Worldwide sales of Lexus’s compact IS sports saloon model line have broken through the one million mark since the launch of the first generation in 1999, the Toyota luxury vehicle unit announced.

“Lexus has a new millionaire, with global sales of its IS range of sports saloons having moved into seven figures at the end of July. It’s a big achievement for a car that was the first Lexus to be designed primarily for the European market, a region where its popularity remains strong today. In fact, European sales account for almost 20% of IS’s worldwide tally so far,” Lexus said in a statement.

As with some other Lexus models, the IS has been particularly popular here in the UK with total sales of 82,650 since sales began in 1999. It has picked up a number of awards along the way, including being ranked the top model in the WhatCar?/JD Power customer satisfaction survey in 2011 and, in its latest guise, winning the public vote to be crowned Britain’s Best New Car in the 2015 Auto Express Driver Power honours.

Seventeen years ago, Lexus’ intention was for the IS to attract new, younger customers to the brand with a sporty, compact saloon offering sharp styling, a responsive straight-six (I6) two litre engine and rear wheel drive.

The third Lexus model line launched in Europe after the original LS and GS models, the IS 200 gave the company a presence in a large and highly competitive part of the premium car market dominated then by the BMW 3-Series with the Audi A4 on the rise.

Its outstanding driving dynamics and sporting profile were matched by high equipment and safety levels, Lexus said.

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A fast-growing reputation for excellent quality and customer service helped the IS win customer interest and the range soon expanded to include the more powerful three litre IS 300 and, from 2001, the SportCross compact wagon.

The original IS proved an effective pathfinder for Lexus through to 2005 when the second generation model made its global debut at the Geneva motor show. Displaying more distinctive and sophisticated styling, rooted in Lexus’ new L-finesse design philosophy, and offering even more refinement, the newcomer provided the platform for the brand to explore new possibilities that would see the IS develop much wider market appeal. The initial IS250, featuring a 2.5 litre V6 petrol engine and available with a new automatic transmission, was joined in 2006 by the first diesel-powered Lexus, the IS 220d. An I4, rather than the I6 or V6 of its German rivals, and not offered with automatic transmission, this version did not achieve the success its maker hoped for and effectively was replaced by the hybrid in the third generation line-up which, like all other Lexus lines in Europe, does not include any diesels.

A year later, the IS F high-performance saloon “built by enthusiasts, for enthusiasts”, as Lexus claimed, was launched at the Detroit show. This was the first model to wear the F performance badge, a predecessor of the LFA super car and today’s RC F and GS F coupes. The five litre V8 engine delivered 417bhp through the world’s first eight-speed automatic transmission, enabling the car to move from rest to 62mph (100km/h) in just 4.8 seconds, en route to a 168mph top speed.

The IS F was genuinely race track bred with extensive development testing at the Fuji Speedway in Japan and on Germany’s renowned Nürburgring. As a thoroughbred, it was engineered with dedicated performance components – engine, transmission, suspension, wheels and tyres.

The versatility of the IS was expanded in 2009 with the introduction of the IS250C, a four-seat coupe convertible equipped with a three piece, electrically retracting metal hardtop. The roof mechanism was the fastest on the market and its design ensured it looked equally good with top up or down, and it had reasonably generous space for rear seat occupants.

The current, third generation IS brought a hybrid drivetrain to the range for the first time. Since launch in 2013, the IS300h has been the most popular version for European customers, claiming 90% of IS sales. The full hybrid powertrain combines a 2.5 litre, I4, Atkinson cycle petrol engine with electric motor and has Dual VVT-i intelligent variable valve timing, D-4S fuel injection technology and a high-efficiency exhaust gas recirculation system.

Official EU combined cycle performance figures include 97g/km of CO2 and 67.3mpg, strengthening the model’s attractiveness in Europe where environmental performance and ownership costs are key customer considerations.

The IS is also available with a two litre turbo petrol engine with D-4ST fuel injection technology that supports both fuel economy and instantaneous torque. This delivers 241bhp with maximum torque of 350Nm. It is capable of rapid acceleration to a 143mph top speed and has an eight-speed Sport Direct Shift transmission, developed for the high-performance RC F.

The IS continues to be a core part of Lexus’s worldwide model range and is currently marketed in over 70 countries, accounting for over 6,000 units a month.