When the Lexus IS first burst onto the scene in 1999, it shook up the established junior executive order with a car so different that, even today, a certain style of rear lights is named after it. We're now into the third generation of the IS model and it's better looking than ever – and one of the most distinctive looking cars in its class.
That aggressive grille and those sharp lines really distance the Lexus IS from the more established rivals. The IS interior is a very nice place to be: It's spacious enough for four adult occupants in comfort, and you can't question the materials or the standard fit either.
The layout and actual design of the cabin is a little less satisfying. There's an odd mix of fussiness and organisation. This doesn't feel like an environment created by desire, it's rather a clinical execution. In general, though, the equipment levels are excellent.
While the first IS was unashamedly a sports saloon, the newest model has grown up a lot. It majors on the quality of the ride, and paired with the silence of that hybrid unit with the CVT gear box it makes for a serene place to be. That's not to say that the sportiness is gone.
In general, it's a poised and well balanced car with very little body roll. It's a rewarding drive but you'll need to avoid the hybrid model to get the most out of it in this department.
The boot space isn't quite up to the standards of the class. It's not small by any stretch but it loses out to every rival for outright space. Get the hybrid model and you'll lose 30 litres to make way for the battery pack.
The hybrid cars do achieve up to 67mpg though, and if you get the entry level car it's exempt from road tax. You should see good return on your purchase price, too – Lexus cars do tend to retain their value.
The Lexus has long sort to make the IS rival the German models in its class, and we say that they've nearly done it. It certainly wins on equipment levels for the price. That said, all the competing brands have a diesel model and a four wheel drive car in the line up – the Lexus IS offers neither, so some buyers may take it out of the running without ever sitting in it.