Back in the late 1990’s, Lexus launched the first premium crossover, the RX, which was seen as something a little quirky back then. Despite the burgeoning crossover/SUV market, Lexus was slow to follow this up with the RX standing alone as the only Lexus crossover until 2017, when the smaller NX arrived.
The smallest Lexus crossover the UX landed in 2019 & goes head-to-head with the likes of the BMW X1, Audi Q3, Volvo XC40, Mercedes GLA & BMW X2 & follows sister brands model the Toyota Prius & C-HR in being built on Toyota’s TNGA platform.
There’s just the one powertrain for UK customer’s, a 2.0-litre petrol-electric hybrid, although it is offered with both 2WD & 4WD
Both Lexus & Toyota have thus far steadfastly avoided the EV sector, preferring to continue with their self-charging hybrid & the latest Lexus is no different. The good news though, is that like the majority of the brands hybrid’s, it offers impressive fuel economy, which on the model we were testing, the UX 250 2WD, comes with a Combined WLTP fuel economy of 49.5mpg, impressive for a petrol driven car under the new regulations.
In a sector of mostly bland looks, the UX makes a fine fist of standing out. Up front, the familiar Lexus spindle grille features a new mesh pattern & there’s narrow LED headlights on the front corner’s, which are standard across the range. It also features large wheel arches &
rear lights that span the full width of the hatch back, ending with a bulbous finish at either side.
The UX 250h comes very well equipped, with 18″alloys, auto folding heated door mirrors, an acoustic windscreen, rear privacy glass & chrome roof rails. Standard kit includes dual zone climate control, a push button start button, A reversing camera, a heated steering wheel & rain sensing wipers.
Our test car also included the Premium Plus Pack, featuring the Japanese Paper dash top, power backdoor, key less entry, & cornering lights, an additional £2,300 as well as the Tech & Safety Pack, with a heads up display, wireless charger, 3-eye LED & AHS headlamps, an extra £1,400.
The interior oozes quality, taking literally, the steering wheel & clock straight out of the £50,000 LS saloon. The top of the dash is finished to the highest quality in Japanese Paper & all of the switchgear is top notch too.
Even the seats are available in three finishes: fabric, leather, or a combination of the two. There are also five colours to choose from on the standard UX, with our test car fitted with cream leather.
The Lexus 7″ infotainment screen sits in the centre top of the dashboard & allows access to all of the cars main functions. The UX features a touchpad control system, which can prove a little fiddly, especially when you’re moving. Design details include two cylindrical buttons above the steering wheel which jut out like horns from the dash, one of which controls the driving functions, Normal, Eco & Sport; the EV function is selected by pressing a button between the front seats.
There’s also some function buttons located at the front of the opening armrest, again, these are located in an awkward place. A week in the UX allowed us to get used to both of these, so don’t let that put you off. Luckily, the climate controls are separate & are straightforward, located underneath the screen, which is always a blessing.
Although the Lexus SatNav is pretty good & the option of Bluetooth & USB mean that accessing music or podcasts from your phone is easy, the UX doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity, which if you’ve tried these, allow hands free access to SMS messaging, WhatsApp & the excellent Google Maps.
Interior space up front is great, with the wraparound dashboard still leaving plenty of knee & legroom. You don’t actually sit as high up in the UX as many competitors & it doesn’t feel like you’re in an SUV. Rear passenger space is a little compromised, especially if you’re sat behind a tall front passenger. The centre most rear seat suffers the most, as it’s higher than the outer seats & is only large enough for a small teen or younger.
Cabin storage is also average. There’s a smallish glovebox, twin front door bins, a decent cubby under the central armrest which cleverly opens both ways & hides the USB connection plus a couple of cup holders. Rear-seat passengers get nothing other than two rear seat pockets.
At least the rear seats split 60:40 & there’s a useful removable flat boot floor enabling easy loading/unloading. With this removed, the UX offers 320 litres of space which, when you look around, isn’t great. For example the similar sized VW T-Roc offers 445 litres.
The best thing about the UX is it’s handling. Whilst the ubiquitous CVT gear box in the Toyota/Lexus model line-up can be a little frustrating when it comes to all-out fun. There’s just not enough pulling power in the 2.0 litre unit & the CVT box is too slow to bring what power there is as fast as you’d like. Fitted the UX however , it actually works better than in some larger Lexus models. The UX although a crossover/SUV, sits quite low to the ground & is a lot of fun to drive when you’re lucky enough to find some winding B roads. It hugs corners tightly & springs out of them quickly, putting a smile on your face. In the confines of metropolitan driving, it’s also a hit. The cabin is well insulated from outside noise & in the city, especially at lower speeds & in traffic, the EV function can be utilised. At anything under 20mph progress is serene & the UX’s smallish size makes it easy to park as well.
Like the larger Lexus ES, the UX also performs admirably as a motorway cruiser. Large distances are eaten up, with adaptive cruise control a real bonus when traffic gets heavier or you enter a speed restricted section of the road. The driver’s seat is incredibly comfortable & although my test car didn’t feature electric seat adjustment, the manual one’s worked just fine. You’d struggle to find a more enjoyable cabin in the class to be in.
For company car drivers looking at saving a few quid, the UX 250d comes with CO2 emissions of 95g/km & a BIK in year one of 22%, with a 23% rate in years two & three. In comparison, an Audi Q2 with 150bhp is 29% in year one, increasing to 30% in year’s two & three. So a substantial saving per annum can be made. Add in the combined fuel economy of 49.5mpg – we averaged 43.6mpg – which is at least 10-15mpg better in our experience, than a non petrol-hybrid & for fleet customer’s, the news just get’s better & better.
In conclusion, the baby Lexus SUV is actually one of the better Lexus models currently on offer to drive. It’s attractively priced, offers good savings for company car drivers, is brilliantly put together & it’s stylish as well. On the downside, the boot’s on the small side, you can’t get Apple CarPlay or Android Auto ( yet ) & that CVT box stifles some fun out of the drive.
When weighed up against the Audi Q2, BMW X2 & Mercedes GLA as a company car, we’d choose the Lexus. Only the Volvo XC40 offer’s greater practicality & kerb appeal. But, company car driver’s beware, in auto form, the XC40 comes with far higher BIK rates than the UX, 33% in year one for example. In real money, the saving you’d make if you chose a UX, would pay for the cost of your 2 week Summer holiday. Definitely food for thought !
An accountant’s dreamy 3.75/5