FACTS AT A GLANCE Lexus IS300h F Sport auto, leather, sat-nav.Price: £33,495 (on the road).Top speed: 125mph.0-62mph: 8.3 seconds.Fuel: 60.1mpg (combined figure).C02 emissions (g/km): 109.Verdict: Distinctive styling, smooth ride, great handling, luxurious interior, well-equipped, good for economy and emissions.

BUYING a hybrid is no longer a step in the dark, writes Roy Lewis.

Companies like Toyota have developed and refined hybrid technology and Lexus, which comes under the wing of the giant Japanese manufacturer, uses a variation of the hybrid Synergy Drive system with great success.

Take the new Lexus IS300h in F Sport trim. This is a flamboyant and refined hybrid with strong performance, splendid economy, low emissions and great handling qualities which make it a notable challenger against the German rivals that have ruled the roost for such a long time in the executive sector for compact sports saloons.

In fact, with just 109g/km emissions the company car tax band is no higher than its diesel competitors and this means business buyers should find its tax breaks attractive.

Prices of the hybrid are not cheap but competitive with the new IS300h in F Sport trim costing £33,495 (on the road).

A major redesign has given the IS300 a more athletic and sharper appearance so that the car easily turns heads in the high street.

And it provides an engaging drive with the 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol unit and 105KW electric motor together giving a useful 220bhp. With the engine mated to an electric constant variable automatic transmission there is smoothness and quietness for a relaxing drive.

The rear-wheel-drive Lexus goes as good as it looks. It sprints from 0-62mph in 8.3 seconds and offers abundant power for overtaking and rapid changes of direction.Lexus has also improved the F Sport by giving it a more rigid chassis and by tweaking the steering and suspension to obtain very good ride and road-holding qualities.

Push the Lexus hard through a series of tight bends and the body control is impressive. Yet the ride remains surprisingly smooth and comfortable with little body roll.

The disc brakes, ventilated at the front and back, are more than man enough for the job. There is also a drive mode selector which includes the choice of eco, normal and sport set-up.

With the four-door, four-seat Lexus being longer and wider than its predecessor, space is now fairly generous with head and legroom in the rear surprisingly good. And the boot is a decent size, too, being able to accommodate 450 litres.

The equipment list is as long as your arm. There is top-grade leather upholstery with electrically-adjustable and heated sports front seats, aluminium trim and sports pedals, cruise control, dual zone climate control, multi-functional steering wheel, front and rear parking sensors and a rear view camera. There is also a sevin inch multi-media display incorporating a stereo and sat-nav with Bluetooth connectivity.

Safety and security are tops and like its executive challengers the IS300 has a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating and eight airbags.

Servicing is at 10,000 miles or annually. The warranty is three years/60,000 miles mechanical, with hybrid components five years/60,000 miles.