When is it going?

The new IS200 is here right now. It's bigger, comes with diesel-engine option, but is little more special and a lot less Toyota. There's still a lot to recommend the old IS200, which proved that the Japanese could take on the European compact exec cars and be a realistic alternative.

What's good about it?

One of the best reasons for getting the small Lexus is that it isn't German. Despite strong sales, the IS200 remains less common than the Mercs, BMWs and Audis that threaten to turn our motorways into autobahns. Lexus may not have history but it has image and, with the IS range, exclusivity.

And it looks good. The body bulges purposefully on the bonnet and stretches tautly around the alloy wheels. Being a Lexus, those panel gaps and shut lines are millimetre perfect. When you first get behind the wheel of an IS model, you won't be disappointed by the kit. There almost isn't a base specification model, as you'll find climate control, alloy wheels, traction control, electric windows and CD autochange.

Driving a Lexus is fun. It's the rear wheels that push the car sportily around the road, and a firm ride around town is offset by fine manners on the motorway. Rear space is a bit of a compromise because there is a largish transmission tunnel. Also, there is no split folding seat and a narrow boot opening, but then there is the SportCross. Most of all, any car that can survive close association with Alan Partridge has to be taken very seriously indeed.

What's bad about it?

As perfect as the IS200 may appear, it has attracted several major criticisms during its production run. Firstly, that is underpowered. Well, the introduction of the 3.0 litre engine answered that one, and anyway, the 2.0 is perfectly adequate. Inside, the dials have divided opinion - some say they look overly complex; others like the chronometric face. Also, anyone over 6ft should try the driver's seat for size.

How much?

Phone your local Lexus dealer and ask what they have in stock and how low they will go. We know that a dealer sold an IS200 SportCross Navigator, which is £25,000 new, for £21,000. Going through Autoebid.com, 2005-registered IS200s with demonstration mileage are under £16,000, down from £19,000.

Any snags?

Rims are wider than tyres, so easy to scuff on kerbs. Look for damage and get a quote for refurbishment. Central locking can be susceptible to radio-frequency interference. Early radios swallowed and damaged CDs.

Fact file

Launched: 1999

Engine: 2.0, 3.0

Performance:

2.0 top speed 134 mph 0-60mph 9.5 seconds

Economy: 29.1mpg

NCAP: Not tested, but has ABS, traction control

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