As we have previously mentioned Lexus are completely on the right track when it comes to their latest design language. Having driven the NX and being thoroughly impressed next up was a more middle of the range machine, the IS200.
In F-Sport trim some rather pricey add-ons had been thrown at it, namely the seductive Dark Rose red leather interior with metal trim – a hefty £2,000.
Other options included the stunning Azure blue paint at £610, and the Lexus navigation, priced £995. Total on the road price came in at £100 over £35k.
Give us the choice between the IS200, a BMW 3 series, a Merc C Class or an Audi A4 and we would take the IS200 all day long.
On looks alone it blows the competition out of the water – granted, it won’t be for everyone. But a generic econobox saloon this certainly isn’t.
Swoops, slashes and swipes cover the lower half of the 200. The way the headlights bulge outward, independent of the bodywork is a lovely feature.
The sides are rather bland apart from another pen stroke that leads into the rear lamps, whilst the back favours a muscular, hunkered down stance.
If you don’t want the beefier IS300 hybrid then the 2.0 litre turbo is your only option.
With 245 BHP and 350 Nm of torque, it shifts from a standstill to 62 in 7 seconds flat.
Performance feels good through the automatic gearbox when in Sport mode, but for overtakes and spirited driving we stuck it in manual to have full control.
It changed down quick enough with a pull on the paddle, but leaving it in full auto mode on normal can lead to it being a little lethargic. It sort of works out where it needs to be before surging the power and the acceleration hitting you.
It feels sporty enough to drive though. Handling is sharp and accurate, body roll is kept in check thanks to the sport suspension – although that does turn the IS200 from a cruiser into more of a jittery hot hatch.
You will feel how rough the road is beneath you, with the car jolting a little over broken surfaces. It didn’t bother us in the slightest as it made the car feel sportier, but spec the normal suspension if you want to keep the family happy.
Grip is superb through the beefy rear rubber, in the damp we never had an issue with the traction control cutting in.
Over 280 miles of mixed driving we only managed 25 MPG, Lexus give it an Urban rating of 30. Not amazing, granted. But it does have some pretty decent performance behind that low number.
Now the red leather finish on the inside may not be to all tastes, put with the Azure Blue it is an odd combo. But it works, you open the doors and your eye is instantly drawn to the deep red leather adorning the seats.
For being in the middle of the range there are quite a few button blanks in places. The stereo and heating controls are made out of a matt charcoal plastic, it looks very 90’s Hi-Fi system, but again – it works. It feels tactile and nice to touch.
To change the temperature you can either slide, or tap at the thin slither of chrome on each side of the unit.
To navigate your way round the infotainment system you use the floating rectangle next to the gearstick.
When the car isn’t running it moves around freely, but as soon as you start the car you get a sort of haptic feedback that relates to where you are on screen. It’s the strangest of sensations, as if it knows where you are going to point to next.
It’s stupidly intuitive to use, and the menus are laid out nice and clear.
But the IS200’s party piece has to be the moveable dials in the instrument cluster. You can have the dial centrally located, or you can push a button on the steering wheel and the dial slides gracefully to the right. You then see a larger section of screen that can show current MPG, music, sat nav directions or vehicle stats.
Ultimately pointless with the age of full LCD dials, but it feels very futuristic and modern nonetheless.
Rear seat legroom isn’t at all bad, and the boot is a decent size at 480 litres. If you need extra room the rear seats do fold down, but the opening is tapered at the bottom which can make wide, flat loads awkward.
Overall the Lexus IS200t offers good competition when compared to the Germanic hoards. It’s low MPG does put a bit of a dampener on things, especially from a company car point of view.
In that respect a diesel option would be winner, purely for the motorway sloggers that mainly look at the BIK rating before signing up for a lease.