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Lexus UX200 2020 review

The UX200 is certainly distinctive.
EXPERT RATING
7.1
The Lexus UX200 is the cheapest luxury compact SUV on the market. But that doesn't mean it doesn't look and feel terrific. Question is, can it take on its German rivals?

A few years ago, Lexus hoped it had a hit on its hands with the (old) RAV4-based NX mid-size SUV. The car should have been the brand's path to a more youthful buyer, to whom they could later sell bigger, more expensive cars.

It took a while, but there seems to be a few of them around. I can't say the owners I've seen are particularly youthful, however.

Lexus could have knocked together a compact SUV on the old Corolla platform but perhaps the decision was made to wait for the far better TNGA platform from its parent company.

Whatever the motivation, Lexus needed a car like this, a luxury compact SUV, at a sensible price, to take on the endless variety from Germany. The Lexus UX, the brand hopes, is the one to grab the youthful folks who ignored the NX.

In its first full year on sale the UX took over 10 per cent of its segment from what was basically a standing start, so it must be a pretty reasonable car. 

Let's find out if it's got the goods to take on the Germans.

Lexus UX 2020: UX200 LUXURY
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency5.8L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$45,050

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

The UX200 is the range opener, a front-wheel drive taster before you get into the more powerful, all-wheel drive hybrid models. Starting at $44,450, the range mixes it with the top-end of Japanese compact SUVs and undercuts the BMW X1 and Audi Q2.

The UX200 is the range opener, starting at $44,450. The UX200 is the range opener, starting at $44,450.

You start with 17-inch alloys, eight-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, a reversing camera, keyless entry and start, active cruise control, electric and heated front seats, sat nav, auto LED headlights, leather trim and run flat tyres.

The famously confusing Lexus media system comes up on a very nice 10.3-inch screen and you can wipe away the pain with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

It comes with auto LED headlights. It comes with auto LED headlights.

That doesn't get round the biggest problem, which is the central touchpad controller. It's way too sensitive, no matter how you set it up and I was always missing the things I was looking for. It sounds good, though.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

Lexus doesn't do dull anymore. As with BMW, you may not like it, and there is a close parallel here with the German maker, but the big 'Spindle Grille' is undeniably distinctive.

I like it. I think it works well, but that does hinge on the headlights. Lexus has occasionally indulged in overly complex headlights, but the UX's just manage to stay normal.

It's a chunky machine and there are quite a few angles at the rear. It's a chunky machine and there are quite a few angles at the rear.

It's a chunky machine from other angles and speaking of angles, there are quite a few of them at the rear. But again, the designers stopped short of overdoing things, except perhaps for the creasing over the rear wheelarch.

The interior is a thoroughly modern Lexus, naff analogue clock aside. As you might expect, there are some lovely materials, with far less of those nasty big Toyota switches from past Lexuses.

The climate controls are particularly nice and look like they're from a much more expensive car. It's all really modern and in some places, almost funky, but without going nuts.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

You're always going to find a compact SUV a bit short on space, the clue is in the name. Slightly annoyingly, entry to the front seat is a bit risky for your (well, my) knees as the edge of the dashboard sticks out.

You're always going to find a compact SUV a bit short on space. You're always going to find a compact SUV a bit short on space.

I whacked my knees a few times on it as I got in, and it hurts. The back doors also reveal a quite small aperture, making access difficult.

The back seat is not really built for three, but you knew I was going to say that. Headroom is okay and leg and knee room is tight but bearable for children. Everyone will be happy with the upward facing air-conditioning vents and the pair of cupholders.

Headroom is okay and leg and knee room is tight but bearable for children. Headroom is okay and leg and knee room is tight but bearable for children.

Front seat passengers, once they're in and the pain from belting their knees subsides, are in good shape with exceptionally comfortable seats, an armrest, two cupholders and the front doors have good size bottle holders. 

The boot holds up to 371 litres with the rear seats up, which isn't huge but you can cram a suitcase or two in there.

Boot capacity isn't huge at 371L. Boot capacity isn't huge at 371L.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

The UX sports a 2.0-litre, naturally aspirated, four-cylinder, delivering 126kW/205Nm. Driving the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission (I need to visit a dentist I ground my teeth so hard typing that), the engine has a not-inconsiderable 1540kg to shift.

The UX sports a 2.0-litre, naturally aspirated, four-cylinder, delivering 126kW/205Nm. The UX sports a 2.0-litre, naturally aspirated, four-cylinder, delivering 126kW/205Nm.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

The official combined cycle figure of 5.8L/100km proved to be an optimistic number. My week with the car yielded an indicated figure of 9.2L/100km in mixed running. All that weight and no turbo means thirst.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

The UX arrives with eight airbags (including knee bags for driver and passenger), ABS, stability and traction controls, blind spot monitoring, forward low-speed AEB with pedestrian avoidance, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, speed sign recognition, lane keep assist and rear cross traffic alert.

The UX scored a maximum five-star ANCAP rating in May 2019. The UX scored a maximum five-star ANCAP rating in May 2019.

The rear seat has two ISOFIX points and three top-tether anchors.

The UX scored a maximum five-star ANCAP rating in May 2019.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

4 years / 100,000 km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

Lexus offers a German-beating, but Korean-missing, four-year/100,000km warranty, which is probably a year short with the arrival of Genesis.

You'll need to visit your dealer once every 12 months or 15,000km for a service and you'll score a loan car or Lexus will come and get your car when it's due. And drop it back, obviously.

The UX capped-price servicing schedule is a bit stiff at $495 per service, and only covers the first three visits.

Having said that, a Q2 costs $1580 over three years and an X1 $1650, so the Lexus is competitive. Plus, you get the added bonus of loan car/pick-up-drop-off service, and a longer warranty.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

If you want to boil down the Lexus driving experience, the word is serene. In the UX200's case, that is especially so because it is not what you'd call swift.

The steering is well-weighted and direct enough without ever unsettling the chassis. The steering is well-weighted and direct enough without ever unsettling the chassis.

The CVT conspires with modest engine output, and the car's 1.5-tonne weight to ensure progress is stately. I'm sure Lexus dealers would describe it as adequate, and that's probably about right. It's C-HR cousin is also quite slow, so it's not like Lexus took its own way.

Most cars fitted with CVTs annoy me, but this one is particularly grating because I think it would be a better car with a bit more edge to the response of the engine and transmission.

You have to give it a bit of welly to get it moving and then use that welly with abandon in cut and thrust traffic. Or you just have to accept your lot and live with long waits at busy intersections where you don't have right of way.

Like its C-HR cousin, though, it's a very nice car to drive or be driven in. The steering is well-weighted and direct enough without ever unsettling the chassis.

The damping is just right, with a complex and worthwhile rear suspension to ensure both ends of the car deliver a similar experience. It's even quite good in the corners and I'm certain the brakes would be just fine if you were ever to gather enough speed to need them.

Bottom line is, if you need more go, get the hybrid. If you're happy cruising, the 200 is fine.

Verdict

The UX has done quite well in a fiercely-contested segment, with new entrants popping up with monotonous regularity. Rather than trying to market itself as sporty, the UX instead goes down the luxury path and is all the better for it.

With a bit more pep - say, the IS300's turbo 2.0-litre or an amped-up plug-in hybrid, it would be a better drive without needing to be fast. But if it's serenity you're after, the UX has it. While the Germans fall over themselves to present sporting credentials, the UX200 takes the nice, easy listening route.

Pricing guides

$56,350
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$45,050
Highest Price
$67,650

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
UX200 F SPORT 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $54,050 2020 Lexus UX 2020 UX200 F SPORT Pricing and Specs
UX200 F SPORT +EP1 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $56,550 2020 Lexus UX 2020 UX200 F SPORT +EP1 Pricing and Specs
UX250h F SPORT +EP1 HYBRID 2.0L, Hyb/ULP, CVT AUTO $60,050 2020 Lexus UX 2020 UX250h F SPORT +EP1 HYBRID Pricing and Specs
UX250h F SPORT +EP1 HYBRID (AWD) 2.0L, Hyb/ULP, CVT AUTO $64,550 2020 Lexus UX 2020 UX250h F SPORT +EP1 HYBRID (AWD) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.1
Price and features7
Design7
Practicality7
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption7
Safety8
Ownership7
Driving7
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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