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Small SUVs are undeniably all the rage at the moment.
The category – which basically didn’t exist 20 years ago – has become the focus of automakers worldwide, as they scrabble to capture the attention of a new generation of buyers.
Premium brands are not exempted. We’ve seen new youth-focussed entries rushed to market from Audi with the Q2, Mercedes with the GLA, BMW with the X2, Land Rover with the Evoque and now, finally, Lexus.
Only this new Lexus, the UX, seems at odds with the brand’s traditional demographic of… well… baby boomers.
As such, it looks decidedly more conservative than the Toyota C-HR with which it shares a chassis. Which raises the question – who is this car for exactly?
Lexus hopes it will bring a younger group to the brand, people who it hopes will be buying “their first entry into the luxury segment.”
So, does the UX have what it takes to bring a younger audience to the Lexus brand as a whole? I spent a week in the base UX200 to find out.
|Lexus UX 2019: UX200 Luxury|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Our UX is the absolute entry-model car, at $44,450 in a deceptively named ‘Luxury’ base trim. From there you can move up to the Sports Luxury (a significant price hike at $53,000) or F-Sport at $53,450.
The base car comes surprisingly well equipped, with plenty of items which other luxury automakers would have no qualms about putting on an options list.
Included is a 10.3-inch multimedia screen supporting sat-nav, DAB digital radio through an eight-speaker audio system, 17-inch alloy wheels, acoustic windscreen glass, full LED front lighting, leather accented interior trim, four-way power adjustable steering column, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and eight-way power-adjustable front seats.
What a list. Wasn’t this supposed to be a base car?
You’ll note Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are still missing from the multimedia system, and for now you can add that to my extensive list of Lexus multimedia gripes (explored in the practicality section of this review) but the connectivity tech is coming very soon to the Lexus range.
Items which arrive on higher specs include truly optional items like bigger alloys, improved trim bits, better leather on the seats, a panoramic sunroof and the F-Sport gets adaptive suspension and more drive modes.
It has to be noted that our UX200 Luxury also had the optional ‘Enhancement Pack 2’ which comes with a power tailgate, Qi wireless phone charging, alloy scuff plates, headlamp washers, rear privacy glass and cornering lamps, and a moonroof. That pack comes in at an extra $4050, $2500 of which is just for the moonroof (get ‘Enhancement Pack 1’ instead for $1550 which comes with everything else).
Relative value against competitors is good, too, with the base X2 sDrive 18i coming in at $46,900, the base Q2 35TSI at $41,950 and the Mercedes-Benz GLA 180 at $44,700.
You’d better bet you’ll be digging extra deep for some of the UX’s standard features on those Euro options lists.
The base car with ‘Enhancement Pack 1’ seems to be the pick, of the range then…
It’s impressive how much the UX - when looked at directly from the front - looks just like a miniature rendition of its RX big brother.
The signature 'spindle grille' is faithfully re-created on a smaller scale, the light fittings are bang on for proportions and the look is all finished out by the futuristic wing-mirrors and attractive garnishes.
From the side, it becomes apparent that the UX has a long nose… longer than its upright C-HR Toyota equivalent, a swoopy side-profile, and either funky or garish plastic wheelarches depending on your opinion on the matter.
Around the back things are… less resolved. The angles are nice, but it just doesn’t seem to match the rest of the car as it tapers off into nothing suddenly.
I like how the light fittings have a bar connecting them across the back, but I wasn’t a fan of the weirdly large panel gap where the boot lid connects to the body. It just doesn’t have the pristine finish Lexus is usually known for.
Inside is great, at least for front passengers. There’s the same slick steering wheel finished in thick leather trim from Lexus models up the range, decent materials throughout and cushy, comfortable seats. I disagreed with the off-white colour scheme, but it’s also available in black.
There are some neat bits and pieces like an oh-so-premium analog clock face and the semi-digital dash cluster which is designed seemingly as a nod to the one in the first-generation IS sedan.
My main problem with the front seating is how claustrophobic it all feels with the dash trim jutting in close and the A pillars seeming quite thick.
It’s all very cushy and genuinely premium though, props to Lexus for making one of its smallest, most affordable offerings as nice a place to sit in as some of its more expensive ones.
It's generally a myth that SUVs are far more practical than their hatchback or sedan counterparts, and it’s no different in the case of the UX.
While it feels all a little claustrophobic up front, space for front occupants is actually pretty good, and there’s an abundance of soft surfaces for resting your elbows on. The centre console lends huge amounts of space between you and your passenger.
The console box itself has a brilliant little bit of design in that it has a trick hinge which lets you tilt it open from either side. Cool.
There are small bottle holders in the doors and two big ones in front of the shift-lever which have a cut-out between them for slotting your phone in.
Above that, there's a Qi wireless charging shelf for your phone. Other items in this region include the half-hidden heated seats controls, and tape-deck style buttons for the climate controls.
The rear seats have decidedly less space than front seats, and short of actually having measurements, seem smaller than their equivalents in the C-HR.
Headroom was okay, but I didn’t have enough legroom behind my own seating position (I’m 182cm tall). Thankfully, rear occupants get two directional air vents and two USB ports, which, really every car in 2019 should have.
The boot space varies depending on the spec level in the UX, but the UX200 Luxury has the smallest of the lot at just 321 litres. The wide opening makes it easy to get things in there, unless you don’t like lifting them up as the portal is quite high off the ground.
It also falls short of rivals which offer between 34L extra space in the case of the Q2 and almost 150L extra space in the case of the GLA.
Can we stop for a second and talk about Lexus multimedia? It’s been consistently awful since screens in cars became standard. The large high-def screen had me jabbing away when I first got in, thinking it was a touchscreen, only to be rudely reminded that Lexus only lets you control it through a laptop touchpad which has somehow found itself in a car.
This system is worse than terrible, it’s distracting. Even when you’re at a standstill it requires an undue amount of concentration to operate, as even the slightest movement will have you selecting an object somewhere on the other side of the screen. To top it off, there’s unsettling, vibrating feedback when on-screen items are selected.
I can’t wait for this system to go away. Here’s hoping the incoming next-gen RX (which is also set to feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) finally dumps it.
The Lexus UX is powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine either with or without hybrid drive.
Our UX200 has the most basic set-up of the lot with a 2.0-litre non-hybrid, non-turbo four-cylinder engine, which produces 126kW/205Nm.
The combination is easily trounced on power terms by its European competition, but there’s an argument to be had for lack of complexity and longevity down the track. On a side-note, it still manages to feel much less underpowered than its 1.2-litre turbo C-HR cousin.
Despite the 2.0-litre being on the thrashier side, I was surprised to find it had only consumed 7.4L/100km on my test week. That doesn’t seem so great against its 5.8L/100km claimed/combined number, although its only 0.4L/100km above its claimed 7.0L ‘urban’ estimate.
You’ll be pleased to know the relatively low-tech drivetrain comes with low-tech benefits, like the ability to run on standard 91 RON unleaded.
The UX is one of the first Lexuses to be on parent company Toyota’s TNGA architecture, and it shows in a big way.
The UX in many ways is rewarding to drive. Despite being an SUV, it feels low to the ground and each wheel is confident around corners. The suspension is taut enough to give you confidence, but certainly softer than even the C-HR. It strikes a surprising balance between sporting and comfort.
For such a small SUV, the UX feels heavy. On the one hand, this lends it cornering confidence, but on the other hand it feels cumbersome when accelerating.
The 2.0-litre engine is adequate for the job but won’t exactly excite you with its performance. For some reason, Lexus even quotes a 0-100km/h time of 9.5 seconds. At least it’s not over 10 I suppose.
It’s a shame how thrashy the engine feels when you put your foot down. It seems to prefer to surge up and hang around 4500rpm whenever you need to make it move anywhere, and hangs around there for a little too long.
The engine is also the least refined part of the whole car (apart from the multimedia functionality). I was consistently impressed with how well the UX filtered out road noise and even engine noise at low speed, but the engine does start to intrude at those higher revs.
On the whole, the UX does a great job of living up to the Lexus promise of a smooth and refined drive, with good handling to boot. The engine just lacks the finesse provided by most euro rivals.
4 years / 100,000 km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
Even this base car comes with all the features in the Lexus’ 'SafetySense +' suite.
Active items include auto emergency braking (AEB – branded as ‘pre-collision system') with pedestrian and limited cyclist detection, active cruise control, lane keep assist (LKAS), traffic sign recognition (TSR), auto high-beams, blind spot monitoring (BSM), and rear cross traffic alert (RCTA).
Impressive stuff, especially since none of it is on an options list. The UX also has eight airbags, a reversing camera & sensors, tyre pressure sensors and the expected electronic stability controls.
The Lexus UX has yet to be tested by ANCAP.
Annoyingly, the UX feels the need to remind you about… everything. School zone coming up? That’s a complete audio alert “school zone approaching” and a chime.
Then another chime for when you’ve actually entered the school zone, THEN a complete audio alert “you have exited the school zone” followed by, you guessed it, a chime.
Now imagine this for every single speed limit variation, regardless of whether the car’s TSR system picks up the correct sign or not, followed by extra chimes and warnings that “you are exceeding the speed limit” despite it picking up a 40 zone from the back of a passing bus when you’re in an 80 zone.
Sometimes it chimes for seemingly no reason. I hear this car’s chimes when I close my eyes. I listen to its alerts when I sleep. Please. Make it stop.
To be fair, you can actually make it stop, although the option is buried five sub-menus deep in the multimedia system under 'Driver support information.'
Lexus offers a four-year/100,000km warranty. On the one hand, this is ahead of German rivals which I’m sure will persist with three-year offerings as long as possible.
On the other hand, come on guys. This is mechanically a Toyota, and the same parts are covered by a five-year/unlimited km warranty over in the non-premium space.
The UX isn’t covered by a laid-out capped price servicing schedule like some brands, but the brand says over the life of the four-year warranty you can expect to pay about $1780.
The UX requires servicing once a year or every 15,000km, whichever occurs first. The first service at 12 months is entirely complimentary.
Where Lexus manages to add extra value is in the ease of its service process. They’ll pick up and drop-off your car for you at each service, or, if you choose to drive it to a service centre yourself, will provide you with a loan car in the interim.
I found the UX to be a charming little luxury SUV. It’s barely even priced like a premium car, very well specified and doesn’t hold back when it comes to safety.
It could do with a more modern drivetrain and the back seat is a little tight, but it brings some of the more endearing characteristics from Toyota’s C-HR which make it so fun to drive.
Now, how do I stop it from playing chimes before I lose my mind….
|UX200 F Sport||2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$41,600 – 53,240||2019 Lexus UX 2019 UX200 F Sport Pricing and Specs|
|UX200 F Sport +EP1||2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$44,000 – 55,660||2019 Lexus UX 2019 UX200 F Sport +EP1 Pricing and Specs|
|UX250H F Sport +EP1 Hybrid||2.0L, Hyb/ULP, CVT AUTO||$46,800 – 59,180||2019 Lexus UX 2019 UX250H F Sport +EP1 Hybrid Pricing and Specs|
|UX250H F Sport +EP1 Hybrid (awd)||2.0L, Hyb/ULP, CVT AUTO||$50,400 – 63,690||2019 Lexus UX 2019 UX250H F Sport +EP1 Hybrid (awd) Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||8|
|Engine & trans||7|