Lexus IS saloon
Price £28,995 - £36,750
- Hybrid is cheap to run
- Excellent reliability record
- Ride is superbly comfortable
- No diesel engine
- Rivals are better to drive
- Hybrid isn’t powerful enough
At a glance
“The lack of a diesel engine means the Lexus IS is unlikely to top any sales charts, but it makes for an intriguing alternative to the usual suspects from BMW, Mercedes and Audi.”
As a compact executive saloon, the Lexus IS is up against some stiff competition in the shape of the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class, Audi A4 and Jaguar XE. Its striking looks certainly help it to stand out, but the lack of a diesel engine may put some buyers off.
Speaking of engines, you can either go for the Lexus IS 300h petrol-electric hybrid, which combines a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor to give a total of 220bhp, or there's the recently introduced Lexus IS 200t 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol with 242bhp.
If running costs are your priority, go for the hybrid. It's the only model in the range to dip below 100g/km of CO2, which means it's exempt from road tax and sits in the 14% Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) company car tax band, making it a bargain for business users. It's worth noting that only applies to the entry-level model, however. The bigger wheels on other versions push emissions higher.
The IS sends its power to the rear wheels via a frustrating CVT automatic transmission that unfortunately causes the engine to make a lot of noise – especially when worked hard. Other than that, the Lexus isn’t bad to drive, but it's nowhere near as good as the BMW 3 Series or Jaguar XE. It's more a comfortable cruiser in the mould of the Mercedes C-Class or Audi A4.
The IS 200t is a fair bit quicker than the IS 300h hybrid, but it’ll cost an awful lot more to run and its not as fast as many of its rivals. Annual road tax will cost £205 a year and it's probably not worth considering as a company car, as it sits in the 28% BiK bracket.
Also, although this version has a traditional automatic transmission, rather than the hybrid's CVT, it's still not a great gearbox, being jerky, slow to respond and no match for rivals’.
All Lexus IS models are, however, well equipped and well built. They should definitely be reliable – the car was voted Britain's best to own in our 2015 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey.
The Lexus IS hybrid promises some very impressive economy numbers, but they can be difficult to match in the real world
Handling is better than in previous versions of the Lexus IS, but it still won’t be the keen driver’s choice
As we’ve come to expect from the brand, the Lexus IS is spacious and comfortable inside
There’s plenty of passenger space in the Lexus IS, but hybrid’s boot capacity is reduced
These are two particularly strong areas for the Lexus IS