In 1999, Lexus created the luxury crossover segment with its RX300; since then, the likes of BMW and Audi have left it in the dust. Now, Lexus is preparing to fight back with a hybrid compact crossover set to do battle with the BMW X1 and Audi Q3

According to AutoBild, Lexus is planning a smaller crossover -- designed to slot below the RX350 -- that will be based on the Toyota RAV4. To trump the competition from Germany, the automaker also plans to make the model available only as a hybrid, similar to what it has done with the new CT 200h hatchback. Fittingly, it could wear a similar moniker, as well: AutoBildclaims the new product will be dubbed the CX 300h.

AutoBild says that Lexus hopes the hybrid powertrain will allow the CX to stand out from the (admittedly large) crowd. It is estimated that the CX could achieve the equivalent of 47 mpg, rivaling that of the diesel offerings in the X1 and Q3. The X1's oil-burning offerings are estimated to achieve as high as 45 mpg, and the Q3 2.0T TDI is estimated to get around 45 mpg.

The compact luxury crossover segment is heating up with Mercedes-Benz, Alfa Romeo, and now Lexus planning on throwing their hats in the ring. It is well known that Mercedes is planning on building a small crossover on its new front-wheel drive MFA platform (which will also underpin the next-generation A-Class).

CAR reports that the mini-Merc will be called the BLK, and be slightly larger than the X1 and Q3 competition. As it will be based on the MFA, there is a chance that the BLK could also use a hybrid powertrain, rivaling Lexus at its own game. The BLK is expected to arrive in the second half of 2013, roughly the same time another competitor -- an Alfa Romeo model, riding upon the next Jeep Compass/Patriot platform -- is scheduled to launch.

This may well be the segment du jour, as BMW can't make enough of the X1 to satisfy demand. European customers have been snatching up the crossover at a voracious rate, forcing BMW to indefinitely delay the U.S. launch in order to appease demand.

What do you think? Is there room is the Lexus lineup for a RAV4-based crossover? Could it be a worthy opponent to the BMW X1, or will it just fall flat in the marketplace? Does the world really need another (or another half-dozen) compact premium crossovers? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

Source: AutoBild, CAR