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Lexus has had a good range of hybrid vehicles for quite some time now, most impressive of which to us at the time was the GS 450h. The range has recently been extended with a small car, a new size in the Lexus range, the HS 250h. Based on its Toyota Prius platform, the HS 250h has a difficult task to be both more conservative in comparison to the Prius, which it aims to achieve with a decidedly 3 box sedan shape, yet be more up-scale and high tech than the same Prius, which is clear from the interior design and its fit and finish.
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That is also where it becomes the lesser solution. In going to a 3-box sedan shape, the HS 250h is less practical than the Prius, which, given the rather compact dimensions, leaves something to be desired. Would a sedan-like hatchback have been a better solution, offering the flexibility but also retaining a more conventional overall shape?
Similarly on the interior, we were very impressed by the Prius and the open space it offered in the center console below the gear shift, as well as the ease of use of the touch screen display within easy reach of your fingers. On the Lexus the center console is of a very different shape, and looses the practicality of the Prius console. On top of that, the Lexus has its info display moved way up on the IP as a retractable system, which does not allow for the usage of the touch screen as such, but requires the upgraded mouse function placed in the center console next to the gear shift, right in the spot of where the gear shift is placed in the Prius.
This leads to an unfortunate set of circumstances, which requires the need to be able to adjust the angle of the screen to prevent sun glare to interrupt vision, but also makes that the big control mouse takes up quite a lot of space on the console, where the Prius was rather more space efficient.
Of course the Lexus has a higher built quality both on the exterior and interior, although, again, the Prius is not that far off either. The Lexus uses very nice sound dampening, the closing of doors gives a perceived higher quality sound, the leather and color & trim on the interior provide an upper echelon image. It does really set the owners of the Lexus apart from the Prius owners, but one might question if this is such a good thing, since the Prius has itself carved out a niche that attracts both common Toyota buyers as well as environmental conscious Hollywood rich and famous, and the Lexus really does neither.
The power and road holding characteristics does not put this Lexus in a league with the other vehicles of this brand. It definitely is still very much a Prius balance, which might have been something worth considering adjusting for Lexus. The fuel consumption puts it out of the league of the Prius as well. Because of the engine and the extra weight, this Lexus is by far not as fuel efficient as the Prius either, and more close in fuel consumption to the GS hybrid, but it is substantially smaller than the GS.
All in all the Lexus HS 250h is a very high quality compact luxury hybrid vehicle, but in our opinion it is not good enough to be a Lexus, and not fuel efficient enough to be a Prius derivative, which makes for a sad missed opportunity. How cool would it have been if this more conservative Lexus Hybrid would have been technologically superior, in terms of fuel consumption superior, in terms of road holding superior, and in in performance and built quality superior to the Toyota Prius. The Lexus brand is positioned higher than the Toyota brand, and in lieu of the Prius becoming its own independent brand, THAT was where this Lexus should have been placed, superior to the Prius in all areas.