Lexus IS 200t Review
The Lexus IS is the mid-sized saloon from the Japanese manufacturer that is a popular choice in its class.
- New petrol engine available alongside a hybrid option
- Really decent sized boot
- Very comfortable
- Centre console is a bit too cluttered with buttons
- The red leather interior on our test car
The Lexus brand has come on leaps and bounds over the past few years with recent models proving their might against the more popular manufacturers.
The IS sits between the baby CT model and the larger GS and is in a highly competitive segment against the likes of the Audi A4 and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Does it have what it takes to take them on?
On the Road
When it first launched, the IS came with the Lexus Hybrid System powered by a 178bhp 2.5-litre engine and 141bhp electric motor, with a total output of 220bhp. Not too shabby considering it’s a hybrid, but it was aimed at owners looking to cut their emissions and be more fuel efficient.
Not wanting to alienate the market too much, Lexus have launched the IS 200t, the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine proving a good alternative to the hybrid. Producing 241 bhp it has a 0-62mph time of 7 seconds and a top speed of 143mph.
It really lacks some ooomph at low end but it’s a lot better once it picks up. Both options use a silky smooth eight-speed automatic transmission with paddles on the steering wheel too.
Drive Mode Select gives you the option to drive it in an fuel saving ECO mode, or if you’re in a racier mood then the instrument dial turns red once Sport is engaged making the four cylinders really start to burble.
The ride is firm but comfortable although it doesn’t always absorb rough road surfaces well so expect a jittery reaction to any pot holes.
Once you’re in sport mode steering is light and responsive giving you extra confidence to take on the twisty stuff and even though it’s a saloon there’s plenty of grip too. Drive it right and you’ll actually be surprised how much enjoyment you’ll get with the IS.
Expect plenty of refinement with the IS; it’s super luxurious, the soft touch leather makes it very comfortable and the cabin offers a quiet driving experience. The hybrid is very quiet, the only time it sounds like it’s being worked is when it’s heaving up hills. The turbocharged variant is obviously not as quiet, whirring quite a bit when it’s idle.
There is some road and wind noise but not enough to really make it uncomfortable.
In the car
The word that is repeatedly used to describe the interior of a Lexus is luxury. The IS has it in spades, the comfortable, heated and ventilated sports seats, the soft touch leather steering wheel, it is all designed to give the driver a pleasant journey, be it a short hop to the shops, or a cruise down the motorway.
The instrument panel is pretty impressive with the speedo electronically sliding across to make room and thus giving the driver plenty of information, including media, navigation, what gear you’re in and oil temperature. The dial also turns red when you’re in sport mode, returning to a sedate blue in eco.
The Remote Touch control system operates the large centre display screen, like using a computer mouse it moves a cursor around the screen and although not that easy to use at first as you do have to use your left hand due to the position it’s in. Once it’s been mastered, navigation, car settings, entertainment and phone settings can be comandeered by this operating system.
Up front there is plenty of room, seats can be electronically maneovered and it feels fairly spacious. Unfortunately it’s not really the case in the rear, legroom is not on the generous size so expect to feel cramped if you’re tall.
The boot is generous, believe us when we say a lot can be packed in so if you’re looking for a saloon that can transport plenty of suitcases and other large items then the IS will eat them up benefiting from split-folding rear seats too. The boot is a big plus point on the Lexus IS, although it’s just slightly smaller than the Audi A4.
The Lexus IS costs from £28,995, a few thousand more than the Jaguar XE and the test car we had had options like metallic paint costing £610 and £2,000 for leather upholstery.
The Lexus IS200t falls into VED band H so will cost £300 annually and with fuel economy likely to be around the mid twenties in combined mpg figures, then it could work out reasonably high in running costs. If that’s a main concern then the hybrid is the best option as it only emits 99g/km so there is nothing to pay in road tax.
Expect top notch quality with the Lexus IS, it’s all built to a high level with materials that feel built to last and the Japanese brand strive to make sure that all the little details are well thought about.
Reliability is a major plus point for any Lexus model, it has topped a fair few customer satisfaction surveys, the IS received the accolade for best car in last year’s Auto Express Driver Power survey and Lexus were best manufacturer and car dealer. Think that says it all.
The Lexus IS scored the maximum five stars in the Euro NCAP tests in 2013, it did well with 91% adult occupant safety and 85% for children.
With airbags, ABS, vehicle stability and traction control, pedestrians will also be protected if they collide with the IS. The bonnet will be raised slightly in the case of impact with their Pop-up Hood safety system.