When I first saw the 2011 Lexus CT 200h in person at this year's North American International Auto Show in Detroit I was duly impressed. The car's dynamic "hot hatch" styling definitely stood out among the rest of Lexus' relatively bland offerings—the IS F and LFA excepted—and it seemed like the brand was perhaps on the verge of finding an emotional design language that would help earn some cred with the actual car lovers among us.
In addition, as an early entry in the premium compact segments, the CT showed some forward thinking on the part of Lexus, which hasn't exactly been known as an industry innovator. Yet given consumers' new focus on fuel economy, and with cars like Audi A3 already here and products like the Buick Verano on their way, these niches are going to start filling up fast. Getting in on ye olde ground floor with the CT 200h made great sense, especially since it would (in theory) combine the luxury and quality of a Lexus with the fuel efficiency (and a few parts) from the Toyota Prius.
Oh, and it also was supposed to deliver at least enough over-the-road performance to avoid the fate of the Honda CR-Z, which was met with an underwhelming response when it launched as the first mainstream hybrid with sporting pretensions. The Honda showed how difficult it is to combine fuel efficiency and performance in a mix that would satisfy people looking for both, and Lexus had to avoid that trap if it wanted the CT to avoid that fate.
Certainly the last thing I was worried about was the car's interior quality or craftsmanship. After all, whatever else the CT was, it was a Lexus.
Of course, it was hard to tell much about the car in Detroit, because it was up on a turntable where I couldn't get at it.
That changed recently, when Lexus was kind enough to drop off a 2011 CT 200h in "Fire Agate Pearl" for a week's worth of test driving—and hey, they kicked in a full tank of gas to boot.
The car had an MSRP of $30,900, making it by far the least-expensive Lexus in the lineup, although it was then configured with nearly $6,500 worth of optional content. The bottom line, including $875 worth of delivery/processing/handling fees, came to $38,239. That doesn't seem like a lot for a Lexus, but frankly, I didn't find a lot of Lexus in the CT 200h.