A Hybrid With Moar

2014 Lexus CT 200h F Sport
2014 Lexus CT 200h F Sport. All Photos by Randy Stern

"The Lexus CT 200h is the proverbial Catch-22 for the enthusiast with a sustainable lifestyle. However, I would have no qualms driving a hybrid with true driving dynamics. This CT was worth every mile of petrol sipped through its kitten-like veins."

That was October 4, 2011, as stated here on V&R. It was the first time I sampled the then-new Lexus CT 200h. Based off of Toyota's MC platform – the one which the Corolla rides on – the "Creative Touring" hatchback offers a two-fer for the Lexus brand. One, it is the entry point for all Lexus consumers on the basis of price and size. Also, it is a hybrid with, yes, true driving dynamics marked for those who want sustainability and a sporty urban go-getter at a premium price.

Yet, they seem so opposite of each other – an oxymoron, if you will. That engine is straight out of the Prius, as is the electric motor, continuously variable transmission, the battery pack and the energy regeneration system. Still, it is a head scratcher. How could anyone plunk the hybrid drive setup from a Prius under a polarizing skin and a suspension set-up developed for a sports compact?

Three years ago, it proved itself quite well. This time, there is a twist.

Lexus has been promoting its F Sport trim to most of its lineup. That way, Lexus could say that it would offer something Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Cadillac have in elevating specific models with sportier looks and driving dynamics behavior. So far, I have sampled the F Sport in the RX 350 crossover and the IS 350 sports sedan to varying degrees of conclusion. The F Sport line is also available in the LS 460 flagship sedan and the GS 350 mid-sized premium sedan.

Based on my previous summation of the CT 200h, maybe it was a given that Lexus would create an F Sport trim for the hybrid compact. Well…Lexus did exactly that.

2014 Lexus CT 200h F Sport

For an additional $2,080, Lexus would offer you the option of adding two packages to equal a CT F Sport. From what is gleaned from the sticker, one package provides upgrades for the rearview mirror, wiper system and seating. The other package adds seventeen-inch alloys on Michelin tires, the F Sport signature mesh grille, rear spoiler, fog lamps, further interior upgrades, special badges, a Sport Tuned Suspension – now there is the big reason to get this package – and a black roof.

Perhaps spending the extra $2,080 is worth getting your CT 200h to look badass. All I wanted to know was it worth that kind of money to get a bit more sport out of the standard CT.

If I looked back at the original review of the CT, the answer would be "yes – but it is not a quantum leap of sportiness here." In other words, there is not huge leap in performance – even if you flip the drive mode knob to "Sport." The gas engine runs freer in this mode, but you still have the electric motor in play – just like in the regular CT. The continuously variable transmission is fine, as it shifts when needed. Battery regeneration is good – probably the best amongst gas-electric hybrids. That does lend to some touchy brake action, however.

The real difference is in the suspension. It is stiffer than in the normal CT, which translates into a firmer ride in the F Sport. This is when it is in "Normal" mode. The steering weight is good in Normal, slightly tighter in Sport.

Still, I got good fuel economy. The average consumption came to 41.0MPG, though there were spot checks that got the CT F Sport to 48.7MPG on the Interstate.

2014 Lexus CT 200h F Sport

This is a good thing, because there is some interest in the CT. In June of 2014, Lexus sold 1,521 CTs in the USA. That is about the right clip every year about this time, though overall half-calendar year sales are up by 1,000 units from 2013. At a local grocery store, I had someone come up to me and ask me about the tester. He was genuinely interested in getting one. I asked why and he responded simply that he really wanted one because of the combination of design, size, sportiness and efficiency.

While some would question the need for a $32,000-plus hybrid premium compact hatchback in the marketplace, there is merit in what Lexus is doing by providing this offering in their showrooms. You cannot simply make a MINI Cooper or Audi A3 competitor by doing exactly the same thing. Nor could you stretch the idea by competing against the Mercedes-Benz CLA or the B-Class electric MPV. This is why the Lexus CT is justified – it is different by design and efficiency. Add the F Sport package to the mix and you just made the CT 200h desirable.

What is the point of this car, then? It is about having a hybrid with true driving dynamics. Nothing more needs to be said.

DISCLAIMER: Vehicle Provided by Toyota Motor Sales USA

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