What it is: The CT200h might be the cheapest car that Lexus offers, but it also might be one of the coolest. Using the Toyota Prius drivetrain as a base, Lexus make a four-door hatchback that has a seriously sporty edge to go along with a great hybrid gas mileage rating. Visually, hatchbacks are rather divisive in the eyes of most, but I happen to love them, and I think that the CT hits it out of the park. The available F SPORT package ($3,350) adds additional exterior styling (mostly with a sportier grille/front-end) that take the looks up another notch.
The improvements over the Prius-based heart aren't exclusive to styling as I found the car to be very sporty in how it handles. Lexus tuned the handling characteristics completely and it offers a car that is a blast to push through curvy roads. Hybrid cars have electric motors that help propel the car and increased fuel efficiency, but they can also be used to help the car accelerate faster than it would normally. While the CT200h isn't a traditional speedster like a Corvette or Porsche 911 by any means, but it will still surprise most people that won't expect some rather brisk acceleration.
MPG: 43 city / 40 highway
Price: $32,020 base price. Roughly $40,000 fully loaded
Upsides: Sportiness and great gas mileage in a luxury car for under $40k.
Downsides: Existing Lexus owners may be put-off with less luxury in the Lexus entry-level model
Wrap-up: While I hate writing the words “entry-level model”, Lexus did have to cut a few corners with the CT200h to keep the price down. I wasn't a huge fan of some of the materials they used on the dashboard, and leather seat surfaces requires the purchase of a deluxe package. The base seating material is called NuLuxe, which is a synthetic leather-like surface which I quite like, but I think is clearly not leather. I think some buyers may be turned off against spending nearly $40,000 and not getting leather seats. But, those buyers are probably going to be missing the bigger picture on what the CT200h is trying to accomplish. It's a very competent sports touring hatch that offers 40+ MPG, and that's something that hasn't been available in America before. It is fun enough to be a weekend car, but is set up for daily duty with lots of seating/storage and great fuel economy. The CT200h is a can't miss if you want a hatchback and have a little extra to spend on luxury.