The Lexus IS is a sound alternative to mainstream prestige compact executive saloons, says Iain Dooley, PA senior motoring writer.

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Engines – For many years Lexus was a petrol-only brand. Its shift into petrol-electric hybrids was a predictable one, but the compact IS remains outside its push into alternative power. Historically a petrol-only model, this generation was the first to come with diesel power. The former units are refined, but the latter adds better economy.

Exterior – As with the Lexus stable, the IS is understated when seen from the outside. The saloon shape – there is no estate – is simple yet classy, and eschews the fussy design treatments of some of its rivals.

Interior – Cabin build quality is first rate, not a surprise if you’re familiar with other Lexus offerings. Rear legroom could be better, but there no complaints up front.

Driving – The rear-drive IS offers, on paper at least, a similar driving experience to its many compact executive rivals. In reality the Lexus is a more conservative option, and won’t thrill keen drivers in the same way that a BMW 3 Series might. That said, refinement levels are high and the car is easy to drive, which makes it a good choice for those seeking a rounded, quirk-free experience.

Ownership – Despite being a four-door saloon, the IS is better suited to those in the front and for just the occasional rear-seat journey, as space in the back is modest. Impressive build quality and overall refinement go a long way towards compensating, though. And with it being easy to drive, the IS needs very little effort to manoeuvre around town.

What to look for – With most Lexus purchases being an informed decision it’s rare to find evidence of neglect or mistreatment. Mechanical or cosmetic damage is rare thanks to sympathetic owners. Nevertheless, evidence of a comprehensive service history is important, as is a faultless performance on the test-drive.

Model history – 2005, Lexus introduces its second-generation IS compact executive saloon. Mainstream six-cylinder petrol models finally joined by four-cylinder diesel units to enhance its company car appeal. Generous level of standard equipment across the range, plus the promise of modest running costs with the diesel.

Reasons to buy – Addition of diesel power, brand image, refinement, alternative to mainstream choice.

Reasons to beware – Modest rear cabin space, average diesel performance, lacks brand heritage of its European rivals.

Pick of the range – IS 220d Sport.

What to pay – 2006 06 £9,400; 2006 56 £10,025; 2007 07 £11,200; 2007 57 £11,775; 2008 08 £13,425; 2008 58 £14,375; 2009 09 £15,750; 2010 10 £18,025; 2011 11£20,675. Showroom prices for cars in A1 condition.

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