As is also the case with a city like Toulouse, Lyon airport serves two quite distinct functions — firstly, it caters for passengers who actually want to visit the city of Lyon itself, and secondly it caters for people who want to head east into the Alps, and who have very little interest in the city of Lyon. In terms of car hire, most of our advice concerns people in the first group, or for people who want to visit the Alps in summer, as transfers to and from ski resorts are usually provided as part of a ski holiday package anyway. For looking at anywhere to the east of Lyon, much of this advice is similar to what we would say for people looking at picking up a hire car in Geneva, as there is a great deal of overlap.
There is certainly no need to hire a car in Lyon if you are just planning on staying in and around the city itself, but we think that the scenery nearby deserves more attention than it often gets. To get the most out of this, a hire car is strongly recommended.
Note — outside the ski season, the range of flights to Lyon from UK regional airports is quite limited, but you can easily transfer from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport to either Part Dieu or Perrache station in the centre of Lyon in just two hours. In the winter, you can also look at flights to Chambery or Grenoble.