Lexus doesn’t do small hatchbacks anymore, but it still caters for city dwellers who want luxury in a compact package.
With the CT hatchback officially dead, the UX is the most affordable Lexus you can buy in Australia. It’s smaller than a BMW X1 or Audi Q3, and is unique in offering the choice between petrol or hybrid power.
Although it packs black cladding on its arches and chunky, creased exterior detailing, it hasn’t been conceived with practicality as its main priority.
With a compact boot and rear seat, this car is instead designed to be big on style and the sort of luxurious touches you’d find in bigger, more expensive Lexus models.
The 2022 Lexus UX250h Sports Luxury with Enhancement Pack on test here sits near the top of the model range, and is designed to blend a luxurious, richly-appointed interior with some racier touches that aren’t quite as overt as those on the full-on F Sport.
Power here comes from the less expensive of the two hybrid powertrains on offer, with front-wheel drive rather than all-wheel drive.
Does it represent a sweet spot in the sprawling UX range?
You’re spoiled for choice in the Lexus UX range, which kicks off at $44,445 before on-road costs and stretches to $69,700 before on-roads.
Our UX250h Sports Luxury with Enhancement Pack is priced at $62,600 before on-road costs, making it one of the more expensive options in the line-up.
Based on its price, the UX250h Sports Luxury + EP goes head-to-head with the BMW X1 sDrive20i ($55,900) or xDrive25i ($66,900), along with the Audi Q3 40 TFSI quattro S line ($59,400) and Mercedes-Benz GLA200 ($57,789).
It’s worth noting the UX is smaller than its German rivals, but is also unique in offering hybrid power.
2022 Lexus UX pricing:
- Lexus UX200 Luxury: $44,445
- Lexus UX200 Luxury + Enhancement Pack 1: $46,425
- Lexus UX200 Luxury + Enhancement Pack 2: $48,175
- Lexus UX200 Luxury + Enhancement Pack 3: $50,225
- Lexus UX250h Luxury + EP2: $52,025
- Lexus UX250h Luxury + EP3: $54,075
- Lexus UX200 Sports Luxury: $55,250
- Lexus UX200 F Sport: $55,750
- Lexus UX200 F Sport + EP1: $58,250
- Lexus UX200 Sports Luxury + EP: $58,750
- Lexus UX250h Sports Luxury: $59,100
- Lexus UX250h F Sport: $59,600
- Lexus UX200 F Sport + EP 2: $61,350
- Lexus UX250h F Sport + EP 2: $62,100
- Lexus UX250h Sports Luxury + EP: $62,600
- Lexus UX250h Sports Luxury AWD: $63,600
- Lexus UX250h F Sport AWD: $64,100
- Lexus UX250h F Sport + EP 3: $65,200
- Lexus UX250h F Sport AWD + EP 2: $66,600
- Lexus UX250h Sports Luxury AWD + EP: $67,100
- Lexus UX250h F Sport AWD + EP 3: $69,700
All prices exclude on-road costs.
UX250h Sports Luxury highlights:
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- Ventilated front seats
- Adaptive high beam
- Surround-view camera
- 13-speaker Mark Levinson sound system
The Enhancement Pack fitted to our tester also gets you a sunroof, a head-up display, and a smart key card.
That’s atop standard equipment fitted to lesser models, which includes:
- 10.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Android Auto, Apple CarPlay (wired)
- Satellite navigation
- 17-inch alloy wheels
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Power-folding, heated exterior mirrors
- Dual-zone climate control
- Adaptive cruise control
- Keyless entry and start
- Power tilt and telescoping steering column
- Reversing camera
- Rear parking sensors
- Artificial leather seats
- Heated front seats
- 10-way power driver seat
- Eight-way power passenger seat
- LED headlights and daytime running lights
- Auto high-beam
- LED fog lights
- Roof rails
- DAB+ digital radio
- Power tailgate
- Wireless phone charging
- Headlight washers
- Privacy glass
The Lexus UX wears a five-star ANCAP safety rating 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 2022 Lexus UX models come standard with the following safety equipment:
- AEB with daytime pedestrian/cyclist detection
- Forward collision warning
- Lane departure warning
- Lane-keep assist
- Traffic sign recognition
- Anti-lock brakes
- Eight airbags
All bar the base UX200 also feature blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert as standard.
The UX is small but lovingly crafted inside.
Our tester had soft blue-and-white leather seats and a tri-tone dashboard, which contributed to a properly upmarket feel. It doesn’t come cheap, but you can’t question the Lexus-ness of the UX from behind the wheel.
The driving position is excellent. The seats might feel plush, but they have support in all the right places, and drop right down to the floor to accommodate tall drivers – or average-sized people who don’t want to feel like they’re sitting on phone books.
All the touch points are high-quality. The armrest and door trims are pillowy soft, and the compact steering wheel is trimmed in soft, waxy leather.
Even the indicators make the same satisfying click they do in more expensive Lexus models, and the instrument panel harks obviously back to the LFA supercar with its ringed central section and prominent digital speedo. It feels more special than its small SUV rivals.
It can’t come close to matching those rivals on the technology front, though. The high-set infotainment display looks flash… but has one of the worst user interfaces on the market, relying on a fiddly touchpad and in-house voice control.
This isn’t a new complaint; every Lexus review we’ve published features a variation of the same whinge. The UX has a set of shortcut buttons in front of its touchpad which help, but it’s still way too difficult to perform simple tasks at the moment. Here’s hoping the new NX SUV and its touch-focused setup is better.
On the plus side, wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto allow you to work around the quirks of the in-house system, and the touchpad plays nice with the big icons common to both Google and Apple smartphone mirroring.
Storage up front is good. There’s a deep central bin under the armrest with two USB-A ports, dual cupholders on the transmission tunnel, and a wireless phone charger below the dashboard – although the charger is too small to hold a reliable connection with my iPhone 13 Pro Max.
The rear seats in the UX are small. Legroom is tight behind taller drivers, and even with a small pilot you’d never call the second row spacious. Headroom is acceptable but nothing more, and the rising window line means it’s not a light, bright place for children to sit.
At least there are air vents back there, along with a fold-down central armrest. The outboard seats have ISOFIX points, and there are three top-tether points.
Boot space is 364L behind the second row, but the boot is oddly-shaped and has a very high floor. Two-wheel drive models have more space than all-wheel drive models, but there’s a square hole in the floor that makes it tricky to load bigger, awkwardly-shaped items. You can cover the hole, but that impacts overall volume.
Fitting the flimsy luggage cover (which collapses into a bag when you’re not using it) turns what’s already a small space into the automotive equivalent of a letterbox.
Small SUVs aren’t known for being the most practical vehicles in the world, but the UX takes that to the extreme. Yes, it’s a style statement, but it arguably packs too many compromises when you consider this particular example costs almost $70,000 when you consider on-road costs.
Power in the Lexus UX250h comes from a naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine making 107kW and 188Nm, mated with a nickel-metal hydride battery and an electric motor. Combined peak power is 131kW.
Our tester is front-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is available for hybrid buyers. An e-CVT is the only transmission option.
Claimed fuel economy is 4.5 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, and the fuel tank holds 43L. We saw less than 5.0L/100km in our time behind the wheel in the city, and 5.5L/100km on an extended highway run.
If you’ve driven a Toyota hybrid, the powertrain in the UX250h will immediately feel familiar. Press the start button and the only hint you’re ready to drive is a beep, with the petrol engine lying dormant at a standstill.
It generally accelerates to at least 30km/h using the electric motor, before the 2.0-litre petrol engine fires and offers a helping hand. When it does join the party, the engine kicks in smoothly and quietly.
Even the less powerful hybrid setups in the Toyota Corolla and Yaris are polished, but the extra sound deadening and vibration suppression that have gone into the UX make it feel a cut above.
You can barely hear the four-pot at a cruise, and if you’re not looking at the little EV Mode indicator in the dashboard it can be hard to tell whether you’re running on the electric motor, petrol engine, or a combination of both. Really bury the accelerator and it will raise its voice, but even then it’s not what you’d call rowdy.
You’d never call it a firecracker, but the hybrid in the UX packs more of a punch on the move than the powertrains (with smaller engines) used in other Toyota products. The petrol engine doesn’t need to work as hard, and when the engine and e-motor are working in concert it’s capable of getting a move on.
Of course, the fuel savings associated with opting for a hybrid are well-known. Lexus has an electric version of the UX, but if you aren’t ready to make the leap (or can’t stretch to $75,000 before on-roads) the hybrid is a step towards it.
It also makes a lot of sense in a car like the UX, which is unlikely to ever head far beyond the bounds of the city.
It’s hard to think of a more refined small car at low speeds. The near-silent powertrain is backed by a polished, plush ride and almost no road noise, making the UX a lovely place to sit on a gnarly commute.
The steering is light and buttery smooth, and the car’s compact body makes it perfect for squeezing into tight city parking spaces. The trade-off for limited rear seat and boot space is a car that thrives in the cut-and-thrust of urban driving, and that’ll be seen as a benefit for some owners.
Lexus still needs to work on its in-car technology, though. The camera isn’t nearly as crisp as what you’ll find on its German rivals, even at the base level, which isn’t good enough considering the sticker price. This is a complaint we’ve mentioned before with Lexus, and we’re hoping the mid-sized NX represents the start of something new.
Upping the speed does little to undermine the sense of refinement. Lexus clearly hasn’t skimped on sound deadening, which isn’t something you could say about most of its small luxury rivals.
The ride doesn’t deteriorate at 100km/h, and the smooth-moving adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist take some of the stress out of longer drives.
All 2022 Lexus UX models require servicing every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first.
Lexus offers three years of capped price servicing for the UX. Each service costs $495.
From 1 January 2022, all Lexus models are covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty that no longer lags behind the five-year, unlimited-kilometre cover Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar Land Rover, Volvo, and now even Audi offer.
The Lexus UX is a lovely little SUV, with the emphasis on little.
It’s the quietest, most comfortable compact crossover on the market, and has a properly upmarket feel when you get inside.
The sense of luxury in some small SUVs is watered-down compared to their bigger siblings, but the UX feels like the real deal – a full-sized Lexus that’s been hit with a shrink ray.
Points also go to the UX for offering an efficient, refined hybrid powertrain. If you live in the city, it’s hard to argue with the benefits of going hybrid.
It’s just hard to recommend the model we tested, given it costs more than $60,000 before on-road costs. That money will buy you a base model NX, for example, or a mid-range BMW X1 with more space in the rear.
Love the unique brand of luxury for which Lexus is known, but have a small garage? The UX is perfect.
Want the most metal for your money? Best look elsewhere.
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