- Dynamic styling with handling to match
- Upmarket interior with bright red upholstery
- Smooth hybrid technology and impressive running costs
- Quite expensive and only available in the UK in hybrid format
- Infotainment system and touchpad are fiddly
- Poor over-the-shoulder visibility
We simply can’t get enough of premium SUVs at the moment and with all the publicity surrounding a ‘greener’ future, hybrid technology is gaining in popularity too. So, combine the know-how of hybrid specialists Lexus with the practicality of a compact SUV and you get the all-new UX.
The five-door model is the smallest in the Japanese manufacturer’s SUV line-up, slotting in beneath the NX and RX, but despite being small in stature, the petrol hybrid engine packs a mighty punch. And Lexus, which is the premium arm of Toyota, believes the car’s dynamic, sharp styling will appeal to new younger customers.
Buyers can select from three trim levels call UX, F-Sport and Takumi with the option of adding 4x4 ability to each model.
On The Road
Powering the UX is a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine along with an electric motor that together deliver 181bhp. This is Lexus’ fourth-generation self-charging hybrid engine and is mated to a CVT gearbox. Our mid-trim F Sport model was front-wheel-drive.
The UX is the first Lexus to be developed using the company’s GA-C platform (it stands for Global Architecture - Compact). This lightweight, yet rigid structure enabled designers to develop a car with an extremely low centre of gravity and that assists with the all-round dynamic performance as well as the balanced ride and handling.
The CVT gearbox delivers smooth acceleration although it does need to be given a little respect. Like similar transmission systems, it responds best to gradual throttle pressure and then the power is constant. Drive with a heavy right boot and it screams wildly and seems to take a while to react. I would say though that this is one of the most refined CVT units I have encountered.
The performance stats for the Lexus UX are impressive for an SUV with a 0-62mph sprint time of 8.5 seconds and maximum speed of 110mph. The way the car handles rather depends on the Drive Mode you select. There is an EV mode that comes into force when cruising or driving gently. In this mode the front electric motor (along with the rear one on AWD models) drives the car without using any petrol. In Normal, there is a balance between driving performance and fuel efficiency. Eco mode maximises fuel economy and finally, Sport mode delivers faster throttle responses for a more dynamic performance.
Out on the open road, the UX feels really composed with plenty of grip and agility. It can be driven hard into long sweeping bends with confidence and it’s also a car that can effortlessly cruise at maximum motorway speeds. It may not be quite so bombastic or aggressive as some of its premium rivals from the German manufacturers, but the UX, like its sibling Lexus SUVs, delivers agile smooth handling.
The GA-C platform also contributes to the car’s performance. By using aluminium for the doors, wings and bonnet, this has helped the car achieve the lowest centre of gravity in its class. This results in a balanced driving experience that would be more akin to a hatchback.
A clever feature is the Active Cornering Assist which helps the vehicle trace the driver’s desired line through a turn by applying a degree of brake control on the inside wheels - this prevents any tendency to understeer. The result is a car that can confidently be pushed through winding roads with ease.
The steering offers ample feedback and its fairly light feel is nicely suited to driving around town, but it’s not quite so reassuring at higher speeds on B roads.
Lexus is the premium arm to Toyota so boasts all the finest upholstery and finishes to match its dynamic styling. It’s an instant attention grabber thanks to the crisp lines and creases, large F Sport grille with a mesh pattern created by individual L-shaped pieces, 18-inch sports wheels, sweeping light clusters, a rising waist line and jet-black trim on the front and rear mouldings.
Move inside and you will be greeted by deep red leather upholstered sports seats with a special integrated foaming technique that was first developed for Lexus performance models. There are heated seats, a heated steering wheel and plenty of soft-touch surfaces.
The car’s refined styling is matched by its refined performance with a highly efficient suspension set-up smoothing out most bumps and dips along the way. The UX is also well insulated against any road surface, engine or wind noise making the car a very pleasant place to be.
Our test model was sitting on 18-inch alloy wheels which perfectly complimented the vehicle’s performance.
In The Car
Getting a comfortable driving position is a simple procedure with powered seats along with a power-adjustable steering wheel, and all controls, dials and readouts are at your fingertips thanks to a dashboard that is very driver-orientated.
There is a wealth of on-board technology to explore with the likes of a 10.3-inch screen with Lexus navigation complete with European mapping, dual-zone climate control with humidity sensor, DAB radio, a reversing camera with guidelines, parking sensors, GPS clock, a heated F Sport leather steering wheel with paddles, USB ports front and rear, plus much more.
On the downside there is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto for full smartphone connection and the majority of the controls are accessed by a touchpad with haptic responses. This really takes some getting used to and even after a week testing the car, I found it all rather clunky. The menu system is overcomplicated and on more than one occasion I simply gave up trying to find alternative radio stations or searching for the air conditioning levels. There are some piano buttons for simplifying some operations along with some short-cut keys but it’s all bit much.
The readouts are nice and clear and being a hybrid, the instrumentation does offer slightly different data with dials showing charging and power levels as well as more traditional information. The F Sport has a moveable meter ring in the tft display (which originated in the LFA supercar) and this allows the driver to change the content on show.
Although the UX is billed as an SUV you don’t sit particularly high up so the visibility is similar to a standard car. The view ahead is fine and out of the side and rear windows, but the over-the-shoulder visibility is rather blocked by wide pillars.
Being a compact SUV, back seat passengers can’t exactly stretch out, but there is room for a couple of adults to sit comfortably provided the front seats are not pushed too far back. The other slight downside to being in the back is it feels rather claustrophobic. The rising waistline design of the car results in fairly small rear windows and it seems a bit dark and gloomy.
The boot is big enough for the segment with a 320-litre capacity that can be increased further with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats folded flat. An additional underfloor area in the boot is also handy for carrying goods. There are plenty of other storage compartments throughout the UX including a clever bin beneath the central armrest that can be opened either side for convenience. There are front and rear cup holders, practical door bins, quite a compact glovebox and a deep tray in front of the gear lever.
The Lexus UX costs from £29,905 for the entry-level UX model. Move up to mid-grade F Sport and the price creeps up to £33,905. The highest trim level is the Takumi which costs from £39,105. These prices are for the front-wheel drive cars, although E-Four all-wheel drive can be added to each trim. The price of this varies according to which optional pack is selected.
Our F Sport car had metallic paint which added £570 to the cost along with a Premier Plus Pack, costing £4,200, that introduced smoother leather seats, smart keyless entry, a powered tailgate, illuminated entry, a 10.3-inch Lexus navigation system with eight-speaker audio and DVD, plus a power tilt telescopic steering wheel.
When it comes to running costs, the UX has combined fuel efficiency of 49.5-53.2mpg (WLTP) and carbon emission of 97g/km. I actually averaged just over 50mpg during a week-long test clocking up almost 600 miles.
The car uses built-in technology to help improve the mpg figures. Under braking, or when the driver takes their foot off the accelerator pedal, regenerative braking harnesses energy to produce electricity. This, together with the electric power produced during normal driving, is stored in the hybrid battery for use as and when needed.
The low CO2 figure would result in a first year Vehicle Excise Duty charge of £130 followed by payments of £145.
The insurance group for our car was 22.
Lexus enjoys an excellent reputation for its reliability and the hybrid expertise of both Lexus and Toyota models is second to none. The fact that many Lexus customers return constantly to the brand is testament to their overall satisfaction. That said, one area that comes under fire constantly is that over-complicated infotainment system.
It’s worth noting though that Lexus frequently finishes at the high end of any customer surveys regarding reliability and satisfaction.
The build quality feels very good and the leather upholstery certainly looks like it will survive the test of time. Some surfaces could be a little prone to scratching after a while although our test car, with more than 2,000 miles on the clock, still looked in pristine condition.
The UX comes with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty. This also includes a five-year, 60,000-mile cover for both hybrid components and the hybrid battery.
The Lexus UX is packed with advanced safety features and all versions are equipped with Lexus Safety System+ which includes dynamic radar cruise control, pre-collision system, automatic high beam, road sign recognition, lane departure alert and lane tracing assist.
In addition, there is ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, hill assist control, a full set of airbags and ISOFIX fixtures to the outer rear seats. The car has not yet been tested for a Euro NCAP safety rating.
All models are fitted with an anti-theft system with alarm, intrusion, tilt and glass breakage sensors and an engine immobiliser.