Striking styling and hybrid efficiency help the IS stand out
- Hybrid powertrain means low running costs
- Quiet and refined drive
- Different from the norm
- Petrol engine not very efficient
- Poor performance
- Doesn’t handle as well as rivals
Now in its third generation, the Lexus IS is aimed squarely at the BMW 3 Series Saloon.
Although there is a choice of seven trims as well as a pair of engines, the real sweet spot in the range is the IS 300h F Sport thanks to its blend of equipment, good looks and sharper handling.
The IS as a whole doesn’t quite pass muster as a true equal to the likes of the excellent BMW or the Audi A4 Saloon and Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon; it’s probably a closer rival to the Jaguar XE and Alfa Romeo Giulia.
Bigger and more luxurious
The dimensions of the IS offer an increase in cabin size, with a wider stance and a longer wheelbase providing more rear legroom as well as increased luggage space compared with the outgoing model.
Most versions get 60:40 folding rear seats as well as a driver’s seat offering better support and a more comfortable driving position than the previous model’s. You sit lower in the cabin and grip a steering wheel inspired by the LFA supercar.
Inside, the interior design uses high-tech display equipment and new materials that are a step-up in terms of quality. There are touch-sensitive switches for the air-conditioning requiring only the lightest brush of a finger to operate.
Extremely low running costs
While the previous-generation IS had plenty of high-tech standard kit and a range of efficient engines that allowed relatively low-cost motoring, CO2 emissions weren’t quite as good as the competition’s, which meant fleet drivers looked the other way.
This version, gets the option of a hybrid petrol/electric powertrain with very impressive CO2 figures.
It’s going to appeal to private buyers thanks to high claimed fuel economy figures, while company car drivers are going to applaud the lower benefit-in-kind taxation offered by a petrol car emitting just 97g/km in IS 300h SE trim.
Great ownership experience
The ownership experience is likely to be fairly flawless. Lexus scores incredibly highly in customer satisfaction surveys and its dealerships are known for good service.
It’ll be reliable, too. Lexus is the luxury arm of Toyota, which means you get typical Japanese build quality that should last the length of your ownership period.
Lexus IS saloon model history
- February 2013 – Third-generation Lexus IS saloon available to order in petrol-engined IS 250 and petrol-electric hybrid IS 300h guises. The range structure starts with SE and moves up through Luxury, F Sport and up to Premier – both drivetrains are available with each trim combination.
- June 2014 – The range is fleshed out further with the launch of the IS 300h Executive Edition, sitting just about the entry-level SE. Standard features include a full leather interior and sat-nav, with 17-inch alloy wheels sprucing up the exterior.
- April 2015 – New Advance trim level introduced for the IS 300h featuring many of the more expensive Luxury version’s core features such as leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats and 17-inch alloy wheels. Modifications see a reduction in CO2 emissions across the range with the entry-level IS 300h SE emitting just 97g/km.
- September 2015 – IS range expanded with the introduction of the 200t versions, powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine developing 245hp. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard, with the IS 200t available in Sport, F Sport and Premier specifications. All IS 250 models are discontinued.
- December 2016 – Facelifted IS range available to order, with first deliveries in January 2017. Visually the changes are centred around a modified front end, with high-spec models featuring LED headlamps, while the suspension and dampers have been tweaked to improve handling and make it more comfortable. The biggest revamp for the cabin centres around an improved multimedia system. The specification hierarchy of SE, Executive Edition, Sport, Advance, Luxury, F Sport and Premier remains, with the IS 200t only available in conjunction with the top two trims.
Find out how we rate this dashing compact executive with the full Lexus IS saloon review.
What owners say about this car
Wonderfully smooth gearbox can't feel the gear changes, regardless of how hard you push it. Excellent build quality absolutely... Read owner review
The much maligned (by motoring journalists) CVT gearbox ensures that the drive is incredibly smooth. If you want responsiveness then... Read owner review