The 2012 Lexus CT 200h is 3,206 Pounds of Hybrid Sexiness

When it comes to visual appeal, the thought of a wedge-shaped hybrid doesn’t immediately come to mind.  But when my Nebula Gray 2012 Lexus CT 200h F Sport arrived for evaluation, I needed an off road jack to retract my jaw to its full upright position.

The 2012 Lexus CT 200h’s muscular hatchback profile is sexy, no question.  The $2,330 F Sport package further adds sporty accoutrement such as dark gray 17-inch alloys, a huge rear spoiler, and mesh upper and lower front grille inserts.  It’s still a hatchback, sure, but it’s sexy and it knows it.

The F Sport details continue inside where perfectly-sculpted seats position the driver just aft of aluminum pedals, a meaty leather-trimmed steering wheel, and metal-tone instrument panel trim.  Replete with black seats, carpeting and headliner, my tester gave off a sporty ambiance that was simple and purposeful, not cheap and stark.

Further accenting the CT’s interior were a $2,445 HDD Navigation System package with Lexus Enform app suite and $1,100 10-speaker audio upgrade with six-disc CD changer.  Together, they provided an intuitive infotainment system which can be controlled either by voice or console-mounted joystick.

The technology continues under the hood where the 2012 Lexus CT 200h uses the same parallel hybrid system as the 2012 Toyota Prius.  With 134 total system horsepower and a CVT transmission, it’s not exactly fast.  With that said,  isn’t it more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow, so long as it has a capable chassis?

You bet, and although the CT 200h’s underpinnings are similar to the Prius in concept, in execution, the two are very different.  Whereas the Prius uses a torsion beam rear suspension, the CT has a pair of independently-mounted wishbones.  Plus, the F Sport model offers firmed-up tuning for shocks and springs.

Combined with a perfectly-weighted electric-assist power steering system, the CT 200h F Sport is at home carving up the canyons.  The entire setup inspires confidence with its sharp reflexes and solid on-center feel.

Where the Lexus CT 200h excels in performance, it falls to the Prius in passenger and cargo room.  Though there is enough room for a pair of adults both fore and aft, the CT’s 86.1 cubic feet of passenger volume and 14.3 cubic feet of cargo room bode poorly in comparison to the Prius’ 93.7/21.6 cubic feet, respectively.  That all-black interior does lend to a feeling of claustrophobia, as well.

Putting the ball back in the CT’s court, the hybrid hatchback delivered on its promise of 42 MPG combined.  Despite keeping the drive-select knob mostly in “Sport” mode, I saw an average of 41.3 MPG through 500 miles of mixed driving.

This was a monumental step forward for legitimizing the CT’s wares, as the 2012 Toyota Prius I tested earlier this year averaged a marginally-better 43.5 MPG over the same distance.

Also, the CT was fueled from just south of a 1/8-tank with 6.7 gallons of regular unleaded for $22.10 (at $3.27/gal).  Try accomplishing those numbers in your IS 250.

On that note, the 2012 Lexus CT 200h feels decidedly more upscale and performance-oriented than its entry-level hybrid marketing position might suggest.

Once you load a Prius “Five” hatchback ($29,805) up with the advanced technology package ($4,320), PLUS performance package ($2,999), cargo mat ($225) and cargo net ($49), you’re left with a $38,193 MSRP- not far off my tested CT 200h’s $39,940.

For the extra $1,800 or so, I’d gladly take the 2012 Lexus CT 200h’s advantages in styling, handling, and overall ownership experience.

On the recommendation scale of:

-Buy it

-Lease it

-Rent it or

-Forget it

I give the 2012 Lexus CT 200h a BUY IT!

Though it may seem to some like a tarted-up Prius, the 2012 Lexus CT 200h is a standout choice in the luxury hybrid market, and is certainly worth a drive, especially when outfitted with the F Sport package.

Daniel Buxbaum has had a life-long passion for all things automotive. His background as a Porsche, Audi and BMW service advisor brings a more technical approach to his writing. Dan’s passion for automotive journalism secured him a position as regional manager and contributing writer for Parts & People, a multi-region automotive trade publication. Dan is also an active member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press (RMAP) and Motor Press Guild (MPG).