What's the used Lexus IS saloon like?
You would think a luxurious and beautifully made compact executive car with a prestigious badge and high-tech engineering would be a runaway winner in these status-conscious times, but the IS has never made the dent that Lexus has always hoped it would.
This third-generation model carries the same air of prestige the first two incarnations displayed. But when it was launched in 2013, Lexus took the bold and potentially damaging decision to ditch its diesel-engined version and offer a petrol-electric hybrid, believing – somewhat presciently, as it turns out – this the better option for the years ahead.
Underneath the eye-catching but orthodox four-door saloon bodyshell of the hybrid IS300h is a 2.5-litre petrol engine linked to an electric motor, driving the rear wheels through a CVT-style transmission. Lexus also initially offered the more conventional IS200, which featured a conventional 2.0-litre petrol engine and a six-speed automatic transmission. It will probably suit those seeking a smoother and more familiar powertrain.
There are seven trim levels to choose from when looking at a used IS, with only three, Sport, F-Sport and Premier, available on the models fitted with a 2.0-litre petrol engine. Opt for an entry-level SE model and expect to find keyless entry, cruise control, dual-zone climate control and a 7.0in infotainment system with DAB radio. Upgrade to the fleet-friendly Executive Edition and you'll find sat-nav and leather seats included, while the Sport models get bigger alloys, parking sensors and auto wipers.
The mid-range Luxury models don't come with the sporty attire found on the Sport models, while the Advance IS gets electrically adjustable, heated and cooled front seats, and a reversing camera. The F-Sport models get a truly aggressive bodykit and styling inspired by the super-sporting and very expensive LFA coupe, while the range-topping Premier trim comes with a Mark Levinson stereo system and Lexus's premium navigation system including a DVD player.
To drive, the IS is crisp and secure but a little uninspiring. Both versions are fairly refined on the move, with the hybrid able to run on electric-only power for short distances around town, although its refinement is spoiled a little by the occasional bellow from the engine under hard acceleration. It steers and handles well, but offers the driver not much in the way of involvement, while its ride is for the most part reasonably comfortable. The interior might lack panache, but it is beyond reproach in its build quality and in its use of high-quality materials. It’s well equipped, and its safety and security tech is top notch.
Thanks to its on-paper claimed fuel consumption – up to 67.3mpg – the IS300h is cheap to run and tax, and it made a lot of sense when new as a company car purchase. Now, as a used car, its reliability and unsurpassed dealer support network, not to mention its petrol-powered drivetrain, should be enough to tempt buyers away from its more familiar diesel-engined rivals from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.