Lexus would have been about the last company we'd expect to debut a new compact hatchback, but that definitely describes the new 2011 Lexus CT 200h ($TBA). Aimed at the gas-sipping instead of tire-burning crowd, the 200h sports a total output of 134 hp, a rather pokey 0-60 time of 9.8 seconds, impressive 42mpg fuel economy, eco-friendly features like LED lighting, bamboo charcoal speakers, and bio-sourced materials throughout the cabin, no less than seven driving modes — including a snore-inducing "relaxing" setting — and a bespoke suspension design with a MacPherson strut front system and a new, fully-independent double wishbone architecture for superior handling should you ever get the car up to a speed at which you can actually take advantage of it.
While the U.S. car companies were asleep at the wheel, the Hyundai Kia Automotive Group was busy improving the fit, finish, and overall quality of their cars. The latest Killer Korean is the 2011 Kia Optima ($TBA). Although it shares a wheelbase and many dimensions with its cousin the Hyundai Sonata, the Optima differentiates itself with more aggressive, Acura-like styling, three engine options, including a 274hp 2.0L turbocharged four cylinder and a 2.4L hybrid, the Uvo infotainment system, based on the same Microsoft OS that powers Ford's Sync system, HID headlights, LED rear combo lights, and impressive 18-inch black machined finish alloy wheels.
Wrapped in striking new sheet metal and powered by either a 3.7-liter V6 good for 330 horsepower (in the M37) or a direct injected 5.6-liter V8 cranking out 420 hp (in the M56), the 2011 Infiniti M ($TBA) replaces the aging previous model with aplomb. Available in both RWD and AWD (x) versions, each of which is equipped with a seven-speed automatic transmission with a Drive Sport manual mode and optional paddle shifters, it will offer niceties including standard 18-inch wheels, Infiniti Drive, which lets the drive choose between one of four throttle and transmission mapping modes, active noise control for a quieter cabin, blind spot warning and intervention systems, a next-generation Infiniti Hard Drive Navigation System, a Bose Studio Surround premium audio system, and a new feature called Eco Pedal that offers the driver direct feedback to encourage eco-friendly driving — something that's extra handy on a car as sporty as this.