We get that Lexus wants popularize its newfound F Sport sub-brand, but that sub-brand will soon be meaningless if the automaker keeps slapping an F Sport badge onto vehicles that are not remotely sporty. An F Sport version of the RX350 makes no sense, and an F Sport version of an aged hybrid hatch that crawls from 0 to 60 mph in ten seconds makes even less sense.

Vague performance

There's never been anything sporty about the Lexus CT200h since it debuted in 2010. Neither a refresh for 2014, which updates the car's aesthetics but not much else, nor an F Sport badge has changed that. The $1180 F Sport package must improve the performance of the Lexus CT200h, right? Only by adding an F Sport-tuned suspension -- to translate, that means higher spring rates. Lexus says the suspension changes "help realize superb handling stability, particularly during low- to mid-speed driving." One, there is no noticeable change in handling at any speed, and what we experienced with this Lexus CT200h was far from "superb." And two, something with F Sport-tuned suspension should cater to driving enthusiasts who care more about high-speed driving anyway.

Gussied up

If not a performance-boosting package, what is the pricey F Sport option? It's mostly an appearance package for the Lexus CT200h, which includes two-tone, 17-inch aluminum wheels, a mesh front grille, fog lights with even more mesh, a shift knob scantly trimmed in leather, and seats trimmed in black NuLuxe (faux leather). We admit that we like the package's black roof, but the Lexus CT200h already looks like Predator wearing Paul Wall's grill -- why dress it up even more? If one were compelled to do so, they should go ahead, but the option box they tick shouldn't say "F Sport."

Bad move

Lexus isn't the only automaker diluting its sporty sub-brand. The M Sport package for a BMW X3 doesn't improve the crossover's performance whatsoever. Squandering the potential of sporty sub-brands will hurt champion brands, the F's and M's of the world, in the long run. The Lexus CT200h F Sport is simply an oxymoron that shouldn't exist.

2014 Lexus CT200h F Sport Specifications

Base price$34,140

Price as tested$39,030

Engine1.8-liter DOHC I-4

Power98 hp @ 5200 rpm

Torque105 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm

Motor80-hp AC permanent-magnet synchronous

Battery pack201.6-volt nickel metal hydride

Total power134 hp

TransmissionContinuously variable

DriveFront-wheel

Fuel economy43/40 mpg (city/highway)

0-60 mph9.8 sec

Top speed113 mph

Cargo capacity14.3 cu ft

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