As automakers race to meet higher fuel economy standards, the use of turbocharged 4-cylinder engines has exploded. And while previous attempts to wring higher mileage from cars usually saw an unsatisfying drop in performance, these new force-induction fours deliver a driving experience that is both spirited and efficient. This in a nutshell describes the 2016 Lexus IS200t F Sport.

The newest member of the IS lineup uses a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine to deliver 241 horsepower to the rear wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission. This compact sport sedan retains the driving dynamics of its more powerful IS 300/350 siblings, both of which employ a 3.5-liter V6 in two respective states of tune offering 255 and 305 horsepower. This means that the entry-level car, the 200t, is just 14 hp shy of the next model up the line and perhaps is a better value if you put a premium on a rewarding driving experience.

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Light and nimble

The 2016 Lexus IS200t actually makes more torque than the IS300 AWD, 258 vs. 236 lb.-ft., but the V6 is able to put its power down more efficiently, and as a result has a quicker 0-60 mph acceleration time of 6.1 seconds compared to the turbo's 6.9 seconds. Part of that is due also to a bit of turbo lag from the 4-cylinder. Still, the IS200t has a light and nimble feel that matches the car's compact dimensions. This is a sport sedan in the tradition of the BMW 3 Series

While there have been some criticism of the bold spindle grille across the Lexus model range, the look works well with the IS, which has a taut body and sharp character lines that give this sedan an aggressive, sporty air. The interior carries over the theme, is richly appointed and with the optional $3,545 F Sport package, comes with heavily bolstered buckets, a sport steering wheel with paddle shifters, aluminum pedals, a backup monitor and heated/ventilated leather seating surfaces.  The sport package also adds 18-inch wheels shod with summer sport tires.

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Mode matches mood

Depending on your mood, or for that matter weather conditions, the 2016 Lexus IS200t F Sport offers a variety of drive modes to match the situation. There's a dedicated Eco mode, which the car will automatically slip into from normal if your demands on the throttle are light, a Sport mode, which tightens up the steering and suspension as well as making the car feel more free revving, and a Snow mode with second gear starts to cope with slippery conditions. 

Other features on our test car, which listed at $44,510 included a $1,505 navigation package, lighted door sills for $425 and a $600 blind spot monitor with cross traffic detection. If you decide not to go with the aggressive tires, suspension and seating of the F Sport package and just take the navigation, the Lexus IS200t can be had for less than $40,000 based on its $37,325 base price, plus $950 destination. And since the F Sport goodies really don't affect the engine output, a standard model will offer nearly the same level of thrills at a value price while delivering combined fuel economy of 26 mpg.

See full review and pricing information for the 2016 Lexus IS or build and price your own to unlock its Fair Purchase Price, 5-Year Cost to Own, and more.

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