lexus - 2019 Lexus UX 14 - Lexus UX: different but in a good way

What is it?

The Lexus UX is a small or compact crossover and the latest addition to the Lexus range.

It is targeted at younger buyers but will also appeal to retirees looking for size, comfort and economy.

Economy that is if you tick the box for the petrol-electric hybrid version which is essentially a $3500 option.

Like most vehicles in the Lexus range the look is striking, but the style council might want to rethink the squared off plastic wheel arch flares — just saying.

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What’s it cost?

There’s three grades: Luxury, Sports Luxury and F-Sport with a choice of two- and all-wheel drive, and petrol or hybrid powertrains, with some additional option packs available.

Prices start at $44,450 for the two wheel drive Luxury model with a 2.0-litre petrol engine and auto.

Luxury Hybrid is $47,950, while you need to step up a grade to Sports Luxury to access all-wheel drive, priced at $61,000.

Our test vehicle was the top of the line hybrid, 2.0-litre F Sport AWD ($61,450) with Enhancement Pack 1 ($1550) and premium paint ($1500), taking the total price to $64,500 plus on-roads.

The enhancement pack adds: Hands-free power tailgate, wireless charger, alloy scuff plates, headlight washers, rear privacy glass, and cornering lights.

Lexus Safety Sense + is standard, including a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, all-speed active cruise control, lane trace assist, traffic sign recognition, auto high beam, blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert.

Additional safety features include eight airbags, reversing camera, head-up display, parking sensors, tyre inflation warning, speed-limit warning and an anti-theft system.

There’s not much missing from the equipment list of this car.

Kit includes leather, climate air, moonroof, power adjustable steering wheel and heated and cooled front seats, 10.3-inch display screen, satellite navigation, wireless charging, and 13-speaker Mark Levinson audio.

F Sport is distinguished by its bumpers, grille and special 18-inch wheels plus sports seats, steering wheel, shift lever and pedals.

This grade is also equipped with adaptive variable suspension, five drive modes, rear performance damper and active sound control.

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What’s it go like?

I’ve never been a big fan of the CT200h hybrid hatch, basically because you need to flog it within an inch of its life to get it going.

So, it was with some trepidation that I approached the UX hybrid, which although described as an crossover, looks suspiciously like a hatch with a lift kit.

I assumed they shared the same hybrid powertrain, but I was wrong.

The UX features a larger 2.0-litre engine that combined with a larger, more powerful electric motor delivers a combined output of 131kW,  compared to CT’s 100kW.

Performance is in a word surprisingly good.

Our test vehicle was fun to drive, with a top speed of 177km/h and does the the dash from 0-100km/h in 8.7 seconds, compared to the CT’s 10.3 seconds (130kg lighter front-wheel drive model shaves time to 8.5).

What it tells me is that Lexus has once again gone the performance route with this one, instead of tuning the hybrid for low fuel consumption — although the fuel figures still aren’t bad.

The electric motor is used in effect to give performance a lift, much like a turbo does in a petrol model.

The CVT style transmission offers six steps or gears, with paddles to change gears manually and, even in sixth gear, happily powers out of corners.

In the AWD version, the innovative E-Four electric all-wheel drive system provides electric drive to the rear axle, automatically providing extra grip in slippery conditions.

It also compensates for oversteer or understeer when pushing the car hard.

Interestingly, the maximum speed at which the car can operate in pure electric mode has been bumped from 70 to 115 km/h.

Four drive modes include normal, ECO, Sport and Sport+.

Naturally, we headed straight for Sport+ mode, which also changes the colour of the speedo to a red and white combo, that blares orange under hard acceleration.

In this mode the exhaust note is also artificially enhanced.

The cabin features comfy, form hugging seats, and a dash unlike any other you have encountered, with a huge huge screen, analogue clock, and configurable instruments that change colour.

It’s not a touchscreen however and is controlled from a finger-operated touchpad between the seats.

It works okay when you’re sitting still but is next to useless once the car is underway.

Little knobs, like stubby bike handlebars, jut from the top of the dashboard and offer access to the different drive modes as well as the ability to disconnect traction control.

On the road it’s quiet inside, reasonably smooth and can be pushed hard without dire consequences.

Handling is neutral, with progressive breakaway that can easily be controlled with some steering input.

The brakes are aggressive at just about any speed.

Auto high beam, although a handy idea, gave us trouble in operation.

Rear seat passengers get air vents, but the back lacks legroom and the boot is small and shallow.

Rated at 4.7L/100km, the 43-litre tank takes standard 91 unleaded.

We clocked up 400km at at a rate of 5.8L/100km.

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What we like?

  • Not boring
  • Responsive throttle
  • Actually fun to drive
  • Excellent fuel consumption

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What we don’t like?

  • Too expensive
  • Squared mudguards
  • Touch pad to control screen
  • Limited rear legroom

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The bottom line?

At the end of the day its about the price. The UX ticks a lot of boxes and if you like different, it’s certainly that. But $60K buys plenty of other arguably better and more desirable cars — the choice is of course yours.

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Lexus UX 250h AWD, Hybrid priced from $61,450
  • 7.5/10
    Looks - 7.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Performance - 7.5/10
  • 8/10
    Safety - 8/10
  • 8/10
    Thirst - 8/10
  • 7.5/10
    Practicality - 7.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Comfort - 7.5/10
  • 8/10
    Tech - 8/10
  • 8/10
    Value - 8/10
7.8/10

Riley

Chris Riley has been a journalist for almost 40 years. He has spent half of his career as a writer, editor and production editor in newspapers, the rest of the time driving and writing about cars both in print and online. His love affair with cars began as a teenager with the purchase of an old VW Beetle, followed by another Beetle and a string of other cars on which he has wasted too much time and money. A self-confessed geek, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions - at the risk of sounding silly.