As luxury brands expand their efforts to sell more fuel-efficient cars, Lexus will join Audi and Mercedes-Benz in offering a range of compact models in years to come.

Reports say that the Lexus CT compact hybrid hatchback will likely be offered in a variety of body styles--including a four-door sedan--when it is redesigned around 2016, perhaps as a 2017 model.

New competitors

Before that remodel, however, the CT will face the new 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA compact four-door sedan, the brand's first front-wheel-drive car sold in the U.S.

MORE: 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA review

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG, First Drive, Bilster Berg

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG, First Drive, Bilster Berg

And it will also face off against the entirely redesigned range of 2015 Audi A3 models--including not only the traditional hatchback but an all-new four-door sedan and a convertible as well--available with Audi's fuel-efficient TDI turbodiesel engine.

The current Lexus CT 200h receives a combined EPA rating of 42 mpg (43 mpg city, 40 mpg highway). We got about 40 mpg in a weekend road test.

First, the existing Lexus CT 200h will be updated to meet new competition.

We know the front end will be restyled, but as yet, we haven't seen the U.S. version with the new Lexus "spindle" grille that will update its look. (Leaked images here.) There are also some equipment and feature updates.

The story on the updates and new model range comes from an interview with Sean Hanley, the had of Lexus Australia, on the Australian site GoAuto (via MotorAuthority).

HS disaster

The brand's first experience with a compact hybrid sedan, the 2010 Lexus HS 250h, was little short of a disaster.

2010 Lexus HS 250h

2010 Lexus HS 250h

The unloved car was withdrawn from the market after minimal sales over three years; as of this year, it has been replaced by the 2013 ES 300h--a larger mid-size contender.

So expectations for the CT 200h were low, especially since it created a new sub-segment of one: the compact luxury hybrid hatchback.

But the CT received better reviews than anticipated, and it has been a modest success in the Lexus model lineup.

Its 2012 sales were 17,673, a substantial rise on its 2011 total of 14,381. That puts it fifth of the nine separate Lexus vehicles.

Ahead of four models

It's far behind the RX crossover that sustains the brand in the U.S. (95,381), the ES mid-size sedan (56,158), and the IS compact sport sedan (27,7708). It's barely behind the new GS mid-size sport sedan (22,160)--which it outsold the previous year.

2015 Audi A3

2015 Audi A3

But the small hybrid hatchback outsells, in order, the GX mid-size sport-utility vehicle, the LS full-size luxury sedan, the LX full-size sport utility, and the ultra-expensive LFA supercar (as well as a handful of leftover HS and SC models in 2012).

Through September of this year, the 2013 Lexus CT 200h remained in fifth place, with sales of 11,440. Not a home run, but a respectable base hit.

CT vs A3 vs CLA

More than that, the CT has handily outsold the closest competitor in its segment, the Audi A3, both in 2012 (7,205) and 2011 (6.561).

(The A3's sales of 856 through September this year aren't a fair comparison, since Audi is winding down the old model before next spring's launch of the all-new A3 sedan.)

The Lexus CT will face stiff competition from the Mercedes-Benz CLA, just going on sale now, and the upcoming A3--so its refresh for 2014 may be needed until the new model.


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