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>> Now, one of the biggest challenges for automakers trying to make more compact, leaner, more sensible cars is to do so without making them make the owner feel like a loser. Especially if you're Lexus. So here they are with a compact vehicle that they say is the first hybrid premium compact. Kind of an oxymoron on the North American market, but the Europeans get it. This is the CT 200 H. You get a lot of IS DNA from the front end. Hatchback from the rear end. That's one reason why this car is aimed at Europe and not the US, where we punish hatchbacks... just 'cause. Under the hood, you'll find a 1.8-liter four-cylinder gas engine, coupled to an electric motor, an electronically controlled CVT -- continuously variable transmission. All of that, they say, in a gear case about the size as the transmission alone. Now, like the current Prius, you've got different drive modes here: there's normal, there's eco, for very green; there's sport, when you wanna get into it, which is kind of a Lexus message as well. Once you go to sport, you get the most oomph out of the whole powertrain combined. You aren't just going to gas engine. But you also change the look and feel of the instrument pod. On the left, an efficiency gauge goes away, and a tach appears. And the whole thing loses its blue halo and takes on a red one. Kind of cool stuff. We also see a generous eight-inch LCD, which kind of swivels up on top of the dash. And also Lexus' excellent and relatively recent remote touch controller, which is kind of like a mouse that pivots instead of sliding. We've seen it on some US Lexi, and we like it. And of course, this vehicle also incorporates auto start/stop technology. Oh, one more mode called EV mode, that's one that emphasizes running on electric only. And when you do that, you can get about a mile and a half at up to 30 or so miles per hour. So it pushes the car to go as far as it can running electric only. But the car's not designed to go a long way in that mode; it's just kind of for a stop and go, no emissions, no gasoline spurt. Now, as I mentioned, this car is going into production late 2010, but you won't see it in North America. Not slotted for that part of the world. But the Europeans will get it, and probably some other markets as well. The hatchback design is one that doesn't make it a world car in terms of sales appeal. But the powertrain technology and this idea of premium compact hybrid is one that certainly will translate to every market eventually.
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