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Matt Campbell
Reviewed & driven by
CarsGuide

3 Apr 2019

Compact SUVs are more popular now than ever before, and high-end brands are eager to meet the demands of customers with smaller, more luxurious crossovers.

We’ve assembled three exciting players in the luxury compact SUV segment in order to see which one you should be putting on your shopping list. And to make things even more interesting, we’ve got three different means of propulsion on show here, too: a hybrid, a diesel, and a petrol

We’ve assembled three players in the luxury compact SUV segment to see which one you should put on your shopping list. We’ve assembled three players in the luxury compact SUV segment to see which one you should put on your shopping list.

Our contenders are the petrol-electric Lexus UX250h F Sport, the diesel-engined BMW X xDrive20d M Sport X, and the petrol-powered Volvo XC40 T4 Inscription

And there are more competitors due later in 2019; the new Range Rover Evoque, Audi Q3, and perhaps even a new Mercedes-Benz GLA. So consider this round one in the compact luxury SUV battle of 2019, then. 

For now, we’ll assess the Lexus, BMW and Volvo against a range of criteria to help you decide which deserves to be on your shopping list.

Design

We all know that styling is subjective; there’s a good chance the exterior design of one of these cars will excite you more than the others. And there’s no guarantee anyone else will agree.

The Lexus UX is clearly the most daring in its design, with a bold grille, interesting angles, smooth finishes and some truly creative touches to it. Some say there’s too much styling for such a compact model, and there are a few CarsGuide employees who have been left scratching their heads over this model’s looks - especially the fin-like light clusters at the rear, which are reminiscent of a 1950s’ Cadillac.

The BMW X2 is more appealing in a conventional sense. It is clearly the German one of this trio, with the kidney grille and some signature design lines helping it stand out, and the brand has done a terrific job of making the X2 look more substantial than it actually is (it is actually the smallest vehicle here). Fun fact: there are eight BMW badges on the exterior of the X2 (not to mention six M badges, delineating the M Sport X pack). It’s clearly a proud product of the brand, and it looks great, too. 

The Volvo XC40 has a charming, yet boxy, character. It has the Thor's Hammer headlight signature, some really clever design lines and it manages to look expensive despite being the most affordable car of this trio. It’s the most sophisticated design of this set, but the least sporty.

  • The Volvo XC40 T4 Inscription. The Volvo XC40 T4 Inscription.
  • The Volvo XC40 has a charming, yet boxy, character. The Volvo XC40 has a charming, yet boxy, character.
  • The BMW X xDrive20d M Sport X. The BMW X xDrive20d M Sport X.
  • The X2 is appealing in a conventional sense. The X2 is appealing in a conventional sense.
  • Lexus UX250h F Sport. Lexus UX250h F Sport.
  • The Lexus UX is clearly the most daring in its design from this line up. The Lexus UX is clearly the most daring in its design from this line up.

To make it easier for all of us, here’s a table with the key dimensions of these models. It can be hard to tell their size differences just from the photos.

 BMW X2 xDrive20d M Sport XLexus UX250h F SportVolvo XC40 T4 Inscription
Length46030mm4495mm4425mm
Wheelbase2670mm2644mm2702mm
Width1824mm1840mm1910mm
Height1526mm1520mm1652mm
Wheels19-inch18-inch19-inch
Tyres225/45/19225/50/18235/50/19

As for interior design and packaging, there’s a fair bit to talk about. But you can see some of the big differences yourself by checking out the interior photos below.

 Score
BMW X2 xDrive20d8
Lexus UX250h F Sport7
Volvo XC40 T4 Inscription 8

 

Practicality

The whole notion of a ‘small SUV’ is challenged by the packaging brilliance that some brands manage to build into their compact vehicles. All three of these models offer pretty impressive space for their respective sizes, and below we’ll run through the cabins of each model in detail.

But first, some boot space capacity figures.

 BMW X2 xDrive20d M Sport X Lexus UX250h F SportVolvo XC40 T4 Inscription
Boot capacity470 litres (VDA)334 litres (VDA)460 litres (SAE)
Spare WheelNo: Run-flat tyresNo: Run-flat tyresSpace saver

The BMW X2 really does have a surprisingly large boot, which was capable of swallowing the CarsGuide pram and all three suitcases (but not at the same time). That said, the shape of the Volvo’s boot makes it the best for functionality - it was judged best in our “will it fit?” test. The Lexus was pretty poor; the pram only just fit when we shut the boot lid, and it could fit just the large suitcase, or only the smaller two. It wasn’t possible to fit all three at once.

Now, when it came to back seat space, the winner was clear; the Volvo XC40 offers more space for adults and kids than either of its rivals. In fact, it has as much rear seat room as most SUVs in the class above, while also feeling more premium than either of the other two vehicles here.

  • The Volvo has a more premium feel than its competitors. The Volvo has a more premium feel than its competitors.
  • When it came to back seat space, the winner was clear; the Volvo XC4. When it came to back seat space, the winner was clear; the Volvo XC4.
  • The shape of the Volvo’s boot makes it the best for functionality. The shape of the Volvo’s boot makes it the best for functionality.
  • The Volvo’s screen takes a bit of learning, but trust us, after a few days of exposure, it becomes second nature. The Volvo’s screen takes a bit of learning, but trust us, after a few days of exposure, it becomes second nature.

The next best was the BMW X2, which is decently packaged considering the exterior dimensions are quite compact. The lack of any rear USB ports puts the X2 behind the modern times, as do the less pleasant trim finishes used. However, it’s the only one with ambient lighting strips - a nice treat for the little ones.

  • The BMW X2’s cabin was judged to be fine, but not special enough for the money being asked. The BMW X2’s cabin was judged to be fine, but not special enough for the money being asked.
  • The BMW X2 is decent considering the exterior dimensions are quite compact. The BMW X2 is decent considering the exterior dimensions are quite compact.
  • The X2 really does have a surprisingly large boot, which was capable of swallowing the CarsGuide pram. The X2 really does have a surprisingly large boot, which was capable of swallowing the CarsGuide pram.
  • Our car was an older-build version, meaning it didn’t have the big screen it was supposed to have.
Our car was an older-build version, meaning it didn’t have the big screen it was supposed to have.

In last spot was the Lexus UX, which feels like the cabin space is smaller and isn’t helped by a higher belt line and dark roof lining. ‘Claustrophobic’ was a descriptor that came up. But so was ‘comfortable’ when it came to describing the seats, though it lacked a map pocket on the back of the driver’s seat (each of its rivals had two map pockets). 

  • Up front the Lexus felt more compact and hatch-like. Up front the Lexus felt more compact and hatch-like.
  • The cabin space feels smaller in the Lexus UX. The cabin space feels smaller in the Lexus UX.
  • The boot of the Lexus was pretty poor; the pram only just fit when we shut the boot lid. The boot of the Lexus was pretty poor; the pram only just fit when we shut the boot lid.
  • The Lexus’ stereo was not bad, but its media interface is terrible. The Lexus’ stereo was not bad, but its media interface is terrible.

Each has a flip down arm rest with cup holders, but the Lexus is the only one that misses out on door-pocket storage. The storage war is won by the Volvo, which has epic door pockets front and rear which are flocked with a beautiful (but potentially chocolate- and chip-attracting) material.

Up front, the Volvo again stands taller (literally and figuratively) when it comes to space and convenience, with a more thoughtful cabin and better space and usability, plus a more premium feel than its competitors.

Again the Lexus felt more compact and hatch-like, with a lower seat position and cocoon-like space for front occupants. The fact someone my size (182cm) will have to watch their knees on the edge of the dashboard when alighting gives you an idea of how small the space is. The storage on offer is adequate but not exceptional, and the presentation is pleasant, if a little overdone.

The BMW X2’s cabin was judged to be fine, but not special enough for the money being asked. The controls are well placed and easy to learn, and while we all liked the seat bolster adjustment, the manual controls used for the seats make you feel like you’re in something cheaper than the other cars here - and the lack of seatbelt height adjustment amplifies that.

When it comes to media systems, we can’t tell you exactly what the correct spec of BMW X2 would be like because our car was an older-build version, meaning it didn’t have the big screen (8.8-inch as opposed to 6.0-inch) it was supposed to have, and therefore lacked Apple CarPlay, too. That said, it was fine. 

The Volvo’s screen takes a bit of learning, but trust us, after a few days of exposure, it becomes second nature. It looks good, but the screen is prone to fingerprints. And the stereo may have been optional, but it wasn’t as good as the BMW’s standard set-up with fewer speakers. 

The Lexus’ stereo was not bad, but its media interface is terrible. The touchpad with haptic feedback is hard to get used to, and so are the menus and controls. It may have the biggest, crispest screen display, but that means nothing if it’s painful to use. Plus the graphics for the sat nav look very 2010. 

 Score
BMW X2 xDrive20d8
Lexus UX250h F Sport7
Volvo XC40 T4 Inscription 9

Value

Price is probably a little less important to you if you’re willing to spend up big on a compact luxury SUV. It could well be that this might be a second or third car for your family, but it’s still important to figure out where each of these examples sits in terms of cost.

How much is a BMW X2? What about a price list for the XC40? And the price range for a Lexus UX? We will run through each of the models below.

  • The X2 xDrive20d has a list price of $59,900 plus on-road costs. The X2 xDrive20d has a list price of $59,900 plus on-road costs.
  • The UX250h F Sport AWD is priced at $61,450. The UX250h F Sport AWD is priced at $61,450.
  • Ours XC40 is the middle-of-the-range T4 Inscription, which has a list price $50,990. Ours XC40 is the middle-of-the-range T4 Inscription, which has a list price $50,990.

The BMW X2 range kicks off from $46,900 and ranges up to $68,900. The model we have is the middle of the range (but is the sole diesel option in the line-up), the X2 xDrive20d, which has a list price of $59,900 plus on-road costs (also known as the RRP - this is not a drive-away price). 

Our car was optioned up to a degree; it had metallic paint ($1290) and leather ‘Dakota’ upholstery ($1950), which is a step up on the standard Alcantara you usually get in this grade. It also had a no-cost optional trim finisher in Pearl Chrome. All told, the price as tested was $63,140. 

The Lexus UX range starts at $44,450 and goes all the way up to the model we have here - the UX250h F Sport AWD, which is priced at $61,450. Want to spec it like a launch edition? Add one of Lexus’ Enhancement Pack options: the EP1, as our test car was specced, adds a sunroof ($2500), while EP2 adds a 13-speaker Mark Levinson stereo, head-up display, surround-view camera and smart key card ($5600). 

The as-tested price for our UX250h F Sport was $63,950, making it the most expensive vehicle here.

Similar to its rivals, the Volvo XC40 line-up starts at $44,990 and goes up to $55,990 for the flagship, and powered-up, T5 model. Ours is the middle-of-the-range T4 Inscription, which has a list price $50,990. So vs the rivals, it’s pretty affordable. 

Our car had a number of options, including a technology pack (adaptive cruise, surround-view camera, semi-auto parking - $2500), heated front seats ($550), heated rear seats ($350), tinted rear glass ($700), power folding rear back rest ($250), lockable glovebox ($30) and 13-speaker harman/kardon stereo ($1200). The as-tested price: $56,570 before on-road costs.

To keep things even, all four vehicles tested here are all-wheel drive, and while they mightn’t be directly competing on price, here’s how they stack up for standard features:

 BMW X2 xDrive20d M Sport X Lexus UX250h F SportVolvo XC40 T4 Inscription
Sat navYYY
Apple CarPlayY-Y
Android Auto--Y
Infotainment screen size8.8-inch horizontal (note: our test car wasn't fitted with this screen)10.3-inch horizontal9.0-inch verticle
USB ports143
CD Player-Y-
DAB digital radioYYY
Spearkers688
Wireless phone charging (Qi)Optional YY

Here are some of the luxury elements that these models have (or miss out on):

 BMW X2 xDrive20d M Sport XLexus UX250h F SportVolvo XC40 T4 Inscription
Leather TrimYYY
Electric driver's seat adjustmentNYY
Electric passenger's seat adjustmentNYY
Seat memory settingsNYY
Lumbar adjustmentN2-way4-way
Side bolster adjustmentYNN
Leather steering wheelYYY
Heated front seatsNYOpt ($550)
Cooled front seatsN/AYN/A
Heated rear seatsN/AN/AOpt ($350)
Climate controlYYY
Rear air ventsYYY
Keyless entry / smart keyYYY
Push button startYYY
Adaptive cruise controlOpt ($700) - camera basedY - radar basedOpt ($2500 part of pack) - radar based

And some of the exterior differentiators of each of these models:

 BMW X2 xDrive20d M Sport XLexus UX250h F SportVolvo XC40 T4 Inscription
Alloy wheels19-inch18-inch19-inch
Tyre pressure monitoringYYY
Roof railsOpt ($450)YY
HeadlightsLEDLEDLED
Daytime running lightsLEDLEDLED
Front  fog lightsYYY
Auto headlightsYYY
Power tailgateYYY
SunroofOpt ($1890)Opt ($2500)N/A

We all know that half the fun of choosing a new car is seeing what colours are available, and Lexus and BMW both offer some youthful hues as part of their respective palettes, with blue, red, orange, gold, yellow and green available. The usual suspects - black, white, silver and grey - are also available, while Volvo tends to offer more sedate hues, including the Luminous Sand of our test car.

Premium paint will set you back $1500 for the Lexus, $1290 for the BMW and $1150 for the Volvo. You can option a white roof finish for the Volvo, too, if you so choose.

 Score
BMW X2 xDrive20d7
Lexus UX250h F Sport8
Volvo XC40 T4 Inscription 9

Engine and transmission

There are vast drivetrain differences between the three models we have on test. And just remember, you have other powertrain options if the ones we’ve got here don’t suit you.

  • The Volvo has a 2.0L turbo-petrol engine. The Volvo has a 2.0L turbo-petrol engine.
  • The BMW has a 2.0L turbo-diesel. The BMW has a 2.0L turbo-diesel.
  • The Lexus has a 2.0L petrol-electric hybrid. The Lexus has a 2.0L petrol-electric hybrid.

For instance, there is a more powerful petrol-turbo engine in the Volvo (but no diesel or hybrid), you can get a petrol motor in the X2 instead of the diesel if you wish (but there is no hybrid version); and the Lexus also has either petrol-electric hybrid or just a regular petrol (but there is no diesel). None of these models have the option of an EV or plug-in hybrid, either. 

We’ll run through the engine specs in the table below, but before we dive deep into specifications, you should know that none of these cars are rear-wheel drive, and indeed all three on test are AWD (not proper 4x4, but nobody wanting a car of this size with this intent is actually planning to go on a 4WD adventure, surely?). 

To be clear, the Volvo can be had as a front-wheel drive if you buy the more affordable T4 Momentum. The X2 we’ve got has AWD, but there are front-wheel drive models lower in the range. And the Lexus we’ve got is all-wheel drive, too - the high-tech E-Four system, as Lexus calls it, uses a separate 5.3kW electric motor that’s integrated into the rear differential, rather than having a heavy and space-consuming driveshaft. Again, you can get FWD if you prefer, and it’ll save you money, too.

None come with a manual transmission, and you might be interested to see in the table below where each of these models sit for towing capacity. 

 BMW X2 xDrive20d M Sport X Lexus UX250h F SportVolvo XC40 T4 Inscription
Engine2.0 lite turbo-diesel2.0 litre petrol-electric hybrid2.0 litre turbo-petrol
Power140kW (at 4000rpm)107kW (at 6000rpm)140kW (at 4700rpm)
Torque400Nm (at 2500rpm)180Nm (at 5200rpm)300Nm (at 4000rpm)
TransmissionEight-speed automaticCVT autoEight-speed automatic
DrivetrainAWDAWDAWD
Weight1521kg1655kg1705kg
0-100km/h acceleration7.7 sec8.7 sec8.5 sec
Towing capactiy (braked/unbraked)750kg/2000kgN/A750kg/2000kg

We’ll get to how each of the drivetrains perform in the real world below, but based on the numbers, the BMW seems to argue the strongest case.

 Score
BMW X2 xDrive20d 9
Lexus UX250h F Sport 7
Volvo XC40 T4 Inscription 8

Fuel consumption

Fuel economy could determine your decision in this segment, and two of these models have surprisingly low claimed fuel consumption

Check out the table below for official combined fuel consumption figures, and see how they stacked up against our real-world testing that encompassed urban, highway and back-road driving.

 BMW X2 xDrive20d M Sport X Lexus UX250h F SportVolvo XC40 T4 Inscription
Official combined fuel use5.1L/100km4.7L/100km7.4L/100km
Actual use on test7.9L/100km6.4L/100km10.3L/100km
Percentage over claimed usage55%36%39%
Fuel tank capactiy51L43L54L
Mileage (calculated on actual use)645km672km524km

It was clear after testing these cars that the real-world benefits were most prominent in the hybrid Lexus, while the diesel BMW was actually further over its claimed consumption than its rivals, despite being still relatively frugal.

 Score
BMW X2 xDrive20d 7
Lexus UX250h F Sport 9
Volvo XC40 T4 Inscription 7

Driving

We’re splitting the drive impressions into two sections - the first being my thoughts as the driver, the latter being back seat impressions from fellow tester Andrew Chesterton - because you might want to know what each is going to be like for your kids (he’s quite compact himself), not to mention friends or family. 

We put the X2, UX and XC40 to the test. We put the X2, UX and XC40 to the test.

Our test didn’t involve an off road review - we focused mainly on urban and suburban duties, where these sorts of cars will typically spend their lives. As such, ground clearance didn’t really play a big part, though the Lexus felt considerably lower (160mm is the figure), while the BMW (182mm) and the XC40 (211mm) notably higher and less cringe-worthy when it came to rolling over speed humps. 

And if things like the turning circle diameter matter to you - perhaps you live in the inner city or perform a lot of U-turns - the Lexus could be your best bet. It has a tiny 10.4m turning circle, compared with the BMW (11.3m) and Volvo (11.4m).

Here we go!

 

Lexus UX250h F Sport

It wasn’t long ago that most of us would dread the idea of a small hybrid Lexus. This combination had never been a recipe for enjoyment, let alone excitement.

But the UX250h goes some way to making up for the deeds of the past. In F Sport all wheel drive guise, it’s a pretty engaging and - yes, even fun - car to drive.

The fact of the matter is that it doesn’t feel a lot like an SUV at all. It drives like a hatchback - a Corolla hatchback, in fact. That isn’t to say that it feels cheap to drive, just that Toyota is catching up; this new platform is really impressive, and the UX is a charming thing as a result.

It rides beautifully, too. The F Sport has adaptive dampers that change with the drive mode, but it never feels harsh. 

  • In F Sport all wheel drive guise, it’s a pretty engaging and - yes, even fun - car to drive. In F Sport all wheel drive guise, it’s a pretty engaging and - yes, even fun - car to drive.
  • A surprising amount of road noise leaks into the back seat, making it louder than up front. A surprising amount of road noise leaks into the back seat, making it louder than up front.

It’s pretty unflappable when it comes to bumps, but the Dunlop tyres can squeal despite offering good grip. It’s the steering that sets it apart, though; it is direct, predictable, and gives you lots of confidence.

The funny thing is that you almost forget you’re in a fuel-sipping hybrid because it’s so nice to drive. 

There’s a 2.0-litre petrol engine, an electric motor and a battery pack that will allow you to run on EV mode at times, and while we found the UX250h to be the slowest model here, and its CVT could grate on some people’s nerves, but is perfectly suited to the application. And the fuel use rewards are noticeable, clearly.

And here’s what Andrew had to say about the back seat experience. 

A surprising amount of road noise leaks into the back seat, which is somehow a louder place to sit than in the front row.

While the ride feels mostly composed, rougher bumps and imperfections can clang into the back seat, and are felt more sharply at the rear axle than at the front. Over a section of brutally sharp speed bumps, for example, it genuinely lifted me off the seat at 20km/h.

At speed, I actually sat pretty snuggly in the back seat, held in place on one side by the bolstering that forms part of housing for the centre pulldown armrest, and on the other by the curve in the materials that surround the back doors. As a result, being passenger on a twisting road is a far more composed experience than in the BMW, with fewer sharp edges and less lateral movement. But it is pretty loud at pace.

 

BMW X2 xDrive20d M Sport X

While the steering is excellent in the Lexus, in the BMW X2 it’s quite the opposite. It’s pretty lifeless, and somehow twitchy on centre but heavy as you apply lock. That’s in Sport mode - in Comfort mode, it’s arguably worse again. It’s disappointing; BMW prides itself on offering benchmark driving dynamism.

The ride, too, is harsher than the other models here. With big wheels and run-flat tyres it feels unsettled and firm almost all the time - not to the point of annoyance, but we judged it the least comfortable in the front, and in the back. If it were me, I’d be optioning the adaptive dampers ($400), which promise a more resolved suspension setup.

The good news for the X2 is that the 20d drivetrain is strong - the diesel engine has the most torque here, and because the car is comparatively light, you can feel that shove from a standstill. It gets up and boogies, but you have to contend with low-rev rumble - at speeds below 30km/h, you can really tell this is a diesel - though it is surprisingly quiet in terms of engine noise at higher speeds.

  • The ride is harsher than the other models we tested. The ride is harsher than the other models we tested.
  • The X2 was comfortable in the back at city speeds. The X2 was comfortable in the back at city speeds.

The eight-speed auto is hard to fault, too - it shifts smoothly and smartly, yet still allows you to have your fun while being frugal.

As for the back seat?

There’s less road noise in the rear than in the Lexus, and the BMW also manages to completely reverse the results of the UX, with front-seat riders complaining of sharp-edged suspension, while it was actually more comfortable in the back than its Japanese competitor at city speeds. 

There’s nothing in the way of bolstering, though, so an enthusiastic driver will have you straining against your seatbelt as you slide from side to side. Sadly, any sense of suppleness vanishes at pace, too, with the rear suspension suddenly feeling too harsh and uncomfortable, and leaving you with the feeling you’re constantly riding over train tracks.

 

Volvo XC40 T4 Inscription

Better than the BMW, the Volvo XC40 T4 somehow manages to blend comfort with performance. It isn’t insanely fun to drive, and nor is it crazy powerful, but it is refined, plush and really, really pleasant.

The suspension does a terrific job at dispensing with bumpy sections of road, with a softer setup than the other cars here. And because of physics, this SUV - which is taller than its rivals by some margin, not to mention heavier - exhibits more roll in corners and wobbles a bit more than the others here. 

The steering is softer, too. Well, maybe softer isn’t the right word, but it is light and easy to manoeuvre, yet it will still hang on tight when you push it hard in the corners. 

  • The XC40 is light and easy to manoeuvre, yet will hang on tight when pushed hard in the corners. The XC40 is light and easy to manoeuvre, yet will hang on tight when pushed hard in the corners.
  • The Volvo provides the calmest and most comfortable experience in the back seat. The Volvo provides the calmest and most comfortable experience in the back seat.

This car has won heaps of awards globally, and many of them are worthy. But that doesn’t mean that it’s perfect in every spec. This T4 model, for instance, is a bit noisy, particularly the engine, which can be raucous under hard acceleration. 

If you like driving a bit more aggressively, the transmission isn’t as good as it could be. It can upshift early in the name of efficiency, seemingly to little avail.

It has the best visibility for the driver, with a big glasshouse. Though over the shoulder glances may lead you to think there’s a car nearby, when actually it’s just the way the window line kicks up on the rear doors.

For back seat riders, it’s a pretty good place to be, too.

The cabin noise is excellent when it comes to background road and tyre noise, but that just makes the engine noise more obvious.

It’s a happy middle-ground for the back seat rider in terms of side support, but the soft suspension means you’ll be bouncing around as the car tries to settle over mid-corner bumps.

That said, the ride is by far the most compliant of the three, and so provides the calmest and most comfortable experience in the back seat.

 Score
BMW X2 xDrive20d6
Lexus UX250h F Sport8
Volvo XC40 T4 Inscription 7

Safety

The Volvo XC40 scored a five-star ANCAP crash score in 2018, and it did so with flying colours, scoring a high rating from Euro NCAP that was then applied locally. 

Despite being released in 2018, the BMW X2 has oddly been awarded five stars based on the 2015 test of the BMW X1 - sure, they’re closely related, but the criteria has changed, so we don’t know why the X2 hasn’t received its own test.

The Lexus UX hasn’t been tested by ANCAP or Euro NCAP at the time of writing, so it’s hard to vouch for it based on that evidence. But in terms of standard high-tech safety gear, it fares well.

The XC40 and X2 have a five start ANCAP rating and the UX hasn't been tested by ANCAP yet. The XC40 and X2 have a five start ANCAP rating and the UX hasn't been tested by ANCAP yet.

The BMW has lane departure warning, forward collision warning and low speed auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection - up to 50km/h, which will decrease the speed to 15km/h but won’t be able to stop the car to prevent a crash. 

That’s not as good as the other two cars here, which both offer full AEB that works at high and low speeds and will prevent crashes, and both the Lexus and Volvo have rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring and lane-keeping assist. The Volvo further adds road-sign recognition and rear AEB as well. 

All three have a reversing camera (both the Lexus and Volvo can be had with a surround-view camera as part of optional packs), front and rear parking sensors (or park assist, as some people call it), dual outboard ISOFIX child seat attachments and three top-tether hooks for baby seats.

The airbag count is led by the Lexus UX with eight (dual front, front-side, driver’s knee, passenger’s knee and full-length curtain airbags), while the Volvo has seven (misses passenger’s knee) and the BMW has six (misses driver’s knee and passenger’s knee). 

 Score
BMW X2 xDrive20d 6
Lexus UX250h F Sport 8
Volvo XC40 T4 Inscription 9

Ownership

While mainstream manufacturers are moving to five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty plans, the luxury market is straggling.

These three models (and their brands) are examples of that. The Lexus sets the pace with a four-year/100,000km warranty plan, while BMW and Volvo both offer three-year/unlimited-kilometre plans. If you’re really worried, you can pay for extended warranty cover.

Rather than offering capped-price servicing, there are service plans for two of these models, and a guide price for the third. 

The Volvo XC40 has the option of two levels of cover. SmartCare, a more basic level of maintenance, or SmartCare Plus, which can include consumables like brake pads, brake discs, wiper blades and more, depending on the duration. It’s up to you how long you opt for: SmartCare service cost is set at $2165 for three years/45,000km, $3500 for four years/60,000km, or $4030 for five years/75,000km. To step up to SmartCare Plus, things get a bit pricier, to the tune of $2980, $5160 and $6345 respectively. Ouch.

Similarly BMW offers two levels of servicing, both of which are pre-paid: there’s BMW Service Inclusive (BSI) Basic at a cost of $1550 for five years/80,000km of cover, or BSI Plus at $4150 for five years/80,000km but with cover for brakes, clutch (if applicable) and wiper blades. The servicing is usage dependent - the car will tell you when it’s time to have it checked over.

Lexus doesn’t offer any form of capped-price servicing or prepaid maintenance, which is unusual. But we’ve received word from the brand as to how much servicing will cost - you can bank on the UX hybrid setting you back about $1780 over four years/60,000km. 

If you’re worried about problems, issues, complaints, resale value and reliability, head to our problems page.

 Score
BMW X2 xDrive20d8
Lexus UX250h F Sport8
Volvo XC40 T4 Inscription 6

Verdict

So there you have it; we’ve judged these three SUVs against our criteria, and now you probably want to know which one is the best? 

Well, it isn’t the BMW X2, which is a bit perplexing. It isn’t fun enough to drive to feel properly sporty, and while it is stylish to look at, it’s also expensive in xDrive20d spec.

The Lexus UX250h F Sport finishes ahead of the Bimmer, with a superior drive experience and a super-frugal drivetrain. It did better than we expected in this test, but the boot space and a few other cabin quirks meant it fell short of the win.

That leaves us with the Volvo XC40 T4 Inscription as our winner, because it’s not only likeable and entirely liveable, it’s also luxurious. It’s not perfect, but when it comes to nailing the brief for a compact luxury high rider, there’s arguably no better option on the market right now. 

We can’t wait to see if it can retain top spot as new competitors arrive on the scene - but that’s a story for another comparison… Stay tuned!

 Overall Score
BMW X2 xDrive20d7.3
Lexus UX250h F Sport7.8
Volvo XC40 T4 Inscription 7.9

Which compact luxury SUV would you buy? Let us know in the comments.



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