On a recent trip to Los Angeles, a friend and I had the chance to putt around town in a 2012 Lexus CT200h. As a guy who would gladly substitute a back seat for a larger engine, the idea of spending a week with a hybrid didn't exactly excite me, but it seemed fitting for California.

There are a few things to note about the CT200h. First, it's the least expensive way to get into a Lexus. Starting at just over $29,000, the CT is one of the most affordable premium cars on the market today.

Second, it carries with it the design philosophy of Lexus cars to come. This goes beyond the LED running lights, pointy grille and swoopy window lines. If you choose not to equip the car with leather seats, the cushions are wrapped in something called "Nuluxe," which is a recycled plant-based material that feels a lot like cowhide, but slightly more vegetarian. It's like the tofu of seating surfaces, and we loved it.

Finally, the CT200h is built on the same platform as Toyota's Prius. The same engine, battery and front-wheel drive systems power the little Lexus, meaning you can expect to earn around 40 MPG, but with a little more cargo space than you'd find in the Toyota.

All of these things come together to create an affordable, stylish, eco-friendly hybrid that comes with a ton of luxury brand cachet.

While we had the CT, we drove back and forth between the airport, Downtown LA and the West Hollywood several times, giving us the chance to truly resent LA's gridlocked traffic. At one point, it took us a little more than two hours to drive only 12 miles. As painful as that sounds, it also gave us the opportunity to tinker with the stereo and see how the hybrid system works in traffic.

"Stop and go traffic ahead" became the broken record song of the navigation system, but we were pleasantly surprised to find that the car remained in EV mode through most of it. That meant we weren't burning any gasoline at all, and when were, we averaged 42.2 MPG. The audio system sounded crisp and easy to use, but lacked enough power to really let us jam out dance party style in the car.

The interior was beautiful and made of high-quality materials, but it was also cramped. While we were impressed with the overall comfort of the front seats, rear legroom was almost nonexistent behind this 6'2" driver, and when we met up with two other friends, our luggage didn't fit. As a result, we ended up taking the Lexus and a taxi back to the airport from our hotel; there just wasn't enough room for four adults and luggage - something to keep in mind if you're shopping for any premium compact car.

All in all, we were really happy with the CT200h, and we felt like locals in our fuel-sipping hybrid. The CT joined us for trips to Venice Beach, up into the Hollywood Hills and all over the rest of town. After dropping off the Lexus at the airport, both of us felt like it would be a great car for someone single, successful and eco-conscious, and we were left with a craving for more time behind the wheel.

 

Here's what you think:

 "...the interior is incredible. Lexus hit a home run with the design on this car." -Rhafer from Tennessee via KBB.com

"Fun car to drive in city traffic. The seat behind the driver is a little short on leg room if there is a tall driver up front. -POP from Georgia via KBB.com

"This vehicle has exceeded our expectations. We have already driven the car over 6000 miles and have averaged over 42 mpg. The car has a smooth ride, handles great and is very comfortable." -Happy CT Owner from North Carolina via KBB.com

author photo

Davis Adams is a writer and content producer for the AutoTrader.com editorial team. Previously, he helped craft digital media for several automotive industry brands, including Consumer Reports, Toyota and Porsche. Davis feels at home on the track, and he owns a 2006 Lotus Elise that has seen its fair share of autocross courses.

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