Fleet News

Lexus IS200 SportCross



AS we change cars at Fleet News so often, every two weeks in fact, the topic of conversation in my local pub often turns to what's gracing my driveway at any particular time.

Currently, it's one of our latest long-term test cars, the Lexus IS200 SportCross. It prompts one of two responses – people either love the car and the Lexus range in general or they're not particularly aware of the brand.

If the person enquiring about the car drives a company vehicle I have to issue a word of warning early on in the conversation. Its high CO2 emissions, 233g/km, make it a foe rather than a friend in the benefit-in-kind taxation stakes but those not bothered about tax bills should give it some consideration.

The Lexus is unlikely to turn many heads but it's a classy looking car and for a business wanting to promote the right image it could be an ideal addition to the fleet. The sophisticated and stylish interior with its chrome touches never fails to impress me and if you really want the wow factor, choose the optional DVD satellite navigation system. It has a seven-inch screen that pops up out of the dashboard at the touch of a button. Visually impressive, but an expensive addition at £2,340.

Apparently the SportCross was born out of the desire of a chief engineer to fit his go-kart into the back of a Lexus.

Though not quite a go-kart my three-year-old daughter's bike, complete with stabilisers, fits into the boot – which is adequate although not huge – with ease. It has been useful for carrying other paraphernalia associated with being a parent so would appear to be an useful fleet workhorse.

Power isn't enough to generate excitable conversation but its 153bhp engine is fine for motorway cruising or pottering around town – and the car offers a comfortable ride on journeys of any length.

Cruise control would have been a nice standard feature though. Mind you, the heated front seats are wonderful for this time of year.

Other features that the Lexus has as standard include climate control, electrically-operated seats with part-leather trim, forward folding passenger seat, electric sunroof and headlamp washers. An impressive list and reasonably priced too – a similarly equipped BMW 318i SE Touring will set you back an extra £4,000.

I've had to get used to the six-speed gearbox. Too often I have unintentionally moved from sixth straight to third when shifting down the gears.

The car's audio system is certainly worthy of mention with nine speakers providing a good sound all round the car. You get a cassette player – I suppose some people still use cassettes – as well as a single slot six-CD autochanger in the dashboard.

The overall build quality of the IS200 SportCross is impressive. There are no rattles and everything feels sturdy and well put together.

But then it has to be of a high standard when you consider its rivals include the Mercedes-Benz C180K estate and the aforementioned 3-series Touring. Not everyone wants a German marque though, so the Lexus is a worthy contender.

Company car tax bill 2002/03 (22% taxpayer): £112 per month

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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