Welcome report: Lexus IS300h

Lexus IS300h

I have a long history with the Lexus IS. My first car was the original IS200. I ordered it based on a fantastic spec, good looks and the fact it had a six-cylinder engine. On paper this looked like a real alternative to the BMW 3 Series and it was cheaper.

Sadly, shortly after taking delivery, I realised this wasn't the case. It certainly looked the part (I still think it's a good-looking car) and there was no doubt it was loaded with everything, but the driving experience was dull and the engine was underpowered for the weight of the car. For a cutting young exec, it just missed the mark.

Move on seven years and to another business and I was running the company fleet. The new IS had been released and again, they looked promising. Lexus came and had a chat and we did a deal, changing the sales fleet from 320d to IS220d. Not a fan of the styling this time, it was the build quality, low running costs and competitive pricing that convinced us.

Needless to say, the sales team were not impressed with the switch. However, over time the whinging died down, especially from our friends in the north because when the snow fell, the IS could carry on where a 3 series was stuck on the drive.

Move on again and I've been handed the keys to AOL Cars' new IS300h. I've already covered well over 1,000 miles and initial views are encouraging. I'm averaging over 45mpg, which for a large, petrol-engined exec saloon is nothing short of amazing. The IS is also a very quiet and refined car, particularly at lower speeds or cruising – in fact, without looking at the dash it's impossible to tell if you are moving on electric or petrol power under 40mph.

Welcome report: Lexus IS300h

Welcome report: Lexus IS300h

This is going to be a big benefit to potential IS buyers who are more interested in a relaxed, refined drive than a sporty cross-country hack.

The looks are certainly a big improvement on the last model. The overhangs look right and the standard wheels suit the car. It's a good-looking motor and manages to stand out from the rest of the current batch of Japanese saloons. It'll certainly look the part in the company car park.

I'm undecided about the interior, despite spending a fair few miles in her in the past three weeks. It's not up to the standards Audi has set, but it's still a well-screwed-together interior. The seats are good, with plenty of support and without the ridiculous wings that more and more sports seats are sprouting.

As you would expect, she wants for nothing in regards to spec, but there are some annoyances. The heater control is a metal touch strip that you run your finger up and down to increase or decrease the heating. It's a neat idea, but in reality it doesn't work well. It's very fiddly to get the exact temperature you need, particularly when driving on a bumpy road.

Author: Andy Entwistle

The knowledge

Model: Lexus IS300h
Price: £38,495 (as tested)
Engine: 2.5-litre, four-cylinder, plus electric motor
Power: 178bhp, 300Nm
Max speed: 125mph
0-60mph: 8.4s
Emissions: 109g/km
Mileage this month: 1,200

This month's highlight

Looks good, very quiet and great mpg