Lexus IS (2013 – 2020) Review

Lexus IS (2013 – 2020) At A Glance

Honest John Overall Rating
Few people will mourn the end of the Lexus IS in the UK but, if you're prepared to be different, it could be a strong alternative to a BMW 3 Series or Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Not only does it look pretty good, it has a solid interior and will be relatively cheap to run.

+Sharp and modern styling. Well built and upmarket cabin. Lexus has a strong reliability record.

-Poor infotainment with no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Not as good to drive as a BMW 3 Series.

New prices start from £30,105
Insurance Groups are between 28–38
On average it achieves 76% of the official MPG figure

Taking on the Germans, in Europe at least, in the mid-sized executive class is a formidable task, but it’s one that Lexus has been doing since 1999 with the IS. It’s done so with mixed results, for while there’s a lot to admire about Japan’s take on a sporting, luxurious business saloon, it’s never had the mainstream appeal to really make a big impact. Early to hybridise, the IS has been more successful in markets like the USA, which explains why its replacement, due in 2021, won’t be coming to the UK, Lexus, instead, concentrating on its SUV and crossover offerings. 

Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series, that’s what all but a handful of buyers consider when they’re looking at their company car lists, the monthly tax liability and, let’s be honest, what their friends will think of their new ride. Few add the Lexus IS to that list, even if, by the numbers the Lexus makes a good case for itself, while it’s also a fine-looking alternative to the predictable German trio.

In its current guise it’s been around since 2013, with it getting a model revision in 2017. Time’s running out for it now, with Lexus having announced its replacement, it due late 2020/early 2021. If you’re considering one don’t bother waiting for that new car, because Lexus has decided not to bring the new saloon to Europe. With the new IS Lexus will be focussing its efforts on areas globally where it sells in big numbers, both back in its home Japanese market, as well as the USA. 

We’re not sure there’ll be many people who’ll be sad to hear of its demise, indeed, most won’t even notice, but if you like choice, value excellent customer service and want something without one of those German badges on your executive saloon’s nose, then there’s reason to mourn its passing. 

The IS is, and always has been, a car that’s dared to be a bit different. The original brought some cool, watch-inspired instrumentation to what’s a fairly restrained marketplace, giving those established German players a bit of a shock at the time. That impact has diminished as the IS has matured, but Lexus always offered a good standard level of equipment, audio equipment that’s among the best around and has always been a big advocate of hybrid power. Indeed, the run-out models available today are only offered in IS 300h guise, self-charging hybrid guise, mating a 2.5-litre petrol four-cylinder engine with an electric motor housed in the automatic transmission.  

As its rivals have all caught up, to the point they’re able to offer plug-in hybrid versions the IS’s USP has somewhat diminished, as even before that the hybrid was bettered for consumption by the majority of its turbodiesel alternatives. A car before its time, then, and one that’s still relevant today, if you’re prepared to buck convention and spend your money in a Lexus dealer. Which, if you’re reading this, you just might, or, as is more likely now, buy one used. Do that and we doubt you’ll be disappointed, as while the IS might not have ever made a huge impact on the sales of its German competition, it wasn’t because it was a bad car, rather just a mis-understood, overlooked one in a marketplace evidently comprising largely of unimaginative buyers.

Ask Honest John

Which hybrid is better - Toyota Corolla or Lexus IS300h?
"I'm comparing the Toyota Corolla 2.0 petrol hybrid with the Lexus IS300h. Which car is better? Is the Corolla's newer hybrid system more advanced than that of the Lexus?"
The Lexus IS300h's hybrid drivetrain is a slightly older generation of the technology. The new Corolla's 2.0-litre hybrid setup should be more efficient thanks to better energy management and a slightly larger battery. Testers also noticed it performs better on part-throttle and feels more natural to drive than the older Toyota/Lexus hybrid systems. It'll also run in electric-only mode for short periods at up to 70mph, whereas the Lexus won't above around 50mph.
Answered by Lawrence Allan
Can we afford an eco-friendly car?
"We currently have a diesel Skoda Superb. We are looking to change it for the most eco-friendly car we can afford. The Superb is a 2016 model with about 40,000 miles on the clock so we have that to trade in and about £5000 - £7000 extra. Are there any cars that are either electric or hybrid (which might be the only thing available in our price range) that you'd suggest? We like the space of the Superb but could go a bit smaller. Ideally, not smaller than a saloon or crossover."
You could probably get an electric Nissan Leaf or Kia Soul EV within budget, but I'm not sure either will be big enough for your needs. How about a plug-in hybrid like the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV? This is a good compromise if you can charge a car at home and you regularly cover short journeys. Most of your journeys can be under electric power with the backup of a petrol engine if required. PHEVs can be thirsty on longer journeys without regular charging, however. Alternatively, consider a conventional hybrid like a Lexus IS 300h or Kia Niro.
Answered by Andrew Brady
Best executive car for under £5k?
"I am looking to buys an executive sedan (3 Series, C-Class or A4) for under £5000. My annual mileage is around 10,000 miles and I'm looking to possibly get an automatic. "
How about a Lexus IS 250? It's likely to be more reliable than the alternatives you've mentioned. The 2.5-litre petrol is a bit thirsty but extremely dependable and would suit your mileage well. The six-speed automatic gearbox is very good, too.
Answered by Andrew Brady
Are high-mileage hybrids a smart buy?
"I'm considering buying a used hybrid Lexus (mainly CT and IS). I saw some with very high mileage (+150k) for sale. Is it safe to buy one like that? What kind of problems will a hybrid have with that kind of milage? What should I check when buying?"
I wouldn't be too concerned. Lexus performs very highly in our Satisfaction Index ( with the IS being one of the top three cars for reliability. The CT shares a hybrid system with the Toyota Prius - a car that's popular with taxi drivers. We've heard of numerous examples covering hundreds of thousands of miles without an issue. The main thing I'd look for is a comprehensive service history. If it's been well-maintained, I doubt you'll have an issue.
Answered by Andrew Brady
More Questions

What does a Lexus IS (2013 – 2020) cost?