Volvo XC40 2018 review
The small SUV segment harbours innovation, eye-catching style and bigger-than-you'd-think cabin space, and the Volvo XC40 delivers on all of those fronts, plus more.
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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.
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|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 rear seat has two ISOFIX points and three top-tether anchors.
The UX scored a maximum five-star ANCAP rating in May 2019.
4 years / 100,000 km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
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.
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 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.
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.
|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|
|Price and features||7|
|Engine & trans||7|