Already selling strongly in Japan in pre-order sales, Lexus today announced U.S. pricing for the 2010 HS 250h dedicated luxury sedan. Starting at a mere $34,200, the hybrid is firmly positioned at the entry-level sector of the luxury sedan market. The carmaker hopes to hit 25,000 sales in the HS 250h's first year.

As we showed you nearly two months ago with our first drive review of the car, the 2010 Lexus HS 250h can't really be compared with its corporate stablemate the Toyota Prius, but the comparisons are inevitable. Priced at over $12,000 more than a base Prius II, the HS 250h certainly isn't going for the value buyer - but then it's a luxury car. The Premium trim HS 250h stretches the gap even further, starting at $36,970.

On the other hand, the Prius V starts at $27,270 and can rapidly be optioned up above $32,500 with the addition of big-ticket items like the Solar Roof Package and common interior upgrades. That leaves the buyer looking for something with a bit more style possibly eying the Lexus instead.

The fuel efficiency of the Prius is in a whole different league, however, rated at 51mpg city/48mpg highway. Compared to the HS 250h's 35mpg city/34mpg highway rating, there's no competition at all. The HS 250h is available with a range of options, including the new Remote Touch controller also found in the 2010 Lexus RX, which simply aren't avalable on the Prius. The HS 250h is also the first vehcle to offer Lexus' Enform with Safety Connect telematics system.

So despite the proximity in price of a very high-end Prius and a base-model HS 250h, there isn't much overlap in terms of target market - the HS 250h is for the entry-luxury sedan buyer that wants something more efficient than the competition, not more efficient than anything on the road.