On the occasion that someone I know asks me what car they should buy, one of my go-to suggestions is a used Toyota Prius. This isn’t because I particularly like the Prius, and it’s certainly not because I think it’s a cool car. Instead, it’s because I think a used Prius is one of the most sensible car purchases a person can make. They’re dirt cheap, they’re easy to find and of course, they’re very fuel efficient with Toyota reliability.
But when I make that suggestion, it’s met with mixed reactions. For obvious reasons, a lot of people — even people who don’t care about cars — just don’t want to drive a Prius. They think it’s ugly, which is hard to argue against, and they think driving a Prius just isn’t cool at all.
Luckily for drivers who want the many practical virtues of a Prius without having to actually have Prius, there’s an alternative. I’m talking about the Lexus CT 200h, a forgettable hatchback from Toyota’s luxury brand that is little more than a reskinned Prius.
I don’t think the CT (which stands for "Creative Touring") will win any beauty contests — but when comparing it to the third-gen Prius that it’s based on, it’s a handsome luxury car. It was the first Lexus to use the now-ubiquitous spindle grille, and it could even be had with an F Sport trim — which didn’t provide any performance upgrades, but gave you a sporty appearance package with a different front fascia and cool wheels.
You can get a really well-equipped Prius when you get into the higher trims, making it similar to the Lexus in terms of features and tech, but on the base level, the CT is more loaded than the Prius. The base CT 200h came with leatherette seat trim, a power driver’s seat, automatic headlights, a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control and more.
Unfortunately, if you opt for a CT rather than a Prius, you’re taking a fuel economy hit. The CT returns 43 miles per gallon in the city and 40 mpg on the highway, which is excellent, but it’s quite a drop from the 51 mpg city and 48 mpg highway rating of the Prius it’s based on. This is because the CT is heavier, less aerodynamic and tuned for better performance.
Despite the fuel economy penalty of this Lexus hatchback, I think it’s a great alternative to a used Prius. One of the best things about the CT is that the prices on the used market aren’t much higher than those of its Toyota counterpart. It was never produced in nearly as high of a volume as the Prius, but it ran from the 2011 to 2017 model years — and there are more than 1,000 of them on Autotrader right now, a handful of which have 4-digit price tags.
So, if you like the idea of the Prius, but don’t like the look or the stigma, consider the more luxurious Lexus CT. Perhaps the greatest luxury that this Lexus offers is that it packs the hybrid powertrain of the Prius, but looks like a normal car.