Used Lexus IS Saloon 1999 - 2005 review

Category: Executive car

It's a likeable compact executive car that's a sensible owning proposition, but dear to buy

Used Lexus IS Saloon 1999 - 2005
  • Used Lexus IS Saloon 1999 - 2005
  • Used Lexus IS Saloon 1999 - 2005
Used Lexus IS Saloon 1999 - 2005 review
Star rating

What's the used Lexus IS saloon like?

As far as value goes, the IS is the best way of owning a Lexus. But, don't think you're short-changing yourself by going for the company's cheapest model.

Like its bigger, more expensive brothers, the IS has a reputation for being utterly dependable, and is capable of racking up huge mileages without major repairs. Lexus dealers are known to work hard to keep customers happy - What Car? hears plenty of praise and scarcely a complaint.


It's a likeable compact executive car that's a sensible owning proposition, but dear to buy

  • The super-reliable IS is good to drive, has individual looks and comes well equipped
  • The cabin is disappointing, rear accommodation is tight
  • no diesels and it's expensive to buy

The IS a fine car, too. It grips and steers well, although a little more feedback through the controls wouldn't go amiss, and the S and SE ride stiffly, while Sport models can be harsh.

The cabin looks good, the equipment levels easily beat those of rivals, and everything looks and feels well screwed together. There are some nice details, too, like the instruments that resemble an outsize designer watch and lift the looks of a dash that's plasticky to the touch.

There are no complaints about comfort up front, but space in the back is tight for adults, particularly when three sit abreast, and the boot isn't that big.

Ownership cost

What used Lexus IS saloon will I get for my budget?

How much does it cost to run a Lexus IS saloon?

Running costs are typical for a compact executive, while the IS's fantastic reputation for reliability suggests that you can expect never to have to face a surprise repair bills.

Using main dealers for servicing is expensive, but there isn't the network of specialists that Mercedes-Benz and BMW owners can turn to capable of tackling the work cheaply and well. At least a Lexus stamp in the service book helps maintain a healthy resale price, however.

Fuel economy isn't great, either: only up to 29mpg overall in the 2.0 and as little as 20mpg in town, while the 3.0 manages only up to 26mpg overall and just 18mpg in town.

At least, insurance is cheap - all 2.0s fall within group 12, while the 3.0 is just one group higher.

Our recommendations

Which used Lexus IS saloon should I buy?

Go for a 2.0-litre model with SE trim. The smaller engine has enough power, and is a better match for the car's abilities than the much more powerful 3.0.

The entry-level model is badged as an S and well kitted out, including air-con and alloy wheels as standard, but the SE adds leather seats and, on later models, sat-nav - all desirable stuff. The Sport matches these equipment levels, but adds bigger alloys, skinny tyres and a stiffened suspension, which combine to ruin the ride.

The 3.0 has an automatic gearbox as standard, but the 2.0 can have a choice of that or a six-speed manual. Either transmission is good.

The car kept its original handsome lines without a major face-lift throughout its six-year life, but equipment levels were steadily raised over time, so that the last of line had everything you could think of. All of which translates into a simple instruction: buy as new a car as you can.


What alternatives should I consider to a used Lexus IS saloon?