Lexus has just launched the all-electric UX300e. But for some the hybrid will be a better bet.
With that in mind, let’s revisit Lexus’s chic little crossover “gateway model” in fuel-sipping petrol-electric form.
It’s also Lexus’s third top-selling model, and with the discontinuation of the IS sedan undoubtedly becomes its model with the youngest demographic skew.
Much of that surely comes down to the design, which is adventurous but works – though perhaps isn’t best demonstrated by Caliente Red paint as seen here.
The pert rear with full-width horizontal tail light bar is particularly distinctive, though the closer you get the more edgy and angular character lines you start to notice. The intricate spindle grille design, detailed light signatures, and elegant mirror caps are further standouts.
The entry-level Lexus UX200 Luxury petrol costs $44,450 before on-road costs, which is a pretty alluring price point. Yet the 2022 Lexus UX250h Luxury petrol-electric hybrid is a way steeper $52,025 plus on-roads.
How can this be, in an era where we’re used to seeing a petrol-electric system only add a few grand?
It’s not like-for-like, since the base UX250h comes better-equipped than the base UX200. It comprises two of the latter’s optional Enhancement Packs (EP) as standard fit.
Therefore on a proper comparative basis the UX200 Luxury petrol with the requisite options costs $48,175 before on-roads (about $5000 in Victoria).
This means the hybrid system adds $3850 over the petrol with everything else equalised, which is more than Toyota charges. That being said, this powertrain is also more powerful.
Caliente Red (as tested) and Onyx Black paint are free, while other colours Graphite Black, Celestial Blue, Deep Metallic Bronze, Khaki Metal, Mercury Grey, Premium Silver, Titanium, and Sonic Quartz add $1750.
Its RRP matches a one-up-from-base Volvo XC40 T4 Inscription ($52,990) and bisects the Audi Q3 35 TFSI and Q3 40 TFSI quattro models. From the mainstream, a top-of-the-range Mazda CX-30 X20 Astina costs $47,390 – again before on-road charges.
It’s a premium brand with a premium price tag.
You certainly get plenty of features in return for that price point.
Standard UX250h features include 17-inch alloy wheels, Bridgestone tyres (with a repair kit instead of a spare), two-beam LED headlights with auto static levelling, a powered tailgate, rear privacy glass, roof rails, proximity key with walk-away locking, and acoustic windshield glass.
Inside there’s near-silent powered steering column adjustment, an auto-dimming rear mirror, ‘NuLuxe’ synthetic leather seats with power adjustment and heating for front occupants, leather wheel and gear stick, push-button start, and footwell/handle illumination.
The driver’s instruments are partially digital with a 7.0-inch TFT virtual dial flanked by analogue gauges, the centre screen measures 10.3 inches, and it displays Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite navigation, a reversing camera, and digital radio.
There’s also a wireless phone charger and a base eight-speaker audio package, the latter with bamboo charcoal speaker diaphragms to reduce mass and deliver what Lexus claims are natural-sounding voices and improved mid-range sound.
You can option 18-inch alloys and run-flats for $1579 and a sunroof for $2134.
Being a Lexus, you can get some higher-end features further up the spec walk in the F Sport Sports Luxury grades.
The Lexus UX wears a five-star safety rating from ANCAP based on testing conducted in 2019.
All models received an adult occupant protection score of 96 per cent, child occupant protection score of 88 per cent, vulnerable road user protection score of 82 per cent and a safety assist score of 83 per cent.
All 2021 Lexus UX models come standard with the following safety equipment:
- Eight airbags
- AEB with pedestrian detection and cyclist (daytime) detection
- Forward collision warning
- Lane departure warning with centring assist
- Adaptive cruise control
- Traffic sign recognition
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic alert
If fit-and-finish and material tactility is your priority, then you’ll like the Lexus, which feels built like a vault down to the door thunk.
Other touches like the silent steering column telescopic movement, muffled indicator stalk click, knurled air vent knobs, matte silver inserts, and the simple way the glovebox shuts, all satisfy in a suitable way. Tactility is luxury.
It has a sort of ‘sporty’ seating setup, with a chunky wheel rim, basic but crystal clear digitised cluster, a low (by crossover standards) seating position, and a driver-oriented centre fascia, meaning a prominent tilt towards you.
The wheel has damped buttons, and check out the two stalks jutting from the instrument binnacle to change the driving mode and stability control. The motorbike-handle design is quite fun, but does the ‘ESP off’ switch actually require such prominence?
The seats are trimmed in a synthetic leather-like material called NuLuxe, which is both soft to the touch and patterned. If the White Ash trim with black dash and door trims isn’t for you, you can get cream/brown or black-on-black.
The large centre display has decent resolution and sharp animations and technical diagrams of the hybrid system, as well as satellite navigation and phone mirroring. That analogue clock embedded to the right is a signature design touch that works.
But the laptop trackpad (Lexus calls it a Remote Touch Interface) there to operate it could be more intuitive, something mentioned in every Lexus review.
The overall UX falls a bit short of the latest BMW OS, Mercedes-Benz MBUX, or Volvo’s Google-powered infotainment in terms of razzle-dazzle. They offer features like conversational voice commands and smartphone-style pinching and swiping.
Rear headroom and knee-room is tight for anyone over 180cm, given the UX shares the Toyota Corolla’s 2640mm wheelbase. But the seats are nicely titled and the carpets deep-pile – so it’s also cozy. there are rear vents and USBs, plus an armrest with cupholders.
Boot capacity is 368 litres (the hybrid system reduces space by 36L) once again showing that if cabin space and practicality is your goal, the UX isn’t the right pick for you.
There’s a two-tiered floor, a 12V socket, bag hooks, and easily tumbled back seats, plus an air-kick-sensitive powered tailgate.
A 2.0-litre petrol engine running an efficient cycle making 107kW and 188Nm paired with an 80kW/202Nm permanent magnet drive motor and e-CVT, and nickel-metal hydride battery.
Like all conventional hybrids there’s no plug – regenerative braking charges the small-capacity battery up, which in turn assists the engine at mostly low speeds (up to a theoretical maximum gliding speed of 115km/h).
The system output is 135kW and you can expect lively acceleration under 8.5 seconds to 100km/h, more amplified around town thanks to the electric response.
Fuel efficiency is a claimed 4.5 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, or 4.3L/100km in city driving, pushing the maximum driving range up to nearly 1000km (43L fuel tank). Emissions are 103g/km.
The Luxury is front-wheel drive, but the F Sport and Sports Luxury can be optioned with a small rear motor and electric AWD. I don’t think you should bother given it costs $4500 extra.
I wish this was the hybrid drivetrain in Australia’s Toyota Corolla, because it offers all the typical levels of refinement and efficiency, but its power delivery doesn’t taper off so notably – it’s actually pretty pokey, especially in S+ mode which sharpens up the response.
You can expect a 0-100km/h time of between 8.0 and 8.5 seconds, with particularly brisk immediate response in urban driving thanks to the electric drive motor, which hands off to a fairly refined petrol and e-CVT combination.
Even under heavy throttle the UX largely avoids degrading into an aurally unsatisfying drone, like Lexus’ older-generation electrified models.
The maximum speed at which the hybrid system can operate with the petrol engine shut off, such as when driving on long downward slopes, has been raised from 70 km/h in previous Lexus hybrids to 115 km/h as well.
Claimed fuel economy is 4.5 litres per 100km, which is brilliant, with my respective runs sitting at 5.3L/100km (normal driving) and 3.6L/100km (hyper-miling with delicate throttle application). The tank is 43L, so there’s plenty of range between servo visits.
The GA-C platform, from Toyota’s impressive TNGA architecture family, brings real dynamic competence too. Befitting the design, the UX offers relatively sharp directional changes and good body control for a crossover.
Active cornering assist, integrated with the stability control, helps the vehicle trace your desired line by applying some brake control on the inside wheels, suppressing understeer. Just a quick nip here and there.
It also irons out road ruts and bumps really nicely, with good damping and generous tyre sidewall, while the trailing wishbone rear suspension enables good roadholding over uneven surfaces. NVH suppression is also better-than-average, on a dB intrusion basis.
All up, the UX is a much nicer drive than Lexus’s older-generation and larger SUVs like the outgoing NX.
Lexus currently offers a four-year warranty but from 2022 will cover the car for five years and unlimited kilometres. Its Encore ownership program is among the best in the business.
The first three services (at intervals of either 15,000km or 12 months) are $495 a pop, and after this it’s unclear.
Sharp design, great interior build quality, excellent refinement, a pretty punchy and frugal hybrid, decent dynamics… the Lexus UX250h has some positive attributes.
It falls down in terms of its infotainment interface, its interior packaging, and its pricing as you climb up the model rungs.
But in this incarnation, it’s one of the more likeable small premium crossovers, especially if space isn’t your top priority.
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MORE: Everything Lexus UX