2021 Lexus IS 300h Review: IS Time To Shine

Fluent, efficient, and in fashion, the hybrid version of the Lexus IS now has its time in the Singapore sun 

Photos by Lawrence Loy (the good ones) and Leow Ju-Len (the rest)

SINGAPORE – You could never call the hybrid Lexus IS a popular car, even compared to its gasoline-only brother, the IS 300. But wait, what’s this – sedans that aren’t sedans are popular now? Hybrids are going to be really popular this year because they’re more affordable than gasoline cars

Those are two big reasons why the IS 300h re-enters the executive sedan stage in a blaze of glory, and proves that Lexus has been right the entire time. 

The ‘entire time’ is eight years. The current third-gen Lexus IS first debuted in 2013, and that’s also how long the current IS 300h has been in existence, if you want to know more, our test drive of the car in 2013 goes into a lot of detail on the backstory. 

The car received a mid-life update in 2016, we drove the IS 200t version of that, and 2020 saw a major update to the car’s appearance with revisions to the mechanical bits too. Our launch news and test drive of the 2.0-litre turbo IS 300 have all the deets.

While there’s no getting around the fact that the car runs on old underpinnings, rather than the new GA-L platform of the rear-wheel drive LS, but the fact is, the IS hybrid has never been more relevant. 

The Lexus IS was last updated in 2016

And it’s not just the electrification bit, which helps make the IS the least expensive car of its kind which we’ll get to later, but also the car’s fundamental concept. 

Design and Appearance

Lexus has always styled the IS as less bent on space and sportier than other executive sedans. The fact that it has an intimate cabin with less passenger room accentuating the relative small-ness of the car and the lively driving experience. 

Does that sound familiar? Yes, in other words the IS has always been a four-door coupe in disguise. It’s not a new concept, but now that bodystyle has truly run rampant: Mercedes has three of them (CLA, CLS, AMG GT 4-door), BMW will have three of them (2, 4, and 8 Series Gran Coupes), even Hyundai doesn’t call its Avante a sedan anymore.

The fact that the updated IS is lower and considerably wider than before adds fuel to that idea: It’s 30mm wider in total with much wider track front and rear (45mm and 50mm), which is far more than AMG or BMW M models’ are compared to their mundane brethren. This changes the car’s stance from taller and narrow, to a far more purposeful low-to-the-ground-time-to-go-fast look. 

It all goes well with the new skin of the IS, and the result is a beautiful machine that is both contemporary and uniquely Lexus. The car’s lines are simplified, but still very bold (super-defined Bangle Butt crease, for example), and it means there’s even more surface to showcase the rich paintwork, the likes of which the Germans have never quite been able to match. 

Page 2: Interior, space, equipment

Page 1: Introduction, design and appearance
Page 2: Interior, space, equipment
Page 3: Driving experience
Page 4: Pricing, competition, conclusion

about the author

Derryn Wong
CarBuyer's chief editor has a keen interest in all things mechanical, technological, animal and mineral. He's particularly fascinated by eco-cars and cars which make no logical sense. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he also enjoys cats. Follow him on Instagram @werryndong