driver with smooth and quiet acceleration for complying. The CT allows drivers to choose from three distinct modes (Eco, Normal, and Sport) with Sport sharpening up the otherwise numb electric steering, tweaking the shift points for the CVT, and maximizing available battery and engine power.
Handling in my tester was on the sporty side, and while it will not quite match the handling offered by spicier hatchbacks, it was certainly a nice change of pace from the more mundane handling characteristics that define its eco-minded rivals. There is some understeer and front end push when the CT reaches its handling limits, but out in urban environments the CT did a good job going where it was pointed at with minimal fuss.
Pricing for the 2016 Lexus CT 200h starts at $31,250 with my lightly optioned tester ringing in at $39,435 thanks to select packages and included the $950 destination fee. This pricing made it higher than the 2016 Ford C-Max Hybrid, and is within striking distance of a comparably equipped Volkswagen e-Golf.
Those models cannot match the high level of standard equipment that the CT 200h brings to green buyers, and we look forward to seeing what else is in store for the next generation CT when it eventually receives the suite of engine updates that are found under the hood of the current generation Prius.