Lexus CT 200h 2011

Lexus Gets Young, Fun and Green
The 2011 Lexus CT 200h at a press event held in Delray Beach, Florida, a town that's the less exclusive neighbor to Boca Raton, that famously moneyed Florida retirement enclave. It's a fitting location, given that the CT 200h aims to be the affordable player in the Lexus lineup. With a sub-$30,000 price (the least expensive in the Lexus family) and frugal fuel efficiency, the CT 200h stands poised to beckon fresh blood to the brand's silver-haired customer base.

Lexus executives firmly refer to the CT 200h as a five-door compact, but as we take our first look at the car in the bright Florida sun, its sheet metal tells a humbler story. This is a hatchback, no two ways about it, a car meant to occupy the space in your imagination between a Mazda 3 five-door and an Audi A4 Avant.

It's also a hybrid, the fifth in the Lexus family, with the same powertrain as the Toyota Prius. As we'd expected, this translates into fuel economy that's the best in the premium compact segment, but what we didn't expect is how much fun the CT 200h is to drive. Though it's no overachiever in straight-line acceleration, this Lexus feels tightly buttoned up, with sharp, responsive steering. Hybrids aren't usually this entertaining, least of all those that share parts with a Prius.

Thin but diverse, the herd of premium compacts includes the lively BMW 1 Series, the handsome Volvo C30 and the luxurious, eco-minded Audi A3 TDI. Less pricey than most of its rivals and more frugal at the pump than all, the Lexus CT 200h distinguishes itself as a value-oriented luxury car that just happens to be a hybrid.

Who should consider this vehicle
The 2011 Lexus CT 200h is a good pick for shoppers who want Lexus prestige without sticker shock and steep fuel bills. It's also a solid bet for those in search of a less ubiquitous, more high-end alternative to the frugal Prius.

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