Car Reviews: Lexus IS200 Sport – The AA

21 Sep 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Car Reviews: Lexus IS200 Sport – The AA
Lexus IS200

Car safety


High level of mechanical refinement Understated styling unlikely to attract unwanted attention Chassis’ rear-drive layout makes for an enjoyable drive Build quality and long-term durability first rate


Some rear legroom is sacrificed for increased bootspace Positioning of off-centre handbrake could be better Audible reverse gear warning can be distracting Steering wheel’s lack of reach adjustment contrasts with generous range of seat adjustment

Conceived as an alternative to traditional German compact executive saloons, Lexus’ IS200 followed in the footsteps of the company’s illustrious LS model by setting new standards in refinement. Conservatively styled, the IS200 appeals to a more mature demographic and one that doesn’t feel the need to behave in a bold or brash manner to seek attention.

It may not have the brand heritage of a BMW 3 Series or the snob appeal of a Mercedes C-Class, but there’s a lot to like about Lexus’ IS200. As far as compact executive saloons go, the IS200 is something of an underdog. Possessing neither of the aforementioned attributes, class-conscious types find it all to easy to dismiss the car before even turning the key.

To do so is a big mistake, though. By virtue of its conservative looks and critically acclaimed reliability it appeals mainly to buyers of a sensible disposition – but there’s more to the IS200 than meets the eye.

On paper the IS200’s 153bhp engine lacks the thrust of its Germanic rivals – especially given the absence of a diesel in the range. In reality the unit’s willingness to rev and the car’s classic rear-wheel drive layout makes the IS200 a surprisingly entertaining car. Especially so in Sport specification, where the car’s limited slip differential – a component more likely to be found in a conventional sportscar – affords keen drivers more scope when negotiating corners in an enthusiastic manner.

Even if you don’t want to take the IS200 by the scruff of its neck there’s much to like about the car. Build quality is up to Lexus’ usual high standards, ditto equipment levels. The former should be a given across the executive sector but sadly it is not, making the IS200 feel extra special. As for the latter, the Lexus shows how it should be done.

Positively brimming with kit from electric everything to leather on all but the base model, numerous airbags and a superb multi-CD sound system, the asking price is anything but daylight robbery.

Our verdict on the Lexus IS200 Sport

Dig deep beneath the IS200’s conservative veneer and you’ll find a car that’s more than willing to show you a good time on a twisty B-road. The ‘baby’ Lexus may not boast the most powerful engine range – in fact, the only one is 2.0-litre petrol unit – but the motor is deliciously smooth and eager to spin to its rev limiter. Like any other Lexus the IS200’s cabin is a lesson in understatement and build quality, while equipment levels and overall value for money shame its many rivals.


Standard equipment is generous compared to most rivals, making Lexus’ smallest offering good value for money if the toy count is important to you. Being a petrol-only fleet, the IS200 can’t compete with rivals and their diesel engines, though. Fuel economy and, if you’re a company car driver, CO2 emissions could be better, but balanced against the purchase price the overall cost is not that great.

Given the company’s reputation for building reliable cars, unscheduled trips to the dealership are likely to be a thing of the past. All of which adds up to an attractive package, especially if you’re going to be the one paying the servicing bills.

Space and practicality

As far as compact executive saloons go the IS200 is a solid performer. Space up front is good, with there being enough head and shoulder room for two adults to feel comfortable. Rear seat passengers will, predictably, find that there’s less room to play with, although anyone of average height and build will still find long trips pleasant enough. The IS200’s boot will easily swallow a week’s shopping, but odd-shaped items might prove difficult to load through the boot aperture.

Elsewhere, the car boasts a decent size glovebox, centre console covered storage box and door bins. Conveniently, the dash-top space for the optional sat-nav also doubles as a covered cubbyhole if you don’t opt for the guidance system.

Controls and display


Car security

Car safety

Just like with the IS200’s long list of standard equipment, Lexus has chosen not to scrimp with the safety kit. Across the range, twin front, side and curtain airbags come as standard. And while not exactly the perfect family car, Isofix child seat mounting points are also present.

Active safety measures run to the expected ABS plus electronic brakeforce distribution (EBA) and brake assist (BA). There’s also a switchable traction control system, which proves its worth in slippery conditions but never feels abrupt – a good thing if you’re keen driver.

Driver appeal

Lexus IS200

Although boasting the same layout as the all-conquering 3 Series (front, longitudinal engine and rear-wheel drive), the IS200 boasts a more forgiving ride and a better gearshift – the Sport specification includes a racecar-like short-throw shift. On the road the IS200 is a willing performer; the steering is accurate and responsive and the car changes direction with a surprising eagerness.

Opt for the Sport variant and grip and cornering is enhanced by a limited slip differential plus lowered rear suspension. And despite only being available with a modest 2.0-litre petrol engine, performance can be more than brisk if you’re willing to rev the unit hard and change gear regularly – no chore when mechanical refinement is so good.

Family car appeal

First car appeal

Quality and image

As a brand – it’s the luxury arm of Toyota – Lexus has achieved more than certain long established car makers in a fraction of the time. Consistently winning customer satisfaction awards, Lexus products also do well in security tests and boast high levels of mechanical and interior build quality. In an environment where BMW’s 3 Series is the dominant car, people who don’t subscribe to BMW’s overtly driver-centric brand values often view the IS200 as the intelligent alternative.


Front seat occupants fare reasonably well with the IS200; access is good but it’s worth noting that the car’s doors don’t open as wide as you’d expect. Given the Lexus’ compact nature, rear seat passengers inevitably have to pass through a smaller aperture to gain access to the cabin. Old or infirm passengers will feel the pinch the most, however most people shouldn’t find it a significant inconvenience.

Access to the IS200’s boot is via a remote release lever in the cabin or a button on the keyfob. The overall loadspace is surprisingly practical and spacious for a car of this size, with little in the way of wheel arch intrusion.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

Lexus has never been known to skimp on audio equipment, and the IS200 is no different. All models get an impressive sounding combined radio and six-CD in-dash changer. Located centrally in the fascia, the unit sports a clear display, large buttons and rotary controllers.

Only steering wheel-mounted controls are missing from an otherwise comprehensive range of features. And although a sizeable cost option, Lexus’ ‘Navigator’ satellite navigation system is worth considering if you cover a lot of unfamiliar miles. The DVD-based unit includes a centrally mounted display that pops up out of the fascia – ideal when you want to keep your eyes on the road.

IS200’s engine is a quiet cruiser but also a willing unit when pushed hard

Colours and trim

Predictably for a car in the executive, image-conscious sector, metallic paint is a must to insure solid future residual values and create a heightened level of desirability. Dark colours reflect the car’s reserved personality. Of the three trim levels only the base models comes with cloth seats, with the SE and Sport trimmed in leather. Anyone with an eye on future durability should pick the black option over beige.

Choosing the former will make the cabin feel a little dark, though, as the beige package includes an attractive dual-tone fascia design.

Lexus IS200
Lexus IS200
Lexus IS200
Lexus IS200
Lexus IS200
Lexus IS200

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