Wimp-free Hybrid

A hot Lexus hatchback drives hybrids out of snoozeville. We’re never going back.
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A hot Lexus hatchback drives hybrids out of snoozeville. We’re never going back.
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Take the wheel of most current compact hybrids (cough, Prius, cough, Insight) and you’ll notice two things: One, all the fun’s been taken out, replaced with limp handling and poky throttle response; and, two, you’ll confront a stark interior featuring more plastic than Kenny Rogers’ face. Enter the unlikely antihero: the Lexus CT 200h, a new sport-tuned hybrid that bucks the trend by offering the dialed-in responsiveness of a European hot hatch—at 40-plus mpg—while boasting a lush interior with sexiness to spare. OK, specwise the CT is no tire-shredding monster—its 1.8-liter engine and electric motor are adapted from the Prius, after all. But having clocked 1,000-plus miles in one, we’ll argue that the CT’s “Sport” drive mode, which wrings more fun out of the power train (quicker throttle response, less intrusive traction control), and its perky suspension, which shows near zero body roll even when tossed hard, make it an addictive drive. And in classy Lexus style, asses can be heated as ears are blasted by a sweet stereo (with bamboo speakers, of course) while you mow down the miles between fill-ups. Now, this is green we can get behind.

Drag King

The CT 200h reduces drag and improves aerodynamics, thanks in part to an underbody cover and tapered side panels perfected in the wind tunnel. But neither will help much once

your dog sticks his head out the window.

Quiet Riot

Hit a button to throw ’er into nearly silent EV mode, which lets you drive up to one mile

under electric power alone. Perfect for lurking.

Spec Check

2011 Lexus CT 200h

Price:
From $29,120

Engine: 1.8-liter inline 4 paired with an electric-drive motor

Horsepower:
134

Torque: 105 lb.-ft.

Transmission:Electronically controlled, continuously variable

0–60 mph: 9.8 seconds

Fuel economy: 43 mpg city/40 mpg highway