Long-term test review: Lexus IS 300h

30 May, 2014 10:45am Dean Gibson

Our Lexus IS 300h compact exec is so easy to drive, our man thinks his baby son could manage it

Verdict

4

Mileage: 3,120 miles
Real world fuel economy: 47.2mpg

If you want your daily commute to be child’s play, then there’s no car better than the Lexus IS 300h. Indeed, if he could reach the pedals and see over the steering wheel, I’m sure my 18-month-old son could have a fair crack at driving it!

The Lexus is proving to be a relaxing companion, and it has a few gadgets to help take the strain out of driving. Keyless entry means you don’t need to fumble for the key to unlock the car, while the easy entry system moves the driver’s seat and steering wheel back to improve access. This does cut into rear passenger space, though, which is annoying when my son is strapped in and his feet are squashed up by the chair.

When you’re on the move, not many cars are as comfortable as the IS. The light steering is devoid of feedback, but you only need the lightest of touches to get the Lexus pointing in the right direction. And the petrol-electric drivetrain has plenty of power from a standstill, so it’s a front-runner in the traffic light grand prix.

Lexus IS 300h LT rear

It’s in town where the IS 300h really shines. The brakes are on the sharp side, but once you’re used to them, you adapt your driving to recoup as much energy as possible back into the battery. And the charge is reused as soon as you drive off, as the electric motor cuts in first, before the petrol engine. The switch from all-electric to hybrid drive is seamless, too, with no jerks from the drivetrain.

Our top-spec Premier model is pricey, but it’s loaded with goodies to keep you occupied. There are heated and cooled leather seats, sat-nav, cruise control and a comprehensive infotainment system. This features a DAB radio, Bluetooth and a WiFi connection, while the Mark Levinson sound system sounds great. But the joystick controller for the infotainment system is a bit fiddly to use on the move, and the set-up has had trouble detecting my music via the USB connection.

Our IS is also performing admirably at the pumps. We’ve managed a best of 47.2mpg, although economy varies depending on the kind of driving you’re doing. That was after a lot of urban miles, while a motorway run saw returns drop to 34.6mpg.

Either way, the IS 300h’s relaxed character means that while it’s not the most exciting car to drive, it’s still a pleasure to get behind the wheel. Now, how to get the keys back...

Lexus IS 300h LT boot space

Lexus IS 300h: report 1

Handover experience shows why Lexus dealers are the best

Lexus IS 300h LT handover

Mileage: 1,436
Real-world mpg: 40mpg

Collecting a new car from a dealership should always be a satisfying experience, but how many dealers are so happy to see you that they give you flowers? If you buy a Lexus, then that’s exactly what you can expect.

Lexus dealers have come out on top in our Driver Power satisfaction survey every year since we started rating franchises in 2002, and with the arrival of our new IS 300h, we wanted to find out what it is that puts the brand ahead of its rivals. So we headed to Lexus Edgware Road to collect our car.

On arrival, we were greeted by customer service manager Brandon Horn, who was friendly and made sure we were kept topped up with refreshments during the whole handover experience. Soon we were ushered into a plush meeting room, where sales executive Indy Patel went through some details in the user manual and logbook. This is also the stage at which Indy would finalise the financial arrangements.

Lexus IS 300h LT & Dean

Then it was on to the handover, which happened in the bay immediately next door. Indy admitted that a lot of owners didn’t even realise that their new car was right there with them, and seeing their brand new model hidden under a fitted dust cover in a dedicated showroom was a pleasant surprise.

Peeling back the sheet revealed our shiny new Atlantic Blue IS 300h, and Indy then guided us through many of the car’s features. This was pretty exhaustive, as our Premier-spec model has a long list of standard equipment. 

There were no worries about getting a flat battery, as the handover bay has its own exhaust system that allows you to keep the car running with the bay doors shut. It also demonstrated how quiet the hybrid system is, even when the engine is running.

And then it was on to the test drive, as many customers like to take their new cars straight out of the showroom and on to the road. The streets of north-west London aren’t the greatest place to experience a new car, but our first spin did at least show off how refined the IS 300h is. The petrol-electric system is pretty quiet most of the time, and while those 18-inch alloys mean the ride is on the firm side, it’s not uncomfortable.

Once back at the dealer, Brandon rounded off the experience with flowers and a box of chocolates, and we were off to enjoy life at the wheel of our new car.

Lexus IS 300h LT crack

Unfortunately, less than 1,000 miles into our time with the Lexus, we picked up a cracked windscreen, and we had a less than glowing service from AA Auto Windscreens. The problem has been fixed now, however.

Insurance quote (below) provided by the AA for a 42-year-old living in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

Disqus - noscript

Definitely better than a 3 series, C-class and marginally better than an A4

Sorry that meant to say MASSIVELY better than A4....NOT marginally

Thank you for your intellectual comparison there, jdmlife. I was actually wondering how this car compared with it's rivals and now, thanks to your eloquent analysis, I know the answer. You really should consider doing an HNC when you leave school!

Back to real life, The Lexus IS is almost universally regarded as an also ran when compared to it's rivals.They really are having a laugh asking nearly 40 grand for this. For a little bit more you could buy the BMW 335 Hybrid - so much more car than the Lexus! Of course, if you cover a high mileage, a diesel is a must. There's still no sign of Lexus offering such an alternative!

Now let's get Albert, Netherlands on here and let's have some fun!

I posted a comment on this review some 7 months ago - not sure why this review has been published again. I can only repeat having owned all four of these brands it is the Lexus that shines. It may not be the fastest or go round bends as quickly as some of the others but my word it is a really good motor car. Troublefree, smooth, quiet and luxurious! In addition their service at the dealerships is so far ahead of all the other makes it is frightening to compare, they actually do care for you plus you have a courtesey car ready and waiting on arrival for your car's service. I am now on my second Lexus and see no reason to even look at the other brands when it comes to replacement time. They do not really push their diesel, but then why would they - this is a luxury brand meaning in my book smoothness, silence and modernity. It is indeed interesting to note that all the no show brands now also offer hybrid models e.g. BMW, Merc etc.

Oooo something may have struck a nerve with you there. Dont be a boring sheep and follow the crowd. The lexus is the best choice and that's fact. Its striking to look at more reliable than the boring generic choice and has better quality interior.

Plus if you want a drivers car we'll wait until the RC-f comes out. I'm sure that'll put the (haha....m3....hmmmm m4 or whatever they call in now) in their place

"Universally regarded as an also ran" - perhaps in the German obsessed UK media, but read reviews from other countries and it's a totally different picture.

Life would be boring if we all chose the same cars so this offers something different to the usual... so what if it doesn't go around B roads as good as a 3 series... there are plenty of party tricks on board the Lexus that BMW could learn from!! At least this will only see a dealer when it needs serviced for a start!

I'd buy this any day over an equivalent 3 series for the simple reasons that it'll be more exclusive, will give no hassle, is extremely well screwed together, and in my opinion at least, looks 100 times better than anything Audi and BMW currently offer.

HAHAHA funny man. BMW 335 hybrid? how much does BMW charge for the options that the Lexus IS has as standard then? an extra £7k i presume.

I guess youre a BMW fanboy who sits on AE frantically searching for BMW and Audi reviews to troll on. Get off AE, go buy a brain from the Middle East and open your mind up

Diesels rattle and have DPF issues. They basically suck the life out of people and are only good for company car buyers who need a run around to get from Edinburgh to London on one tank of fuel because they cant afford to fill up a petrol.

Having an 2011 Lexus ISF (AMG owner before april 2011) i can say this actualy the best i've ever had. I love it.

It's very true that people who consider the realities of owning and using a car rate the Lexus much higher. It tends to be the immature people who think they are some kind of unfulfilled F1 driver that think otherwise.

"read reviews from other countries and it's a totally different picture" You just lied and made that up!

I do regularly read reviews from other countries. The verdict is unanimous - Lexus are just also rans compared with it's German rivals. Even in the US, where Lexus are not only cheaper than the Europeans, they also offer a much more extensive range of engines and specs, and yet they still cant hack it. For example, check out Motor Trend "Comparison:

The Big Test: 2013/2014 Luxury Sport Sedans"

I stopped reading when you accused me of lying.

And having driven an IS-F I can see exactly why. Oh that exhaust! :-)

Er OK, perhaps it was bad manners to accuse you of lying, but you posted a statement that is untrue. I did read reviews from other countries and they say pretty much the same thing as "the German obsessed UK media". Lexus cars are not as good as their competitors. I am not a fanboy but I will make a stand against people who talk BS.

Car reviewers around the world tend to dislike Lexus and even make fun of the brand but sometimes Lexus does come on top. Even here on our very own AE! Cut and paste the following in Google: Lexus RX 450-h SE-L vs BMW X5 30d SE Auto Express

Key specs

  • On fleet since: January 2014
  • Price new: £38,495
  • Engine: 2.5-litre 4cyl, 178bhp, plus 141bhp electric motor
  • CO2/tax: 109g/km/£20
  • Equipment: Atlantic Blue metallic paint (£610)
  • Insurance group/quote: Group: 34 Quote: £414
  • Mileage/economy: 3,120/47.2mpg
  • Any problems?: Cracked windscreen, fixed under insurance policy
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