Active Hybrid: 2014 Lexus CT 200h

Lexus has taken its own approach to the premium/luxury segment. Its model line is composed mostly of a variety of sedans and utility vehicles, each powered by a gasoline engine. There is nary a diesel found in its North American lineup. Instead, Lexus serves up five hybrid models to demonstrate its fuel-efficient side.

The smallest of the five hybrids is the CT 200h, a compact five-door hatchback that served as a recent weekly driver. It is based on the same powertrain found in the Toyota Prius. Its unique body, lower stance, upgraded interior and improved handling characteristics set this small model apart from the Toyota.

I had the Toyota Prius (PHEV) and the Lexus CT 200h in successive weeks. Though there are notable differences, both models deliver exceptional fuel economy, the chief reason why people purchase either one. The Prius easily fulfills its role as a model for the masses. The Lexus, however, attempts to apply the luxury mantle to this hybrid, but falls short.

If you are looking for meaning in the Lexus CT 200h’s name, you won’t find it. The “200” is not representative of the engine’s size — the same 1.8-liter, four cylinder engine found in the Toyota is used in the Lexus. CT could represent “compact tourer” but it does not. Interestingly, the floor mats simply read “Lexus CT” and that is the best way to remember a complicated model name.

The 2014 Lexus CT is priced from $32,050. It is sold in one trim level, although an “F Sport” package is also available. F Sport is nothing more than Lexus’ beauty package, what brings in a mesh grille, special wheels, a black roof, adds a unique rear spoiler and includes special badging. There is no performance upgrade and “F Sport” should not be confused with Lexus’ high performance “F” line as found in the IS F and other models.

2014 Lexus CT 200h
The 2014 Lexus CT 200h is one of five Lexus hybrid models.

Exterior Enhancements

The Lexus CT is marked by the same spindle grille design that advances Lexus’ current design language. Its sporty front fascia includes a wraparound headlamp assembly with deep grooves housing the fog lights and distinctive hood creasing.

The hatchback’s profile characteristics include: rocker panel creases, sporty side mirrors with turn signal indicators and puddle lamps, and stylish five-spoke aluminum wheels. The roof line tapers to the rear pillar and features a moon roof. To the rear, this model has wrap around tail lamps, aero-styling fins and a diffuser. Yes, there is an exhaust pipe, but it is hidden away under the car.

Interior Embellishments

Inside, the Lexus CT features a 10-way power driver’s seat and a 4-way power front passenger seat. Both seats were comfortable, fairly well bolstered and covered in NuLuxe a pleasantly synthetic material that you may swear is leather. Indeed, it breathes so you won’t experience that clingy stickiness during the summer. Hot Carolina temperatures reminded me of this fact multiple times.

The steering wheel tilts and telescopes, and includes driver assisted controls. The instrument panel is a three-gauge analog display with hybrid information, a speedometer and a fuel gauge. Embedded with that gauge is a digital driver information display that provides trip information, current fuel mileage, cruising range, elapsed time and your average speed. I found that I averaged 46 mph on my trips and 41.7 mpg or just shy of the hybrid’s 42 mpg combined fuel economy rating.

The center stack is an interesting arrangement with an optional navigation screen seated on top of the dash. It looks like an iPad mini, but you don’t want to try to pull it out of its slot. The navigation system package is a $3,490 upgrade what also brings in a backup camera, Lexus Enform infotainment and a 10-speaker audio system. Other upgrades included a $900 premium package with rain-sensing wipers, heated front seats and a power seat for the front passenger. An intuitive park assist feature was a $500 add on that drove the CT’s final price up to $37,850.

Lexus makes good use of traditional knobs and switches on the center stack and console. The knob that should be of most interest to you is the rotary dial that controls your driving mode. Normal is for every day driving, Eco allows you to maximize fuel efficiency while the Sport mode sharpens engine throttle and provides a tighter feel with the electronic power steering — more about that later. Yes, there is even a switch for an EV mode, what will allow you to take small, low-speed trips on electric-only power.

The Lexus CT also has a “mouse” that allows you to control the navigation screen. It takes some getting used to, but once you do you can move it with ease and keep your eyes on the road. Yes, Lexus serves up the customary driver warning notice when you start the car telling you not to fiddle with the system while driving. Voice commands through your Bluetooth-enabled device can solve that problem.


2014 Lexus CT 200h

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About That Back Seat

The Lexus CT has one of the most disappointing backseats in the segment. There are three seatbelt positions present, but squeezing a third person into the middle position means intruding significantly onto the other two positions.

Quite frankly, the Lexus CT should have been designed as a two-seat coupe. Access and egress to the backseat requires turning your backside in, then plunking it down and hoping that your head does not hit the door. The bench 60-40 split seat is not particularly well bolstered and other than the head rests the seat does not adjust.

There are no in-door bottle holders present in the rear nor are there center seat cup holders as there is no fold down armrest. More recent editions of lower-end Toyota products have better and more comfortable rear compartments.

With its backseat deficiencies, about the only way to make good use of this model is to keep the rear seat folded and use it as an extended storage compartment. Thats the advantage of a hatchback and something that might appeal to people who value having the maximum amount of storage space on a small footprint. Otherwise, going with a higher end and roomier Prius may be a more sensible approach when considering small hybrids.

On the Road

All things considered, the Lexus CT offers a decent drive. It doesn’t have the same feel as the Prius and the hatchback’s handling, although not spectacular, is quite good especially as you lean into curves on twisting roads. This, despite its 60-40 front-to-rear weight distribution.

The CT certainly is no pocket rocket — you will travel from 0 to 60 in just under 10 seconds — there is just no getting around its hybrid system. “Eats Asphalt. Sips Fuel.” — that’s Lexus’ marketing people talking, but it isn’t true. But, the hybrid hatch’s looks are clean and sporty, presenting a package that will appeal to some.

Indeed, the Lexus CT along with the rear/all-wheel drive IS sedan and the ES sedan represent three entry points to the Lexus brand. I’ve driven all three and can tell you that they are each very different vehicles with the IS representing a sports sedan, the ES an entry-level luxury sedan and the CT entirely suited for the individual who puts fuel economy above everything else.


2014 Lexus CT 200h

  • Sticker price from $32,050
  • Price as tested: $37,850
  • Seats 5 occupants
  • 1.8-liter 16-valve four cylinder hybrid engine
  • 98 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm
  • 105 foot-pounds of torque @ 4,000 rpm
  • 134 hybrid system net horsepower
  • 153 hybrid system net torque
  • 3.17 inches bore by 3.48 inches stroke
  • Engine compression ratio: 13.0-to-1
  • Electronically controlled continuously variable transmission
  • Wheelbase: 102.4 inches
  • Length: 171.2 inches
  • Width: 69.5 inches
  • Height: 57.3 inches
  • Passenger volume: 86.1 cubic feet
  • Storage volume: 14.3 cubic feet
  • Towing capacity: NR
  • EPA: 43 mpg city, 40 mpg highway
  • Regular grade gasoline
  • Fuel tank: 11.9 gallons
  • Curb weight: From 3,130 pounds
  • IIHS safety rating: Good
  • Limited vehicle warranty: 48 months/50,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 72 months/70,000 miles
  • Corrosion warranty: 72 months/Unlimited miles
  • Hybrid warranty: 8 years/100,000 miles
  • Vehicle assembly: Miyata, Japan

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2014 Lexus CT 200h photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine. All rights reserved.

Extended Electric Range: 2014 Toyota Prius Plug-In

The Toyota Prius is the best-known hybrid in the world. It is also a consistent top seller for Toyota, with upwards of 20,000 units sold per month. In the US, Toyota sells about twice as many hybrid electric vehicles under its Toyota and Lexus brands than do all other manufacturers combined.

2014 Toyota Prius Plug-In

Last year, I received as my weekly driver the standard Toyota Prius (priced from $24,200 for 2014) or what the manufacturer calls “the hybrid that started it all.” Since then, Toyota has expanded the line to include a wagon- or crossover-like Prius v ($26,750), a subcompact Prius c ($19,080) and a Prius Plug-In ($29,990). A 2014 Toyota Prius Plug-In was a recent weekly driver, a model with a final price of $31,189 before tax credits.

Before we look at the model at hand, there is the matter of a federal tax credit. That credit applies to vehicles purchased in or after 2010, a credit for an amount of up to $7,500.

The credit amount depends on how long a vehicle runs on electric-only power which is why the Chevrolet Volt with a 35-mile plus range nets a tax credit of $7,500, while the Toyota Prius Plug-In and its approximate 11-mile range comes in at $2,500.

It isn’t a tax rebate either, instead the funds can offset your tax burden — so don’t look for your Toyota dealer to hand you the $2,500. You may need to work with an accountant to figure this out because higher income folk may have their credit reduced or eliminated depending on their adjusted income.

2014 Toyota Prius Plug-In edition.

2014 Toyota Prius Plug-In edition.

Plug ’n Play Prius

At first glance, there are very few differences between the traditional Prius and its plug-in variant. The most noticeable difference is a plug-in port on the passenger side of the vehicle, directly opposite the fuel door. Underneath is where the changes are more pronounced as the plug-in provides a larger and more efficient lithium-ion battery pack that can also be recharged externally.

It can take up to three hours to recharge with your home’s 120-volt outlet, providing a range of at least 11 miles of electric-only power. Don’t worry: if you need extra power, the gas engine kicks in for as long as it is needed. And provided that your speeds stay below 63 mph, you can enjoy full electric vehicle benefits until the battery system returns to its traditional hybrid status.

Adding a plug-in electric variant means that you can go much further on a tank of fuel, making 50 mpg child’s play if you want. The new model is rated at 95 eMPG, a formula that considers a mixture of electric-only performance to deliver better numbers. Certainly, an argument can be made that the formula is not precise. What you cannot argue is that you will use much less gas or at least try to.

That “trying” part means recharging the Prius at home, using the 24-foot cable to connect to your three-prong outlet. You don’t need a 240-volt outlet or a supercharger here — your home’s 120/110-volt outlet will do.

Finding Public Charging Stations

I am by no means a “greenie” but I can play the role without being asked. There is something about plug-in vehicles that makes me to want to extend the range, a bit of psychology I suppose that manufacturers employ to persuade people like me.

In the Raleigh, NC, area there is no shortage of electric charging stations. Credit should be given to North Carolina State University, the city of Raleigh, the town of Cary, and numerous companies, groups and private individuals who have pushed for convenient places to recharge. Even a number of McDonald’s in my area have spaces set aside to recharge.

You can also credit the Plug-In Conference people who chose Raleigh to host the 2011 conference. That event was the first and only time such a conference was held on the east coast, with more than four dozen exhibitors on hand. In keeping with the conference’s debut, permanent charging stations were strategically placed in and around Raleigh, underscoring that the “City of Oaks” was an early supporter of EV technologies.

With EV charging stations in mind, I set out to Pittsboro in Chatham County to hook up at the local Central Carolina Community College charging station, offering a pair of Eaton systems to recharge. While the Prius Plug-In recharged, I went into the library and did some work. I came out a few hours later and found that the charging was complete.

Next, I disconnected the cable and moved to another spot to give others access. Not that there were people clamoring for my spot — it was the middle of the summer when most classes are not in session. Not another EV spotted among the other cars present.


Raleigh electric vehicle recharge station.

An out-of-commission recharge station in Raleigh.

Electric-Only, Mostly

With a fully charged battery at work, I began my 30-mile journey home. On the way, I observed on the dashboard panel that the Prius Plug-In was using electric-only power at all times except when I required more power as in a hard acceleration or at highway speeds. About two-thirds of the way home, the Toyota’s EV-only status had quit. Instead of returning home, I went to my town’s community center where I knew two more public charging stations were available. Once again, I repeated the process before heading home. Yes, you guessed it: I got connected at home too.

By the end of the first day, I found myself hooked. Some might say addicted. It became a game, almost an obsession to find places where I could make a connection.

On the second day, I headed to downtown Raleigh on electric-only power, what ran out just as I arrived at the designated public charging spot. Unfortunately, the Eaton system was taped off. A torn sign reading, “This EV Charging Station Will Be Replaced on June 20, 2014,” was posted along with a “We are sorry for any inconvenience.” Realizing that a month had passed since that I date, I decided to call the person listed on the sign. I wasn’t able to get through to the city of Raleigh’s assistant parking administrator. I did not leave a message.

Fortunately, Google Maps does an admirable job of listing available public charging stations. Raleigh showed at least one dozen of them, but as I reviewed the addresses I found that most were in parking garages. Given that I was looking to park and recharge for free, I decided to eliminate most of them. Fortunately, I found a pair of spaces right across from the Raleigh Municipal Hall, with a Nissan Leaf already connected. I pulled in and hooked up to what looked like a pair of spanking new GE charging stations.

The one thing I did not realize was this: although the station dispensed free electricity, you still had to pay for parking. In Raleigh, there are no parking meters, rather there are central paying stations on each block where you are to make payment. For some reason I thought my parking was free, but found out that a $20 parking ticket was slapped on the Prius’ windshield. Lesson learned.


2014 Toyota Prius PHEV

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Prius Plug-In: No Driving Excitement

It should be understood that the Prius Plug-In provides as close to absolutely no driving excitement that you will find in any vehicle today. Even with the performance mode selected, this hybrid makes a cursory effort to get moving. Its nondescript steering and squishy braking are well noted. The hollow noise you hear as you close any door underscores that this vehicle is a lightweight, both in matters of proportions and performance.

What the Prius Plug-In does deliver is room for five. Not compromised room either, but authentic seating capacity for five adults. Although the car is small, its aerodynamic body shape and expansive interior has the federal government classifying this vehicle as a midsize model.

The base edition of the Prius Plug-In comes with climate control, a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, a six-speaker audio system with audio display, a back up camera, cruise control, power accessories, smart key access, and push button start. The test model added an accessory package ($303) equipped with a first aid kit, carpet floor mats, a cargo mat and a cargo net. Wheel locks ($67) and rear bumper appliqué ($69) were also included.

Even with the many amenities offered, the standard Prius Plug-In may not be as well equipped as some would like. Toyota solves that problem by offering an Advanced ($34,905) trim level that brings in a premium navigation system, an eight-speaker audio system, Entune app suite, leather-like SofTex seats, 8-way power driver’s seat, dynamic cruise control, and Bluetooth connectivity, among other features

Toyota Hybrid Options

And if hybrid technology interests you, but you prefer another model, Toyota has you covered there. For there are hybrid versions of its midsize Camry and large Avalon sedans as well as for its midsize Highlander crossover. The Prius may dominate the market, but you have other options from the Toyota fold.


2014 Toyota Prius PHEV

  • Sticker price from $29,990
  • Price as tested: $31,189
  • Seats 5 occupants
  • 1.8-liter 16-valve hybrid engine
  • 98 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm
  • 105 foot-pounds of torque @ 4,000 rpm
  • 134 hybrid system net horsepower
  • 153 hybrid system net torque
  • 3.17 inches bore by 3.48 inches stroke
  • Engine compression ratio: 13.0-to-1
  • Electronically controlled continuously variable transmission
  • Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
  • Length: 176.4 inches
  • Width: 68.7 inches
  • Height: 58.7 inches
  • Passenger volume: 93.7 cubic feet
  • Storage volume: 21.6 cubic feet
  • Towing capacity: NR
  • EPA: 14 mpg city, 23 mpg highway
  • Regular grade gasoline
  • Fuel tank: 10.6 gallons
  • Curb weight: From 3,165 pounds
  • IIHS safety rating: Top Safety Pick+
  • Limited vehicle warranty: 36 months/36,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 60 months/60,000 miles
  • Corrosion warranty: 60 months/Unlimited miles
  • Hybrid warranty: 8 years/100,000 miles
  • Vehicle assembly: Tsutsumi, Japan

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2014 Toyota Prius Plug-In photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine. All rights reserved.

Toyota Prius: Innovation Breeds Success

When you are hot, you are hot. When you are not, then you must be one of the few manufacturers that are taking on the Toyota Prius. These manufacturers currently number just two: Honda and Ford, but each one has much catching up to do if they’re to make a laudable challenge to the hybrid leader.

It isn’t that the Honda Insight and Ford C-MAX are not worthy competitors. It is that consumers are fixated on the Prius name, one that has built up a cachet of goodwill since its introduction.

2013 Toyota Prius Three
Autumn Delight: Toyota Prius Three.

Prius = Hybrid

Prius is synonymous with hybrid, a model released to the US market in 2001 and now on its third generational platform. The Prius family also represents four different vehicles, with three new ones added since 2012. I got to play around with a Toyota Prius Three for a week recently and can say that I now have a much better understanding why this models appeal is so strong.

The standard Prius model comes in five trim levels, with four offered in the United States: Two, Three, Four and Five. Its a simple nomenclature that you wont find etched on the cars body as you would with other models (e.g. Toyota Corolla LE), and that probably suits Prius owners just fine. After all, the Prius is a status symbol for the environmental sustainable set, individuals that may be much more interested with viewing the dashboard-placed instrument panel than anything else.

And it is the Prius hybrid innovation that keeps customers coming to a model that seats five comfortably and averages a whopping 50 mpg. Toyota calls its patented technology Hybrid Synergy Drive, what seamlessly switches between gasoline and electric power, or combines the two when optimum power is needed. And that combination brings out a certain fun factor or a surprise that a 1.8-liter four cylinder engine and a electric motor can give you when a potent power boost is desired.

Toyota Prius Three Amenities

As delivered, the Prius Three adds in a few goodies not found in the Two. You get a display audio system with navigation, including a 6.1-inch touchscreen with backup camera display. It also has a three-door smart key system that enables you to unlock the side doors and hatchback, as well as start the Prius when the key fob is present.

Inside, you get a roomy cabin measuring 93.7 cubic feet, nearly matching the 97.5 cubic feet in the 2014 Toyota Corolla. Indeed, both the Prius and the Corolla ride on a 106.3-inch wheelbase, but the Corolla is a half-foot longer. Still, the Prius delivers 21 cubic feet of hatchback storage capacity to the 13 cubic feet found in the Corolla’s trunk.

Design figures in as one of the big appeals for the Prius. Its shape is the result of wind tunnel testing, what delivers a rakish 0.25 coefficient of drag. Its as if Toyota dropped a lump of clay in the tunnel, sculpted the model and voila! a rounded, nondescript shape emerged. Not really, but it works. Inside, you get a space-age look on a budget: where the instrument panel is normally placed, you get a section of the dashboard instead.

Digital Instrument Panel

Centered in the middle of the dashboard is the instrument panel, an electronic interface that rises and peaks in the middle, dishing out digitally delivered information including a speedometer, a fuel gauge, an odometer, instant fuel economy details, a shift-position indicator, and mode indicators.

Consider the instant fuel economy the focal point of the panel, with bars going up as high as 100 mpg or down to 0 mpg. You achieve the higher numbers simply by operating in EV mode around town and going light on the gas pedal. When full power is needed, switch to POWER mode to enjoy every foot-pound of torque-love that this hybrid delivers. And deliver it does: you get a 153 foot-pound boost when you need it, which is usually when you realize that your sustainability efforts are causing traffic to slow down behind you. Do everyone a favor: give the Prius a boost or take it to the back roads to play with the mpg.

Gear Shift Notables

The Toyota Prius goes beyond whisper quiet to deliver an almost eerily, stealthiness that still sneaks up on unsuspecting pedestrians. Toyota tells you when youre ready to get moving by appropriately flashing the word ready on the instrument panel. With your hand resting on the four-gear shift knob, you can put the Prius in D to move forward or R for reverse. The N is for neutral, but the B gear may the least understood, what stands for braking.

Use the B gear when traveling down a long, steep hill to stimulate engine downshifting, delivering a beneficial side effect of creating more electricity to feed the battery. You’ll also place less stress on the brakes, putting some distance between brake pad changes and other brake work.

The Toyota Prius Line Now Numbers Four

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Please Take a Seat

The front bucket seats in the Prius offer average comfort or what you would expect from a moderately-priced car. That average, however, means that the drivers seat is manually operated and does not offer lumbar support. For around town drivers, the basic seating should be fine, but if youre apt to take those long trips to push the Prius to its near 600-mile driving range, youll want to bump up to the Four where the driver comfort level also moves up a welcome notch.

Rear seating passengers will find that the legroom is excellent, measuring 42.5 inches with ample head, shoulder and hip room as well. It is a 60/40 split bench design that significantly expands the already generous storage space considerably. That explains the yard sale going Prius owner who manages to stick a six-foot tall floor lamp and a side chair in the hatch, close it and drive off.

Safety and Warranties

Along with its low carbon footprint credentials, the Toyota Prius has a significant safety quotient. All models come with seven airbags including a drivers knee airbag and side curtain airbags. The driver and front passenger are provided with an active headrest and Toyotas Star Safety System suite is included. That suite offers traction control, stability control, an anti-lock brake system, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist and smart stop technology.

The Prius warranty package includes three years or 36,000 miles of comprehensive coverage, a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, corrosion protection, and an 8-year, 100,000-mile hybrid-related component warranty. That hybrid warranty is extended to 15 years or 150,000 miles, whichever comes first, in some states; the hybrid battery is warranted for 10 years.

For most Prius shoppers the package is all about sustainability. On that level the Prius successfully maintains the benchmark, providing welcome innovation that breeds success.

2013 Toyota Prius Three

 

  • Sticker price from $25,765
  • Price as tested: $27,182
  • Seats 5 occupants
  • 1.8-liter 16-valve I-4 engine
  • 98 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm
  • 105 foot-pounds of torque @ 4,000 rpm
  • 3.17 inches bore by 3.48 inches stroke
  • Engine compression ratio: 13.0-to-1
  • Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor
  • 80 horsepower (electric motor)
  • 153 foot-pounds of torque (electric motor)
  • 134 hybrid system net horsepower
  • Electronically controlled continuously variable transmission
  • Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
  • Length: 176.4 inches
  • Width: 68.7 inches
  • Height: 58.7 inches
  • Passenger volume: 93.7 cubic feet
  • Storage volume: 21.6 cubic feet
  • Towing capacity: N/A
  • EPA: 51 mpg city, 48 mpg hwy.
  • Regular grade gasoline
  • Fuel tank: 11.9 gallons
  • Curb weight: From 3,042 pounds
  • Vehicle assembly: Japan

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Toyota Prius photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine.

Ford and Hybrids Are a Winning Combination

2013 Ford Fusion SE Hybrid

The Ford Motor Company has long operated as an also-ran to Toyota’s dominance of the hybrid electric vehicle market. Ford entered the hybrid market in 2006 with its Escape and Mercury Mariner hybrids, the first hybrid SUVs from a domestic manufacturer.

Ford Hybrids

Ford later expanded its hybrid offerings to its Fusion sedan line and added the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid to the mix. Mercury is now gone and so is the Ford Escape Hybrid, but an all-new Fusion Hybrid and a new C-MAX Hybrid have filled in the gap and then some. Ford’s new hybrid offerings are well received and sometime this month it will shatter its previous annual sales record for hybrid models.

How has Ford done this? A few reasons weigh in, delivering to this manufacturer a winning combination.

Reason #1 — The Fusion is simply gorgeous. Some hybrid models are polarizing although that fact hasn’t hurt sales of the Prius. Larger hybrids such as midsize sedans tend to dispense with the quirkiness, choosing to emphasize style along with fuel economy. The Fusion Hybrid is nearly indistinguishable from the standard model, itself a stunning design improvement over the previous handsome model.

Ford C-MAXReason #2 — Ford hybrids get excellent fuel mileage. Okay, there is a dispute going on with Ford’s fuel mileage estimates for its hybrid models. Ford says that both its Fusion sedan and C-MAX hybrids achieve 47 mpg combined fuel economy. Some customers are reporting numbers that are far lower. Lawsuits have been filed, the company is defending its numbers which, incidentally, are based on EPA measurement guidelines. Clearly, the EPA mileage estimate system needs to be overhauled, but no matter how things settle, Fusion Hybrid owners will still enjoy significantly better mpg than the standard models.

Reason #3 — The Ford C-MAX isn’t a Toyota Prius V. Yes, Toyota still has the hybrid market sewn up, with four Prius models to choose from. One model, the Prius V, was the lone wagon-like vehicle offered until the Ford C-MAX showed up. Unlike the Prius V which looks like a distorted Prius, the C-MAX design flows effortlessly. It also comes in cheaper, roomier and with better fuel economy than the Prius V.

Reason #4 — Ford is pushing fleet sales. Fleet sales are typically the bane of car manufacturers. Sell too many cars to Enterprise, Hertz and Avis and you bring down the value of such models at resale. Ford’s approach with its hybrids has been different, with companies such as AT&T and Quest Diagnostics adding these models to their fleets. The company isn’t shy about touting its fleet efforts either, sending out a media notice telling business customers that they can save as much as 45 percent in operational costs with its new hybrids. The full impact on resale numbers isn’t yet known, but with more hybrids going out the door, Ford can contain and even reduce prices.

2013 Ford Fusion Energi

Reason #5 — Timing is everything. Ford’s hybrid offerings came to the market just as gas prices reached the highest levels we have seen in several years. Prices have since pulled back some, but its new offerings have gotten the attention of car shoppers, especially those that understand that even higher fuel prices are in the offing. Two plug-in versions of both Ford hybrid models are also available, giving Ford five hybrids when the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid is included. Only Toyota offers more hybrid models than Ford.

Looking Ahead

Ford also sells the battery electric Ford Focus, but that model was made largely to satisfy regulators (think California Air Resources Board). We’ll see more hybrids from Ford in the future including, get this, a Ford F-150 hybrid pickup truck. Ford is collaborating with its chief hybrid rival, Toyota, to develop pickup truck hybrid technology, quite possibly doing its part to help change the face of vehicle hybridization once again.


See AlsoCapacity Constraints Has Automakers Fostering Creativity

Photos courtesy of the Ford Motor Company.