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Lexus IS


Honda Accord

Summary

Lexus IS

No it isn’t an all-new car. It might look like it, but the 2021 Lexus IS is actually a heavy facelift of the existing model, which originally went on sale way back in 2013.

There have been significant changes to the look of the new Lexus IS, including a revised front and rear end, and the company has widened the track and made “substantial chassis changes” to make it handle more adeptly, too. Plus there is a whole raft of newly added safety features and in-car technology, despite the cabin being, largely, a carryover affair.

Suffice to say that the new Lexus IS 2021 model - which the brand describes as having been “reimagined” - carries over a few strengths and weaknesses of its predecessor. But does this Japanese luxury sedan still have enough quality traits to compete with the likes of its main rivals - the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Genesis G70 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class?

Let’s find out.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.2L/100km
Seating5 seats

Honda Accord

SUVs are all the rage these days, with buyers abandoning the once-thriving mid-size sedan landscape for something higher riding and, arguably, more practical.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any options left for those wanting a traditional three-box sedan.

Toyota still offers its Camry, Hyundai is about to launch its new Sonata, the Mazda6 is still alive and kicking, and the sexy Peugeot 508 has hit the market.

Over in Honda’s corner though, the Accord – now in its 10th generation – continues to fly the flag for the Japanese brand, but does it do enough to justify continuing its low-volume sales in Australia?

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L
Fuel TypeHybrid with Regular Unleaded
Fuel Efficiency4.3L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Lexus IS7.6/10

The new-look Lexus IS takes several steps forward over its predecessor - it’s safer, smarter, sharper to look at and still pretty well priced and equipped.

It is feeling its age inside, and the competition has moved on in terms of engines and EV tech. But even so, if I was buying a 2021 Lexus IS, it would have to be the IS350 F Sport, which is just the most fitting version of this car, though the IS300h Luxury does have plenty to like for the money, too.


Honda Accord7.9/10

The Accord VTi-LX Hybrid might seem like an odd choice for those after a mid-size sedan, but Honda has done more than enough to justify its existence in its current stable.

Sure, the price is a bit high, but it comes fully loaded and has a cutting-edge powertrain to keep running costs down.

In a segment that is dominated by the Toyota Camry, Honda had to do something to stand apart, and pushing a little more upmarket with spec and refinement is definitely the right way to go.

Design

Lexus IS8/10

You either get the Lexus look or you don’t, and I think this latest version is possibly more agreeable than the IS in years gone by.

That’s partly because the brand has finally done away with the odd spider-eyes twin-section headlights and daytime running lights - now there are more traditional headlight clusters, which look a lot more resolved than before.

The front end still features a bold ‘spindle’ grille, which gets different treatment depending on the grade, and the front, to my eye, looks better than before but still very much stuck in its ways. 

At the side you’ll notice the giveaway windowline hasn’t changed, despite the chrome trim line having broadened as part of this facelift, but you can tell the haunches have muscled up a bit, with the new IS now 30mm wider overall, and the wheel sizes are 18s or 19s, depending on the grade.

The rear accentuates that width, with an L-shaped lighting signature now spanning the entire re-sculpted boot lid, giving the IS a pretty tidy rear end design.

Overall dimensions for the IS are 4710mm long, making it 30mm longer nose to tail (on an unchanged 2800mm wheelbase), while it now spreads across 1840mm (+30mm) and is 1435mm tall (+5mm).

The exterior changes really are impressive - I think it is a more purposeful but also more pleasant looking car now than it ever has been in this current generation. 

The interior? Well, there’s not a whole lot to talk about in terms of design changes, aside from the repositioned and larger media screen - which sits 150mm closer to the driver because it’s now a touchscreen with the latest smartphone mirroring tech. Otherwise it’s a carryover affair, as you can see from the interior pictures.


Honda Accord

Sedans might be as daggy as all get out right now, but we think the Accord actually looks pretty handsome (don’t @ me).

With its long bonnet and athletic profile, the Accord wears Honda’s current design language well, and thanks to the chrome touches on the outside, dare we say it even looks a little premium?

The chrome isn’t for everyone though, and we’d have liked to see darker accents like a ‘Shadow Chrome’ gunmetal grey colour that might age a little better than the ultra-reflective material.

In profile, the gently sloped roofline also adds to the aesthetic factor, while it's great to see Honda has opted for comfort in the 18-inch wheels rather than style, by going a few sizes bigger.

The rear end features unique wraparound tail-lights and a pinched derriere that slims things down a little, while the hidden exhaust outlet hints at the Accord’s green-car credentials.

Overall, the Accord is inoffensive, and certainly scores points for being much less common than the Toyota Camry and Mazda6, and a little less divisive in styling than the Skoda Octavia.

Step inside the Accord and it’s mostly a sea of soft-touch materials and plush leather.

The seats are especially notable because of their supportive design and wide base, ensuring driver fatigue doesn’t set in until you're several hours into a journey.

The 7.0-inch driver display is a little small, but the large head-up display is excellent at putting all the data you need front and centre.

As for the multimedia system, an 8.0-inch screen seems large, but because it is flanked by physical buttons and knobs, it actually looks a bit smaller than the units found in some rivals.

I did appreciate the old-school buttons, though, and the touchscreen is quick and snappy, even if the graphics and user interface are a little clunky and cheap looking.

Practicality

Lexus IS7/10

The interior design of the IS, as mentioned, hasn’t changed dramatically, and it is starting to feel old compared to some of its contemporaries.

It’s still a nice place to be, with comfortable front seats with electric adjustment and heating across all grades, and cooling on many variants, too. 

The new 10.3-inch touchscreen media system is a nice unit, and means you can essentially do away with the silly trackpad system that still resides near the gear selector, so you may still end up bumping it accidentally. And the fact the IS now has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (though neither are wirelessly connectable) does further its appeal on the multimedia front, as does the standard 10-speaker Pioneer stereo - though the 17-speaker Mark Levinson unit is an absolute blinder!

The centre stack below the media screen retains a CD player, and still has the electromagnetic temperature adjustment sliders as well. That part of the design is dating it just as much as the transmission tunnel console area, which looks a bit out of touch by modern standards, though still incorporates a pair of cup holders and a reasonably large centre console bin with soft armrest padding.

The front doors feature trenches with bottle holders as well, while in the rear doors there is still no drink storage - a carryover annoyance from the pre-facelift model. However, the middle seat in the back doubles as an armrest with pop-out cupholders, and there are rear air vents too.

Speaking of that middle seat, you wouldn’t want to sit in it for long, as it has a raised base and uncomfortable backrest, plus there’s a huge transmission tunnel intrusion eating into leg and foot space.

Outboard passengers also miss out on toe room, which - for my size 12s - is an issue. And it’s hardly the roomiest second row in this class for knee room and headroom, as my 182cm frame was a touch squished behind my own driving position.

Children will be better catered for in the back, and there are two ISOFIX anchorages and three top-tether attachment points for baby seats.

The boot capacity varies on the model you buy. Choose an IS300 or IS350 and you score 480 litres (VDA) of cargo capacity, while the IS300h has a battery pack that robs it of some boot space, with 450L available. 


Honda Accord

Measuring 4904mm long, 2137mm wide, 1450mm tall and with a 2830mm wheelbase, the 2021 Accord is actually pretty close in size to the Holden VF Commodore.

And it flexes its bigger dimensions with a roomy and spacious cabin, regardless of where you are sitting.

Up front, the electronically adjustable seats offer plenty of variability to get into the perfect position, and the driver’s seat also has a memory setting if you are sharing the Accord with different people.

The door bins are a little on the smaller size and struggle to fit a full-sized water bottle, but the centre console boasts a deep cavity, with two cupholders also featured next to the shifter.

The wireless smartphone charger position , which is between the shifter and climate controls, does eat up an entire storage hole because once you put your phone down, you don’t want to put your keys or wallet on top of it and risk scratching your screen.

it would have made more sense for the wireless smartphone charger to be placed under the armrest, like it is in BMWs, to retain another storage option.

In the rear, space is excellent for occupants of all shapes and sizes, affording plenty of head, shoulder and leg room.

The middle seat can be a little squeezy, but the soft-touch leather and seat shape offer plenty of support and would be supremely comfortable over long journeys.

In the back, there are two air vents, two charging ports and a fold-down centre armrest with two cupholders.

Opening the boot reveals a cavity that will accommodate 570 litres of volume, but the back seats can be folded down to stow longer objects.

The rear seats are one piece, rather than split fold, meaning you’ll have to choose between having rear passengers or taking that trip to Ikea.

There is a lockable ski tunnel through the middle, though, which means long and narrow items can be carried without folding down the rear seats.

Two bag hooks are found in the boot, which helps keep your groceries in the bag and not all over the boot floor.

Price and features

Lexus IS8/10

The updated 2021 Lexus IS range has seen a number of pricing changes, and a reduction of variants, too. There are now five IS models available, down from seven prior to this update as the Sports Luxury model has been axed, and you can only get the IS350 in F Sport trim now. However, the company has expanded its “Enhancement Pack” strategy across the different variants.

Opening the range is the IS300 Luxury, which lists at $61,500 (all prices listed are the MSRP - not including on-road costs, and are correct at time of publishing). It has the exact same equipment as the IS300h Luxury model, which is $64,500, and that ‘h’ stands for hybrid, which will be detailed in the engines section. 

The Luxury trim is equipped with items such LED headlights and daytime running lights, 18-inch alloy wheels, proximity keyless entry with push-button start, a 10.3-inch touchscreen multimedia system with satellite navigation (including live traffic updates) and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring tech, plus a 10-speaker sound system, eight-way power-adjustable front seats with heating and memory settings for the driver, and dual-zone climate control. There’s also auto headlights with auto high beam, rain sensing wipers, power steering column adjustment, and adaptive cruise control.

Indeed, there’s a raft of safety technology included - more on that below - and there’s also a number of Enhancement Pack options.

Luxury spec models can be equipped with a choice of two Enhancement Packs: the $2000 Enhancement Pack adds a sunroof (or moonroof in Lexus speak); or Enhancement Pack 2 (or EP2 - $5500) further adds 19-inch alloy wheels, a 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, cooled front seats, high-grade leather-accented interior trim, and a power-operated rear sunshade.

The IS F Sport trim line is available across the IS300 ($70,000), IS300h ($73,000) or the V6-powered IS350 ($75,000), and it adds a number of additional features over the Luxury grade.

As you can probably tell, F Sport models get a sportier look, with a body kit, 19-inch alloy wheels, standard fit adaptive suspension, sports front seats with cooling, sports pedals, and five drive modes to choose from (Eco, Normal, Sport S, Sport S+ and Custom). The F Sport grade also includes a digital instrument cluster with an 8.0-inch display, as well as leather-accented trim, and scuff plates.

Buying the F Sport grade allows customers to add further goodies by way of the Enhancement Pack for that grade, which costs $3100 and includes the sunroof, 17-speaker sound system and rear sunshade.

What’s missing? Well there’s no wireless phone charging in any grade, and no USB-C connectivity either. Note: the spare wheel is a space saver in the IS300 and IS350, but there is only a repair kit in the IS300h as there are batteries where the spare wheel would go.

There’s no go-fast IS F model sitting at the top of the tree here, nor is there a plug-in hybrid to compete against the circa-$85K BMW 330e and Mercedes C300e. But the fact the IS models all come in below $75K means it’s a pretty decent value proposition.


Honda Accord

The Honda Accord VTi-LX Hybrid we’ve tested wears a pricetag of $55,800 before on-road costs, but those that can do without the electric assistance can score one for just $52,800.

A $50,000-plus asking price for a Honda sedan might seem steep, but the VTi-LX grade comes with all the fruit you’d expect out of a car in this price range.

As standard, the Accord comes with an 8.0-inch multimedia system with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto support, satellite navigation and digital radio, outputting to an excellent 10-speaker sound system.

Seriously, this isn’t something we usually bring up in reviews but the Accord’s sound system is truly great, offering clear and crisp audio whether listening to the radio or streaming music via Bluetooth.

Other key specification appointments include automatic LED headlights, dual-zone climate control, auto-folding side mirrors, woodgrain interior dashboard, electronic sunroof, black leather upholstery, electronically adjustable front seats, heated front seats, wireless smartphone charger, active noise cancellation, 7.0-inch driver display, 6.0-inch colour head-up display, keyless entry, push-button start, and remote engine start.

It’s a long and exhaustive list of equipment, but what about the options?

Well, there aren’t any.

The petrol model comes with a choice of four colours (two metallic and two pearlescent), while the Hybrid option adds ‘Passion Red’, but each hue comes at no extra cost.

Likewise, the standard 18-inch wheels are the only ones available across the Accord range, with no option to black them out or go an inch or two up in size.

Sure, those that want a frugal petrol-electric hybrid powertrain at a cheaper price can opt for the Camry Hybrid (priced from $33,490-$46,990), but the fit and finish of the Accord VTi-LX does feel a step above what Toyota has to offer.

It's worth pointing out that the top-spec Camry Hybrid features a powered tailgate and cooled front seats, which the Accord misses out on, while the former also boasts a larger 9.0-inch multimedia screen.

Engine & trans

Lexus IS7/10

The engine specs depend on the powertrain you choose. And at a glance there’s no variance between the earlier version of the IS and the 2021 facelift.

That means the IS300 model still runs a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol motor producing 180kW of power (at 5800rpm) and 350Nm of torque (at 1650-4400rpm). It has an eight-speed automatic transmission, and like all IS models, it is rear-wheel drive (RWD/2WD) - there is no all-wheel drive (AWD/4WD) model here.

Next up the spectrum is the IS300h model, which has a 2.5-litre four-cylinder Atkinson cycle petrol motor teamed to an electric motor and nickel metal hydride battery pack. The petrol engine is good for a 133kW (at 6000rpm) and 221Nm (at 4200-5400rpm), and the electric motor produces 105kW/300Nm - but the combined total maximum power output is 164kW, and Lexus doesn’t provide a maximum torque figure. The 300h model runs a CVT automatic transmission.

The big horsepower offering here is the IS350, which runs a 3.5-litre petrol V6 engine, producing 232kW of power (at 6600rpm) and 380Nm of torque (at 4800-4900rpm). It runs an eight-speed auto.

All models have paddle-shifters, while the two non-hybrid models have seen tweaks to the transmission software that is said to “estimate driver intentions” for better enjoyment. 


Honda Accord

Powering the Accord VTi-LX Hybrid is a 2.0-litre petrol engine and dual-electric motor combo, for a total output of 158kW/315Nm.

Drive is sent to the front wheels via a continuously variable automatic transmission.

Compared with the Camry Hybrid, the Accord is down 2kW in power, but out in the real world it is very hard to tell the difference in outputs.

Being a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain, there is no need to plug in the Accord Hybrid as the petrol engine works to charge the battery.

Fuel consumption

Lexus IS7/10

There’s still no diesel model, no plug-in hybrid and no full electric (EV) model - which means that while Lexus was at the forefront of electrification with its so-called “self-charging” hybrids, it is falling behind the times. You can get plug-in versions of the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class, and the Tesla Model 3 plays in this space in full-electric guise.

As for the fuel-sipping hero of this trio of powertrains, the IS300h is said to use 5.1 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle fuel test. In reality, our test car’s dashboard showed 6.1L/100km across a mix of driving.

The IS300 with its turbocharged 2.0L engine is next best for fuel use, claiming 8.2L/100km. On our short launch drive of that model, we saw 9.6L/100km on the dashboard.

And the full-fat IS350 V6 petrol claims consumption of 9.5L/100km, while on test we saw 13.4L/100km.

The emissions for the three models are 191g/km (IS300), 217g/km (IS350) and 116g/km (IS300h). All three are Euro 6B compliant. 

Fuel tank capacity is 66 litres for all models, meaning your mileage range for the hybrid model could be considerably longer.


Honda Accord

One key to the Accord VTi-LX Hybrid’s appeal is its ultra-frugal fuel consumption figure of just 4.3 litres per 100km, and low 98 grams of CO2 emitted per kilometre.

In our week with the car, we managed an average of 6.1L/100km in a mix of varying drive modes, including ‘Sport’.

No doubt if we were hypermiling that figure would be much closer to the official numbers, but our time with the Accord consisted of various short inner-city trips (where the hybrid powertrain excels) and a blast down some country roads (where the hybrid powertrain does not excel).

Regardless, the fuel economy figure is still a respectable one for a hybrid, especially one of this size and with this much practicality.

The Accord VTi-LX Hybrid is both more fuel efficient and less pollutant than the top-spec Toyota Camry Hybrid SL, which returns 4.5L/100km and 103g/km respectively.

It's also worth nothing that it’s 48-litre fuel tank will be enough to get around 1000km of driving range before requiring filling with 91Ron petrol.

Driving

Lexus IS8/10

With the engine at the front and drive to the back, it has the ingredients for a pure driver’s car, and Lexus made a bit of a big deal about the new-look IS being more focused thanks to chassis adjustments and track width improvements - and it does feel a pretty nimble and tied-down car in the twisty stuff. 

It is competent at stitching together a series of corners, and the F Sport models are particularly adept. The adaptive suspension in those models includes both anti-dive and anti-squat tech, which is designed to make the car feel solid and flat on the road - and it does, thankfully without feeling twitchy or uncomfortable, with good suspension compliance even in the most aggressive Sport S+ drive mode.

The 19-inch wheels on F Sport models are fitted with Dunlop SP Sport Maxx rubber (235/40 front, 265/35 rear) and there’s plenty of tarmac tenacity.

The grip from Luxury-spec models on 18s could be better, with those Bridgestone Turanza tyres (235/45 all around) proving not quite the most enthralling. 

Indeed, the IS300h Luxury I drove felt very different in character to the F Sport IS300 and 350 models. It was surprising how much more of a plush-focused model the Luxury grade feels, and likewise it wasn’t as impressive in dynamic driving due to the tyre grip and less-enthusiastic drive mode system. The non-adaptive suspension is a touch more jittery too, and while it’s not to the point of discomfort, you might expect better for a car on 18s.  

Across all models the steering is accurate and direct enough, with predictable response and decent feel to the driver’s hands for this electric power steering setup. The F Sport models have even further retuned steering for “an even sportier drive experience”, though I found at times it could feel a little numb for rapid changes of direction. 

As for engines, the IS350 is still the pick. It has the best zest, and feels the most fitting powertrain for this model. It sounds good, too. The auto transmission is pretty clever, there's easily enough pulling power, and it's probably going to be the last of the non-turbo V6s in Lexus's line-up when this cars life-cycle is up.

The IS300's turbo engine was the most disappointing, lacking some urge and constantly feeling bogged down by turbo lag, transmission confusion, or both. It felt underdone in enthusiastic driving, though in dull day-to-day commuting circumstances it came across as more acceptable, though the remapped transmission software was far less impressive in this application than in the IS350.

The IS300h was a lovely, quiet and refined experience all around. It’s the one you should go for if you don’t really care about all that go-fast stuff. The powertrain is proven, it accelerates with nice linear delivery, and at times it’s so hushed I found myself looking down at the instrument cluster to see if the car was in EV mode or if it was using the petrol engine. 


Honda Accord

While the Accord was once a nameplate that delivered a dynamic and engaging driving experience (remember the Accord Euro with its wonderful K24 engine?), it seems Honda’s mid-size sedan has matured somewhat in its older age.

Its petrol-electric hybrid powertrain is designed for frugality, not fun, so being aware of this before purchasing an Accord is vital, particularly if you're an enthusiastic driver.

In this regard, the Accord VTi-LX Hybrid is a safe and predictable car, never surprising with understeer or tyre squeal, but also delivering a comfortable and cosseting experience.

You kind of know what you are getting out of the box, which is certainly no bad thing for anyone after a quiet and calm driving life.

Tipping the Accord into a corner, the steering wheel feels light, progressive and unsurprising, but offers plenty of feedback for what the front-drive sedan is doing.

The suspension also feels much more geared towards comfort than sportiness, with bumps and road imperfections soaked up with ease.

The quietude of the cabin is what probably stands out the most when behind the wheel of the Accord VTi-LX Hybrid, thanks to the electrified powertrain and clever active noise cancellation.

When running in EV mode (available, depending on conditions, at the push of a button), the Accord is a serenely quiet and comfortable place to be, even rivalling premium marques like the Lexus IS200, let alone the mainstream Toyota Camry Hybrid.

Three driving modes are on offer – Eco, Normal and Sport – and with the electric motor assist, even in the Eco setting, the Accord still offers decent punch off the line.

Sport mode turns things up a little, but the CVT tends to feel a little elastic with the throttle pedal pinned.

Our recommendation is to drive the Accord in Eco mode and reap the benefits of a low fuel-economy, figure rather than trying to relive the glory days of Honda’s high-revving, VTEC-laden sports sedans.

Safety

Lexus IS9/10

Safety equipment and technology has been upgraded for the IS 2021 model range, though it is expected to carry over its existing five-star ANCAP crash test rating from 2016.

The facelifted version scores auto emergency braking (AEB) with day and night pedestrian detection and daytime cyclist detection (from 10km/h to 80km/h) and car detection (10km/h to 180km/h). There’s also all speed adaptive cruise control with low speed following.

The IS also has lane keeping assistance with lane departure warning, lane trace assist, a new system called Intersection Turning Assist which will brake the car if the system judges the traffic gap isn’t big enough, and there’s also road sign recognition.

Plus the IS has blind-spot monitoring on all grades, as well as rear cross-traffic alert with auto braking (below 15km/h).

And beyond that, Lexus has added new Connected Services features, including an SOS call button, automated collision notification if an airbag deploys, and stolen vehicle tracking. 

Where is the Lexus IS built? Japan is the answer.


Honda Accord

The 10th-generation Honda Accord has not been crash tested by ANCAP or Euro NCAP and, as such, does not have an official safety rating.

However, all Accords come with Honda’s Sensing suite of advanced driver-assistance systems, which include forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams.

The Accord also boasts automatic headlights and wipers, active cornering headlights, rear cross-traffic alert, a surround-view monitor, hill-start assist, tyre-pressure monitoring, and front and rear parking sensors.

The 10th-gen Accord wears a maximum five-star crash safety rating in North America (with full marks for frontal crash, side crash and rollover protection), where it was tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Despite sharing many safety features, the US and Australian Accords differ in production location, with ours coming from Thailand.

Ownership

Lexus IS7/10

On paper, Lexus’s ownership offer isn’t quite as enticing as some other luxury car brands - but it has a strong reputation for blissful ownership.

The Lexus Australia warranty period is four years/100,000km, which is better for duration than Audi and BMW (both three years/unlimited km) but not as accommodating as Mercedes-Benz or Genesis, each of which offer five-year/unlimited km warranty.

The company has a three-year capped price servicing plan, with maintenance every 12 months or 15,000km. The first three visits cost $495 each. That’s okay - but Lexus doesn’t offer free servicing like Genesis, and nor does it offer prepaid service plans - for three to five years for a C-Class, and five years for Audi A4/A5, for instance.

There is complimentary roadside assistance for the first three years, too.

That said, the company has its Encore ownership benefits program that allows a number of experiences and deals, and the service team will collect your car and return it, leaving you with a loan car if you need it.

 


Honda Accord

Like all new Hondas, the Accord comes with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty plus six years of anti-corrosion assurance.

After the first free 1000km service, the scheduled maintenance intervals for the Accord VTi-LX Hybrid are every 10,000km/12 months, whichever occurs first.

According to Honda’s tailored service price guide, the first five years/50,000km of ownership will total $1816 in maintenance costs, which averages out to be about $363 per year.

While the 10,000km service intervals are a little short compared with the Camry’s 15,000km period, the Accord is actually quite cheap to get serviced.

Each of the Honda’s services for the first 100,000km costs only $312, with costs going up depending on additional service items.

However, the Toyota Camry Hybrid still edges ahead with its longer intervals and $220 per service costs for the first five years, although the numbers increase dramatically after that.

The cheap service pricing combined with the excellent fuel economy of the hybrid engine mean the Honda Accord VTi-LX Hybrid keeps running costs down.