Lexus IS Review logo

Lexus IS Review

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heycar review

      Launch year
      2013
      Body type
      Premium
      Fuel type
      Petrol, Diesel, Hybrid
heycar editorial team

Written by

heycar editorial team

00/10
heycar rating
“Forgotten premium contender from Lexus ”

Best bits

  • Bold styling  
  • Excellent standard safety equipment  
  • Incredible stereo in the range-topping model (or optionally)

Not so great

  • Hybrid no longer a unique selling point in this class, and plug-in rivals do it better, too
  • Hopelessly fiddly controller for the infotainment
  • Drivetrain and the dynamics lack the sparkle and driver appeal of its polished, newer rivals

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Lexus IS frontleft exterior

Overall verdict

Lexus IS front interior

On the inside

Lexus IS frontleft exterior

Driving

Lexus IS right exterior

How much does it cost to run

Lexus IS rear exterior

Prices, versions and specification

Overall verdict

"Age, market forces and the undeniable quirkiness of the Lexus IS have conspired to ensure that however competent the Lexus IS is, it’s never made a huge impact on sales in the UK. Departing soon, if you’re sold on it regardless, then bargain hard with dealers for delivery stock, or buy a used one with a substantial discount. Never a big hitter in a tough marketplace, the IS isn’t without appeal, but its quirkiness counts against it for what’s, after all, a somewhat conservative marketplace."

Lexus IS frontleft exterior

The Lexus IS has been around since 1999, it Japan’s take on the premium mid-sized executive sports saloon which offers an alternative to the all-too-obvious Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. To that, you can add the Jaguar XE and the Alfa Romeo Giulia, and a host of other mainstream saloons with upmarket aspirations.


The IS has always been the car that’s been mentioned in passing, rather than a serious buying proposition among its such competition, its appeal stymied not just by its quirkiness, but also its advancing years.


The current IS was introduced way back in 2013, and was revised for the 2017 model year, and, Lexus has already announced its replacement in 2020. Tellingly, the new car won’t be reaching the UK or European marketplace, instead Lexus focussing its efforts with the IS on countries where its sales have traditionally been stronger, those being the US and its Japanese home markets. 


That’s despite the IS regularly winning awards for customer satisfaction in the UK, those few buyers who do buy the IS are seemingly delighted with it, and evidently only too happy too to tell people about how good it is. Lexus dealers have an impeccable reputation for customer service, while reliability is also a given with the brand, too. 


The IS has always dared to be different, not just in relation to its bold styling and quirky interior, but also its powertrains. The engine line-up has changed over its lengthy production run, but not much, with a V6 2.5-litre petrol in the IS250 and a self-charging hybrid IS300h topping the model line-up. A 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol was briefly offered, but for a few years now the only engine choice has been that sole hybrid IS300h. 


No diesels, which might look like an inspired decision in the current anti-diesel marketplace, but over the course of the IS’s life it’s meant it’s been discounted from most buyers’ lists, even if that hybrid could match and better its diesel rivals for CO2 emissions – and hence minimise company car tax liability. 


That it’s not being replaced isn’t really a surprise, with compact SUV sales decimating the traditional compact saloon marketplace, as well as fierce competition from better established rivals in both the premium and mainstream sectors, it’s a tough car to recommend. With many rivals also offering excellent plug-in hybrids that better the older self-charging tech in the IS Lexus has sensibly called time on its IS model here, and we’re not sure anybody is really going to miss it. 

Is the Lexus IS right for you?

When the original IS200 was launched back in 1999 it took a bold shot at more sporting saloons in the premium segment, delivering a drive that was a convincing alternative to the BMW 3 Series. Evidently, that ambition has diluted with time, with the current, soon to leave us, IS seemingly revelling in being a leftfield choice rather than one that can genuinely be mentioned against its more sporting rivals. 


That’s despite Lexus’ ample bluster at its launch of countless Nurburgring laps and further dynamic tweaks for its 2017 facelift. Lexus has its excellent dealer service in its favour, while the IS300h does emit commendably low CO2 and feels different inside and looks it outside. 


It’s pretty refined, too. If you like the idea of all that, then yes, take a look at the IS, and if you are seduced by it be sure to negotiate a huge discount for a new one, or save the hassle and buy a nearly new used IS where somebody else has already taken a sizeable hit on depreciation. 

What’s the best Lexus IS model/engine to choose?

Once a range of engines has been pegged back to a single engine choice, and that’s the IS300h, with a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine mated to an electric motor housed in the automatic transmission. 


Trims are a little bit more expansive in their offerings, with the IS offered in three grades, these being IS, F-Sport and Takumi. Even though it’s the priciest, that Takumi is the one we’d suggest, because it’s fully loaded with equipment as standard, including a reversing camera, blind spot monitoring and the exceptional Mark Levinson premium surround sound 15-speaker audio system, which, if you like your music, is almost reason enough alone to buy an IS. Just make sure you negotiate a hefty discount. 

What other cars are similar to the Lexus IS?

We’ve already mentioned a few, the IS traditionally a car that’s been touted as a rival for cars like the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, as well as a huge number of mainstream and upper mainstream saloons. 


As time’s passed the IS’s hybrid unique selling point has been eroded significantly, with most rivals now able to offer not just similar mild, self-charging hybrids as alternatives, but far superior plug-in competitors that offer genuine commuting range electric-only range and performance – both environmentally and against the stopwatch.

Learn more

Lexus IS front interior

On the inside

Lexus IS frontleft exterior

Driving

Lexus IS right exterior

How much does it cost to run

Lexus IS rear exterior

Prices, versions and specification