Review

Lexus IS saloon

Price  £26,495 - £36,750

Lexus IS saloon

reviewed by Carbuyer

Pros
  • Comfortable ride
  • Hybrid is road tax-free
  • Great reliability and dealer service
Cons
  • No diesel option
  • Gearbox is noisy
  • Hybrid is too slow

At a glance

The greenest
IS 300h SE Auto 4dr £28,995
The cheapest
IS 250 SE Auto 4dr £26,495
The fastest
IS 250 SE Auto 4dr £26,495
Top of the range
IS 300h Premier Auto 4dr £36,750

"The Lexus IS takes on BMW and Mercedes diesel models with its efficient hybrid and it's surprisingly good fun to drive."

The Lexus IS is a competitor for the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class, but offers a different approach with its choice of hybrid and petrol engines. The hybrid Lexus IS 300h offers the lowest CO2 emissions in its class (99g/km), along with sporty and distinctive styling.

It handles better than the previous IS thanks to improved suspension and better steering, while the Lexus brand offers terrific reliability and dealer service, so this should be a popular choice for company car buyers. However, poor performance and a noisy CVT automatic gearbox mean it's hard to recommend the IS over its main rivals.

MPG, running costs & CO2

4.1 / 5

Hybrid is economical, but it can be hard to match the claimed figures

There's no diesel engine available in the IS – the choice is either a regular 2.5-litre petrol or a 2.5-litre hybrid petrol. The hybrid in the Lexus IS 300h is claimed to return 65.7mpg fuel economy and 99g/km CO2 emissions. That's not quite as economical as the BMW 3 Series diesel's 68.9mpg, but it does match the Audi A4 – and Lexus says the IS 300h is £1,000 cheaper to run per year than the Audi.

The hybrid model's low CO2 emissions mean you won't pay any road tax, but it's not easy to match the manufacturer's claimed fuel economy. It should be attractive to company car buyers, though. The faster and more powerful Lexus IS 250 petrol is much more expensive to run, returning just 32mpg and emitting 199g/km of CO2 for £265-a-year road tax.

Engines, drive & performance

3.8 / 5

Handling is much better than before, but engines are poor

The Lexus IS is much better to drive than its predecessor, with lots of grip, accurate steering and strong brakes. The car feels very stable in corners as well, but the main problem with the IS is its engines.

The IS 300h hybrid is a little slow to react and its CVT automatic gearbox is quite noisy, spoiling driving enjoyment. The Lexus IS 250's engine is more responsive, but it's still not much fun and doesn't feel as sporty as you'd expect a petrol V6 to.

There's a dial to control how much engine noise comes into the cabin, but a lot of it is synthesised, so it doesn't sound very good. Turn this function off and the IS is a typically quiet and sensible Lexus at heart.

Interior & comfort

4.3 / 5

Very comfortable to drive and spacious inside

Even with stiffer suspension in F Sport specification, the Lexus IS is a very comfortable car, especially in traffic or on the motorway. Cruise control and climate control are standard on all models, while the top Premier spec gets electric leather seats and a powerful stereo.

This Lexus IS has more rear legroom than the old model, so there's plenty of space for passengers in the back. On the whole, the IS is a quiet and comfortable cruiser, but bear in mind that the CVT automatic gearbox in the hybrid model can be very noisy when you're accelerating.

Practicality & boot space

3.7 / 5

More room inside than its predecessor

This Lexus IS is slightly bigger than its predecessor. That and the fact that the front seats are thinner means there's more legroom in the rear. The boot is a little smaller than that in the BMW 3 Series, but folding rear seats mean there's still plenty of space for extra luggage. Lexus' parking navigation service helps you to find a car park nearby and also displays price information so there are no surprises when you arrive at the barrier.

Reliability & safety

4.5 / 5

Lexus has a good reputation for reliability and there are fewer parts to service on hybrid model

Lexus finished first in our Driver Power 2013 customer satisfaction survey and the company's reputation for reliability and build quality mean the IS should be very dependable. The hybrid engine in the 300h model is proven technology and the battery has been designed to last for the life of the car.

The interior is very well made, too, so should last just as well. The previous Lexus IS was ranked 23rd for reliability in our 2014 survey and this one should be just as reliable. It's very safe, too, scoring the maximum five stars in the Euro NCAP crash test and doing particularly well for adult occupant protection.

Price, value for money & options

3.8 / 5

Lexus IS is a little pricey compared to rivals, but well equipped

The Lexus IS is more expensive than its rivals the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class, but it looks great and its interior is beautifully put together. We particularly like the sliding digital speedometer (a nod to the Lexus LFA supercar) and 18-inch alloy wheels fitted to F Sport models.

All models including the entry-level SE get alloy wheels, cruise control, climate control, Bluetooth, DAB digital radio and automatic headlights. A powerful 15-speaker stereo is standard on the Premier model and optional on the F Sport and Luxury trims. Also standard on the Premier are electric leather seats, a seven-inch sat-nav display and a rear-view camera.

What the others say

2.7 / 5
based on 3 reviews
3 / 5
"Rather than copying the competition, Lexus has forged its own path with the new IS saloon. Sharper steering, firmer suspension and a more rigid chassis mean it handles better than its predecessor, but still retains the refinement Lexus is famous for."
1 / 5
"The Lexus IS comes well equipped, has plenty of grip, and should be reliable but the ride is awful, it suffers from too much road noise and you'll be cramped in the back. The petrol-only engine range means it’ll be pricey to run."
4 / 5
"Slightly weird to look at, but worth getting acquainted with because this is a really well-produced saloon with poise and precise handling. With a modern, economical 2.0-litre turbodiesel and manual transmission it would be a close 3-series contender. Now why didn't they do that?"
Last updated 
25 Mar 2015

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