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2014 Toyota Prius vs. 2014 Lexus CT 200h: What's the Difference?

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2014 Toyota Prius

author photo by Doug DeMuro May 2014

If you take away their Lexus and Toyota badges, the 2014 Toyota Prius and the 2014 Lexus CT 200h are very similar in a lot of ways. Both models use standard hybrid powertrains. Both are 4-door hatchbacks with front-wheel drive and continuously variable automatic transmissions (CVT). And both offer a wide selection of cutting-edge tech features, whether standard or optional. So what's the difference between the Prius and the CT 200h? We examine some of the more important distinctions between the two cars.

Exterior

Exterior styling is among the most obvious differences between the Prius and the CT 200h. Indeed, the cars boast very different designs, so it's unlikely that any shopper would have trouble telling the two apart.

The Prius, of course, is known for its distinctive aerodynamic shape, which includes one long sweeping line that essentially spans the entire roof of the car. That's not true of the Lexus: While the CT looks like it's about the same size as the Prius, the CT's styling uses a more traditional hatchback profile. In fact, we think the CT looks more like cars such as the Mazda3 and the Ford Focus than the Prius.

Interior

Just like on the outside, the Prius and the CT 200h are wildly separate on the inside. In the driver's seat, the difference is immediately obvious: The CT uses a more segmented, traditional dashboard and center stack, while the Prius' cabin looks far more futuristic. This difference continues to items such as the gauge cluster, which the CT carries in the traditional spot -- behind the steering wheel -- while the Prius includes it above the dashboard.

Interestingly, the Prius is a little larger inside. Not only will rear-seat passengers have more room in the Toyota, the Prius also boasts significantly more cargo space -- 21.6 cu ft. to the Lexus' 14.3. That's because the Lexus has more of a sporty focus than the Prius, which is aimed more squarely at families than the CT 200h.

Mechanicals

Although the Prius and CT 200h are different in exterior and interior appearance, start comparing mechanicals and you'll find that the cars are more similar than you'd first think.

For one thing, the Prius and CT 200h share a platform, so they're largely the same car under the skin. This becomes especially clear when you consider that both use the same engine -- a 1.8-liter hybrid 4-cylinder that makes 134 horsepower -- and the same CVT automatic transmission. Both the Prius and CT 200h are also only offered with front-wheel drive.

Despite the similarities, there's one big difference between the CT 200h and the Prius: fuel economy. While the Prius boasts an impressive 51 miles per gallon in the city and 48 mpg on the highway, the CT returns only 43 mpg city/40 mpg hwy. The differences are likely due to the CT's slightly higher curb weight, its less aerodynamic styling, and a slightly sportier tune for improved acceleration.

Features

The CT 200h starts around $33,000, compared to the Prius' $25,000 base price -- and as a result, you'd expect the Lexus to offer a longer list of standard equipment. Not surprisingly, it does. In fact, the CT comes standard with luxury-car-like items such as automatic headlights, a sunroof, keyless ignition with push-button start, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth, leatherette upholstery and a power driver's seat.

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The Prius' list of standard features is a lot more like what you'd expect from a mainstream car: It offers everything you'd need but few additional luxuries on top. Admittedly, we find ourselves impressed with the Prius' standard automatic climate control, 6.1-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, and keyless ignition and entry.

But don't count out the Prius just because it doesn't come as well-equipped as the CT. While base-level Prius models don't offer too many frills, shoppers who want a luxurious Prius can get one by moving up to the top-level Prius Five trim and ordering a few options. Do that and you could end up with navigation, leather, a backup camera, adaptive cruise control and a pre-collision warning system -- all for a little more than the CT's base price. In fact, there are few features available on the CT that you can't get in a Prius -- except the CT's upscale Lexus badge.

Technology

As you might expect, the CT and the Prius offer many of the same gadgets -- with one major exception. While the Prius uses a center-mounted touchscreen for its infotainment functions, the Lexus combines a center-mounted screen and a center-console joystick dubbed the Remote Touch controller. This functions a lot like a computer mouse, and while some drivers prefer it to the Prius' system, others would prefer a touchscreen. You'll have to try out both to decide which one you'd rather have.

Aside from infotainment operation, however, the CT and the Prius are fairly similar when it comes to tech equipment. For instance, both offer several high-end safety features, including adaptive cruise control and a backup camera. Interestingly, the Prius offers an exclusive lane-departure warning system not available in the CT, but the CT has a few unique tech features in its own right, including rain-sensing wipers and an improved sound system.

Safety

If you're interested in safety technology, you'll find that the CT and the Prius offer a lot of the same equipment. The features are available for less money in the Prius -- a fact that's generally true when you're comparing mainstream automakers such as Toyota to upscale brands such as Lexus.

For instance, both the Prius and the CT offer an available backup camera. They also feature optional adaptive cruise control, available LED lighting and an optional pre-collision system that can detect an impending crash. Interestingly, lane-departure warning is available in the Prius but not in the CT -- though the Lexus offers automatic wipers, which you can't get in a Prius.

Also important to safety-minded shoppers are crash-test ratings. While the CT has not been tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Prius earned a 4-star overall rating, comprised of four stars in frontal-impact and rollover tests and five stars in the agency's side-impact test.

In tests conducted by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Prius earned a coveted Top Safety Pick+ score, while the CT also earned excellent ratings in each of the group's tests. Unfortunately, the CT has not yet taken on IIHS's small-overlap frontal crash test to determine whether it, too, can earn a Top Safety Pick designation.

Conclusions

Although many shoppers will suggest that the 2014 Lexus CT 200h is merely a luxury version of the 2014 Toyota Prius, there are several differences that set the two cars apart. Of course, one is badging: Many shoppers are happy to pay the premium for the CT's Lexus badge.

But the cars also differ when it comes to styling, both inside and out. Additionally, the Lexus is sportier, while the roomier Prius is more family-oriented. And while the Prius and the CT tend to offer similar features, gadget-loving drivers will have to decide whether they'd prefer the Lexus' Remote Touch controller or the Prius' standard touchscreen before they settle on either vehicle.

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2014 Toyota Prius vs. 2014 Lexus CT 200h: What's the Difference? - Autotrader