"The Lexus IS takes on BMW and Mercedes diesel models with its efficient hybrid, and it's surprisingly fun to drive"
The Lexus IS 2013 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 emissions in its class, with 99g/km, and new styling has updated the car to make it look sportier and more distinctive. The new car handles better than the previous model thanks to new suspension and better steering, too. What's more, the Lexus brand offers terrific reliability and dealer service, so the Lexus IS will be a popular car for company car buyers. However, the lack of performance and the noisy automatic gearbox mean it's hard to recommend the IS over its rivals.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
There are no diesel engines available for the IS- it is available with either a 2.5-litre V6 petrol or a 2.5-litre hybrid petrol engine. The 2.5-litre hybrid in the Lexus IS 300h is claimed to return 65.7mpg and 99g/km in emissions. This economy figure isn’t quite as good as the BMW 3 Series’ 68.9mpg but does match the Audi A4 - and Lexus says the IS 300h is £1,000 cheaper to run per year in the first three years than the Audi. The Lexus's low emissions mean tax is much cheaper than either of these rival cars, but it's not easy to match the manufacturer's claimed fuel economy. The cheaper tax should make the Lexus IS attractive to company car buyers, too. The faster and more powerful Lexus IS 250 is much more expensive to run, though, returning just 32mpg.
Interior & comfort
Even with the sporty stiffer suspension in the F Sport specification the Lexus IS is a very comfortable car, especially in traffic or on the motorway. Cruise control and climate control is standard in all models, while the top Premier models get electric leather seats and a powerful stereo system. The new Lexus IS has more rear legroom than the old model too, so there is 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 automatic gearbox in the hybrid model can be very noisy when accelerating.
Practicality & boot space
The new Lexus IS is slightly bigger than the old car, with that and a thinner front seat meaning there's more legroom in the rear. The boot is a little smaller than that of a BMW 3 Series, but folding rear seats mean there is still plenty of space for extra luggage. Lexus’ new 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
Lexus finished first in the Auto Express Driver Power survey in 2013, and the company's reputation for reliability and build quality mean that the IS should prove to be very dependable. The hybrid engine in the 300h model means that there are fewer parts to change when servicing, keeping bills low, and the battery has been designed to last for the length of the car's lifetime. The interior is very well made as well, so should last just as well. The old Lexus IS came in 11th for reliability in the survey, and this new one should be just as reliable. It's very safe, too, scoring the full five stars in the Euro NCAP crash safety test, socring particularly high for adult occupants.
Engines, drive & performance
The new 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 the corners as well, but the main problem with the IS is the engines. The IS 300h hybrid is a little slow to react, and the automatic gearbox is quite noisy – spoiling the enjoyment of the drive. The Lexus IS 250 V6 engine is more responsive but it's still not very fun and doesn’t feel as sporty as you might expect a V6 to be. There's a dial which controls the volume of engine noise that comes into the cabin to make it feel more like a sports car, but the noise is faked by the sound system and just adds to the unwanted noise. That said, if you turn it off, it's still very much a quiet and sensible Lexus at heart.
Price, value for money & options
The Lexus IS price is higher than its rivals the BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes C-Class, but the styling is excellent and the interior is beautifully put together. We particularly like the sliding digital speedometer (a nod towards the 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, digital radio and automatic headlights. A powerful 15-speaker stereo is standard on the top of the line Premier models and optional on the Lexus IS F Sport and Luxury specifications. Also standard on the Premier models are electric leather seats, a 7-inch sat-nav display and a rear-view camera.