By on June 13, 2019

Car manufacturers don’t always strike a chord with consumers, and even studious brand Lexus is not immune from model flops. Back in 2012, the company offered three compact vehicles nobody wanted.

Today you’ll select one to take home for keeps, whether you like it or not.

HS 250h

You might never see one, but the HS was an important step for Lexus. In response to reported customer interest in a dedicated hybrid luxury model, Lexus debuted the HS in 2010. Based on an MC platform borrowed from the Corolla and Prius, the HS was the first dedicated Lexus hybrid, as well as the brand’s first offering with an inline-four engine arrangement. The brand sourced its 2.4-liter and hybrid system from the Camry. 187 horsepower was on tap, delivered to the front wheels via CVT. A bonafide Rare Ride, U.S. sales peaked in 2010 at just over 10,000 units and fell precipitously from there. 2012 was the last year for the HS in North America, though there were 5 leftover in 2013.

IS 250 C

The only convertible of today’s trio is also the only one without a hybrid engine. Based on the rather successful IS sedan, Lexus added a folding metal roof convertible to the mix in 2010. Never a beauty, the C version of the IS looked like an afterthought upon any visual inspection. Power was provided by a 2.5-liter V6 or a 3.5-liter V6, both sourced from Japanese market Toyota Crown variants. 204 horsepower traveled to the rear in the 2.5 version, delivered by the selected six-speed automatic. The IS C never sold well; Lexus dropped it after the 2015 model year with no replacement.

CT 200h

While the HS was flopping about at dealers across the country, Lexus introduced another dedicated hybrid into its lineup. The CT went on sale in early 2011 as the “Creative Touring” hatchback with a sportier edge over its HS sibling. Based on the same MC platform, the CT utilized a different hybrid system: the 1.8-liter inline four lifted directly from the Prius. Lexus decided to use the 200 numbering system because the hatchback “had the power” of a gasoline-powered two-liter. Combined horsepower was 134 — a small number.

Thankfully the CT was light at 3,131 pounds, about 600 pounds lighter than the HS (though its power-to-weight ratio is still worse). The CT sold more respectably than the HS, reaching around 15,000 sales in most years. A refresh for 2013 made the CT the first Lexus ever to wear the spindle grille. Sales trickled off in 2016 and 2017, and Lexus cancelled the CT without replacement that year.

Three luxury compact fails, one Buy. Choose carefully!

[Images: Lexus]

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73 Comments on “Buy/Drive/Burn: Forgotten Offerings From Lexus in 2012...”


  • avatar
    gtem

    ” Power was provided by a 2.5-liter four sourced from the Camry”

    Absolutely not. It’s the small 2.5L V6. Not particularly powerful but an impeccably smooth powerplant. C’mon man how could you get that wrong?

  • avatar
    ajla

    “Power was provided by a 2.5-liter four sourced from the Camry”

    It’s actually a low-displacement V6 from the same family as the 3.5L. In North America I think it was unique to the IS lineup.

    • 0 avatar
      conundrum

      Unfortunately, Toyota didn’t bother to give the 2.5 6 the D4S dual port/DI injection like they did on the bigger engine. Just DI. Some years ago when I was considering an IS, poor owners were dealing with carboned-up valves just like mid oughties VWs and Audis, when I checked the forums.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    You’re right, I don’t recall ever seeing any of these, but I’ll play…

    Buy: IS250C, because it’s the most interesting of the trio

    Drive: CT200h, just to see what a Lexus Hybrid is all about

    Burn: HS250h, because the last car I’d be interested in is a Prius based overpriced Lexus

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      HS has to take the crown for worse badge engineering of modern day car.

      “4. Lexus HS (-14.6%)

      Another compact luxury vehicle, the Toyota (NYSE: TM)-family Lexus HS is a dedicated hybrid vehicle first introduced in the U.S. in 2009 with a goal of selling as many as 30,000 cars a year. Despite being seen as an upscale version of the Toyota Prius, it never really caught on with car buyers despite its popularity in Japan, perhaps because of its much lower highway MPG ratings than its rival.  After selling about 6,700 cars in 2009 and over 10,000 the following year, in 2011 Lexus sold fewer than 3,000 of them and officially killed the car off in 2012. USAToday

      • 0 avatar
        teddyc73

        Actually the HS is not an example of badge engineering. Badge engineering refers to the practice of changing very little of the car’s body panels with only slight changes to lights, grills, and trim and giving it a different name. The HS has completely different styling.

        • 0 avatar
          thornmark

          >>HS is not an example of badge engineering. Badge engineering refers to the practice of changing very little of the car’s body panels with only slight changes to lights, grills, and trim and giving it a different name.<<

          weird that a Buick troll of all people wouldn't know what badge engineering is – Buick IS badge engineering

  • avatar
    gtem

    With my pedantic grousing out of the way:

    Buy: HS250h
    Drive: IS250C
    Burn: CT200h

    The IS is simply way too feminine, so unless I could pawn it off on my wife that’s the burn. I would pick HS250h over a CT200h just for the larger-torquier 2.4L+HSD powertrain over the Prius-borrowed 1.8L+HSD. It has that oddball JDM oddly-tall mini luxury car look that I find quirky and endearing. CT200h actually looks genuinely attractive to my eye, but I just don’t care for that powertrain.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Buy IS250c- V6, RWD, convertible. I think it looks okay as long as you don’t buy it in “Retiree Sand Mica”.
    Drive the HS250h- I think my mother would like it
    Burn the CT200h- Only 134hp means it goes in the fire.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Buy: None of them;
    Drive: The convertible;
    Burn: None of them; they’re not worth the cost of accelerant.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    These cars are all isht.

  • avatar
    chiefmonkey

    Burn every single one, twice for good measure.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    I don’t think that CT 200h is a bad looking car but 50 more horses would have went a long way.

    • 0 avatar

      0-60 was 9.8 seconds. I think it looks great but boy do you pay for 43mpg.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Hey now, it’s on par with a stock Encore, while not looking like a shoe with chrome port holes :P

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        C/D has a test of a 2014 posted.
        0-60 in 10.6, 1/4 mile in [email protected] 10.7 5-60, and a grueling 7.1 for 50-70.

        A CR-Z with CVT was 1.2-3.0 seconds faster in all measures.

        caranddriver.com/reviews/a15110947/2014-lexus-ct200h-f-sport-hybrid-test-review/

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          Didn’t realize they made an “F-sport” edition of the CT200H. Yikes.

          • 0 avatar

            Oh yes, F-Sport was $1200 and added better seats and a badge here and there.

            But used values are very low…

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            I actually think the CT is worth checking out if you’re into hybrids – these come off lease with 30,000 miles or so and go for +/- $20,000. The interior on these is also very, very nice as compacts go.

            If you can stand the looks, and don’t care that it’s slow, it makes sense.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            CT200H was on my list, unfortunately I read in several places it fared poorly in the snow so it was out of contention.

          • 0 avatar

            That’s going to be the case with any vehicle on all-season tires that are low rolling resistance. You can swap to regular all-season at the cost of 5-10% economy.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Toyota Hybrids also have some very aggressive traction control, the 2nd gen Prii were hopeless on Ithaca’s hills without snow tires, some resorting to studded snows in fact. This is what 28CL might be referring to.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @gtem

            I had heard the same about Prii personally from Prius owners. My IM didn’t have any issues thi past winter although it was not as severe as it can be.

            @Corey

            The IM came with all seasons as it was brand new at the time and I didn’t have any issues in the <5in snow incidents it encountered. I read on driving.ca the IM was endorsed because it was good in the snow.

          • 0 avatar

            Never trust Canadians! They only have *one* road, afterall.

            Ottawa left
            Newfoundland right

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Buy IS-250. I don’t care it is a chick car, I have a soft spot for convertibles, the hard top works in Seattle, it’s based on a solid platform with a good engine.

    Burn the glorified Corolla with Lexus badges (ya, I get it, but it is the JAPANESE Corolla which is nicer, stop making excuses, it was a better implemented Cimmaron and Lexus buyers reacted the same way)

    Burn the CT 200h twice, then drop a nuclear bomb on it, then throw the remaining atoms into the sun.

  • avatar
    saturnotaku

    Buy the IS250 as a fun runabout. Love the hardtop for unpredictable Midwest weather.

    Drive the CT200. It’s not fast but practical and surprisingly fun.

    Burn the HS250. Terrible to drive and way overpriced for what it was.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Buy the IS, but you need to find one with the 3.5 – this car is a dog with the 2.5.

    Drive the HS – it actually has an interesting interior, and it should be reliable.

    Burn the CT – it’s ugly.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    MY EYES! THE GOGGLES DO NOTHING!

    Buy the HS 250h – cause its the world’s fanciest Corolla

    Drive the IS – only because it’s a convertible

    Burn the CT – somehow it is the most egregious of the sins but somehow I could see it making a great car for inner-urban UBER/LYFT drivers.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I don’t even think it’d make a great taxi rig, I hear the ride is a bit on the flintier side, the only possible win would be if it qualified for Uber black/premium or whatever based on the badge (and boy would your ratings as a driver plummet from passengers expecting a GS/LS experience).

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        I meant that the CT is likely stupid cheap as far as “used Lexus” go.

        lol… Being classified as “UBER BLACK” would be pretty damn hilarious.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Never ridden in a CT, but the one Prius cab I’ve ridden in was a bit stiff on urban streets. The back seat area was spacious (better headroom than the more recent Corolla) but it can bottom out over rough roads.

      Take that and put Lexus rims on it, I can only assume the ride gets worse.

      • 0 avatar

        CT suspension is entirely different setup than Prius, with fully independent at the rear.

        Alex Dykes compared chassis to GTI.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Yeah the Prius has never been a very plush riding vehicle, exacerbated by the neglect some of these taxi and rideshare cars see. I was in a early-gen 3 (2010-ish) with about 150k miles that needed some fresh struts badly. Rode like crap.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Buy: IS250C-It’s a better looking more livable SC430.

    Drive: CT200h-A nice sport hatch A3 competitor.

    Burn: HS250h-It’s obviously good and reliable but isn’t being Corolla based degrade the brand? When the Lexus brand was introduced here in the states 30 years ago they were mid-high end Toyotas.

  • avatar
    marc

    Easy one (and a lot of you got it right).

    Buy: IS 250C. And I did. No regrets. Everybody loves it. I don’t think I’ll give it up till it runs into the ground, if that ever happens. Cheaper than an equivalent Bimmer, will last forever, and you get used to the big booty. And silver really works to hide that.

    Drive: CT 200h. I did before buying a Prius. Slow as sin, but it actually drove and handled well in a way the Prius could only dream of. It was just too overpriced compared to the Prius for what you got.

    Burn: HS 250h. They should have waited to install the next gen hybrid set-up with more power and better MPGs (The 2.5 hybrid combo). At least it would have been better at its function. Still wouldnt’ve looked good.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      I really wish Toyota would have built a CT250h with the Camry hybrid drivetrain that was almost as fast as a Sonata Turbo in a comparison test. That would have been the ultimate city car.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick_515

        ToddAtlas, bingo. I’d trade my A3 hatch instantly for that car.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Yes that would be a potent combo. The 2.5+HSD is a massive improvement in MPG and power over the 1st gen Camry Hybrid 2AZ (2.4)+HSD, the latest revision in the ’18+ Camrys with Li-On batteries is rated at 53/51. That in a hypothetical “CT250h” would be great. It’d probably even keep you ahead of Norm in his Encore away from the light!

        • 0 avatar

          Now let’s not go overboard with the claims here!!

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Hey, at least I didn’t claim it could beat a Trifecta tuned 1.4T in fuel economy! Now THAT would be a reach!

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            I honestly think that Toyota has been missing an opportunity by not cramming the 2.5 hybrid system into a lightweight package.

            Some kind of XR Corolla or something.

          • 0 avatar
            Fordson

            C’mon – this is TTAC…making inflated claims about losermobiles that not even the Lexus-sheep owner base wanted to buy is right in the wheelhouse here.

            “Hey, if you just add a lot of desirability of any kind, they’d be great!”

  • avatar
    ThomasSchiffer

    Around 2015ish I had the chance to drive a CT200h at a Lexus driving event in Munich with my brother. It was one of the most dull vehicles I have ever driven. Sluggish and not particularly sporty. It was not sporty for me because I have driven its European rivals in the form of the BMW 120i E87, both the Audi A3 2.0 TDI and 2.0 TFSI Sportback and the Mercedes A200 (which my brother owns). All of these are a better driven than the CT, especially the BMW 1er with its RWD layout.

    Pluses did include a smooth 4-cylinder engine and seamless switch from the combustion engine to the electric motor. The cabin quality was very nice, better than the BMW 1er and Mercedes A-Klasse and on par/equal to the Audi A3s of the era.

    Therefore, my choices are:

    Drive: The IS open top because it is RWD and the sportiest without a doubt.

    Burn: The CT and the HS (the latter I am unfamiliar with as they were not sold in Europe).

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      I have never driven a CT200h, but I sat in one at the Long Beach GP one year. The interior was jewel-like. I had a 2012 A6 3.0T as my daily driver at the time, and I rode to the circuit in a CLS500. The interior of the little Lexus made them seem like Pontiacs, and was also just as roomy as the CLS while being nowhere near as spacious as the A6. I’m pretty sure that mechanically the CT was just a heavier Prius, but there is the little matter that it didn’t poison people like a diesel Audi.

  • avatar
    Blackcloud_9

    Buy the IS 250 – Although I’m not a fan of convertibles, it is the best car on the list
    Drive the CT 200 – Every time I saw one I really liked the looks. It always reminded me of a really finely styled Matrix – Which, to me, isn’t a bad thing. It’s a shame it’s so under-powered.
    Burn the HS – If you looked up the definition of “bland-mobile”, it would show that picture

  • avatar
    scott25

    Buy the CT, which I’m considering doing, it’s near the top of my list if I buy used in the fall. That or a 4 cylinder Colorado. One of my favourite styled vehicles of the 2010’s (CT, not the Colorado).

    Drive the HS just because it’s interesting. I do see quite a lot on the roads, more than say, CRZs.

    Burn the IS because it’s the least interesting and convertibles are useless to me

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    IS250C was just butt ugly (at least the IS250 is relatively good looking to a lot of people, like my wife), it also has the direct injection problem of an engine. Burn (I do have an IS250 at home).

    Coin toss between the HS and CT:
    HS: buy, you seems to get a better deal and it seems to be nicer than CT. What’s the point of a 34 mpg hybrid? I don’t think I’d drive it for long commute though.
    CT: drive, because they seems to be not Lexus enough and / or worse bang for the buck in the used market. It is also better mpg.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I was looking at the CT200 for my mom as a replacement for her IS300 Sportcross thinking it was the modern equivalent.
    I think it looks good in the right colors, blue in particular, and it had everything she would need. I took an F Sport model out for a drive and man was it SLOW. I put it in sport mode and it was no better. It also didn’t feel like a high quality car from a brand that’s supposed to make you feel special.
    The IS300 is no LS, but at least it makes her feel like she’s driving a sports car when she wants to.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    I’d burn the HS, as anyone with a modicum of pattern recognition can tell it’s a Corolla.

    I’d drive the IS250C, because it’s the only actual car of this sorry lot. And the only one actually made in an actual Lexus factory facility. The other two were upgraded in a shed behind a Toyota facility.

    Burn the CT200h, it’s just another-market Corolla hatch, not made to Lexus standards.

    Oh, I see I burnt two of them. My bad.


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