Allow us, for just a second, to beat a dead horse: Lexus, Toyota Motor Corp.’s luxury brand, has built a reputation for staid reliability.

Recently, the folks in Nagoya have had enough of that boring bullshit. They said “what the F?” Then declared “WE ARE SPORTY AND FUN!!!” And, in so doing, revamped the energy and passion of Japan’s flagship line-up. Cars with the F SPORT designation, as established, are pretty damn fun to drive. The dynamics of the cars are improved, especially in handling and balance. What does that mean to you? Simple: a better, more fluid driving experience.

2013 Lexus CT 200h F SPORT
Power: 134 hp, 105 lb-ft.
Engine: 1.8L I4 + Electric Motor
Fuel Consumption: 42 combined MPG
Starting price: $33,050

F SPORT isn’t the sole upgrade at Lexus. Beginning with the 2013 GS, Lexus models started pulling aesthetic cues from the covetable LFA supercar. The combination of tuning and styling has given Lexus a new, younger lease on life.

That’s a whole lot of intro for a car once derided as “a Prius in a tuxedo.”

Positioned as a the only luxury compact hybrid hatchback, the CT 200h serves as an entry point to Lexus and sits stoically in its own awkward category. For all intents and purposes, previous chatter about its sister, the Prius, isn’t wrong. The cars, naturally, share the same drivetrain and a similar interior layout. The trims are more upscale and the stance more muscular, leading, of course, to a male dress-up association. However, the 2013 CT 200h isn't headed to a masquerade ball.

Ultimately, the real dream is to mature without sacrifice to adolescent dreams.

In its latest incarnation, the CT 200h sheds some of its stigmas. Its now got an aggressive, (almost) hot hatch look and a bit of driving personality to match. With F SPORT, the hybrid also handles tight curves with charming confidence. We drove it on an autocross course and a scenic highway. We also blasted through 4-inches of snow and an aggravating session of midtown gridlock. We imagined (very, very briefly) the CT 200h as our family car.

That last sentiment is the key.

While the Lexus CT 200h F SPORT looks the part—aggressive, fast, sexy—it’s still more family than Fuji Raceway. Which, ultimately, is reassuring. Because, ultimately, the real dream is to mature without sacrifice to adolescent dreams.

The CT 200h F SPORT is about balance. Improved, surely, in SPORT mode, but also in the abstract—a pleasurable driving experience matched with the fiscal and environmental friendly qualities of a hybrid. Good on the wallet, good on the road, and, most important, tuned so that (if you really, really want) it’s ready for a few tests on the track.

To be certain, the Lexus CT 200h F SPORT is no true hot hatch. It isn't particularly fast. And, the engine doesn't roar. Yet, the car isn't afraid to loosen its tie. And, thankfully, recognizes that maximum pleasure is an essential element of luxury. With this component added, the CT 200h realizes the potential of its lonely niche, and may inspire others to compete.

Bottom line: The Lexus CT 200h F SPORT celebrates Lexus’ reliable past in a fun-focused package.

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