Lexus, Toyota's luxury car brand, has a new car that gets 43 miles per gallon and is a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The CT 200h is also the most wallet-friendly vehicle in the Lexus lineup.

The new CT is Lexus' fifth hybrid vehicle, and it's a five-door compact aimed squarely at young drivers. Rather than settling for "move-up status," Lexus is trying to introduce more young drivers to the brand sooner. Witness some of the color palette being offered for the CT: Daybreak Yellow Mica, Matador Red Mica and Smoky Granite Mica. The test CT was in the Daybreak Yellow Mica, a color I might not have selected for myself, but one that was noticed by teenagers in parking lots.

The CT 200h is powered by a 1.8-liter inline 4-cylinder engine that is boosted by an electric motor powered by a nickel-metal hydride battery pack.

Between the gasoline and electric powerplants, 134 horsepower is produced and transferred to the electricall -controlled continuously variable transmission. Add all that up and you get 9.8 seconds for the CT's 0-60 mph time. It's not going to snap your head to the headrest, but don¹t forget about that whole 43 mpg thing.

Inside, the CT is roomy and reasonably appointed. Standard amenities include a SmartAccess entry system with pushbutton start and touch sensors on the door handles, a leather steering wheel with controls, a six-speaker audio system with XM Satellite Radio and a CD player, Bluetooth, USB connectivity and automatic dual-zone climate control.

Options on the as-tested premium model included heated seats, a moon roof, upgraded audio, LED auto-leveling headlamps, a leather package and illuminated door sills. With options, the CT 200h premium comes pretty close to what you'd normally expect in the way of Lexus luxury. Optioned out, the tested CT was $35,294, not including destination charges. The base price is $30,900.

Lexus has also added a new damping system to the CT that is designed to absorb and minimize undesirable body vibrations. The damping system under the hood is combined with a rear damper to provide a more linear steering experience.

The CT has settings for four different drive modes:

Normal is for everyday driving. Sport maximizes performance and agility with modified throttle and electric power settings. The Sport setting also reduces the affects of stability and traction control systems, and a tachometer appears in the place of the hybrid power indicator when the CT is in Sport mode. The Eco setting is for enhanced fuel savings, and EV is when the CT is operating in electric vehicle driving with zero emissions.

Meanwhile, the government has not tested the CT 200h for safety, but the insurance industry has. With anti-lock brakes supplemented by electronic brake force distribution and brake assist, vehicle and stability control systems, advanced front airbags and knee bags, side impact airbags and side curtains, and Lexus¹ Safety Connect system to notify response centers in the event of an accident, the IIHS gives the CT its Top Safety Pick for 2011.

You may not win races from stoplights in this new offering from Lexus, but you'll also drive right by signs that say $3.59 for regular unleaded gasoline.