It’s hard not to make jokes about the Lexus UX’s name (read LexuSUX).
Whoever cooked this one up within the confines of the Toyota/Lexus corporate offices was either secretly seeking to destroy the company from the inside or has come up with one of the wittiest marketing ploys currently out there.
As the old French saying goes: “talk about it positively, talk about it negatively, but talk about it.”
Marketing shenanigans aside, we admit being rather pleased by Lexus’ latest and cutest sub-compact crossover. With luxury carmakers now offering not one, nor two, but up to three vehicles of this type in their lineup—think Mercedes-Benz GLA, GLB, BMW X1, X2 and MINI Countryman—Lexus just had to enter that game as well. The UX is, therefore, the smallest vehicle within the Lexus lineup, replacing the defunct CT200h, and slotting just underneath the already Lilliputian Lexus NX.
The Only Hybrid
While the UX can’t be had in super-quick M or AMG variants, Lexus does offer two different F-Sport packages that give it a rather funky demeanor. It’s all but aesthetic, however, adding bright colors like this Redline paint job, a different grille, wheels, minor interior design tweaks and a slew of creature comforts and tech. Our tester had the not-so-cheap $8,900 F Sport Series 2 package grafted on, essentially the fully loaded UX with all the bells and whistles.
Where the UX shines strong over its rivals is in its bargain-basement entry price of $40,400 for a UX200 with front-wheel-drive. It undercuts both a BMW X1
($42,100), a BMW X2 ($43,100), a Mercedes-Benz GLA ($43,600) and even the all-new Mercedes GLB ($43,990) by several thousand dollars.
It’s also the only hybrid in the segment. While the entry-level UX200 is powered by a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder good for 169 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque, the UX250h gets two extra electric motors, one grafted onto the front axle, the other onto the rear, for a mere $2,000 extra.
As a result, total horsepower gets bumped to 181, while significantly reducing overall fuel consumption. The entire drivetrain is mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).
And thrifty the little UX was! During the time we had it, the Montreal area was hit by a 35-cm snowstorm followed by grueling -20-degree weather. The UX proved fuel-efficient even through such harsh conditions, pulling an average consumption rating of 8L/100 km. The hybrid system also remained seamless when crossing over from gasoline to electric propulsion.
Essentially utilizing the same drivetrain as a Toyota Prius
, the UX250h can drive on all-electric propulsion at speeds of up to about 50 km/h. The system turns off the gasoline engine when the vehicle is idle or coasting at freeway speeds.
The hybrid layout also manages the vehicle’s all-wheel-drive system, where a rear-mounted electric motor provides propulsion, but only up to speeds of about 80 km/h at which point the UX defaults back to front-wheel-drive.
It rides on Toyota’s excellent TNGA-C architecture, which also underpins the Prius, the C-HR and the Corolla hatchback. The UX, therefore, covers an almost identical total length of 1,519 mm (59.8 inches), while riding only a couple of inches higher than a Corolla. It’s not really a sport utility vehicle per se. Think of the UX as more of a funky looking all-wheel-drive hybrid hatchback.
In many ways, the UX250h is the reincarnation of the CT200h as its car-derived architecture gives it the driving dynamics of a compact car. The UX feels rock-solid and is a blast to throw hard into a corner. Handling is buttoned down; it stays flat and there’s a responsiveness to the steering that borders on sporty.
Slow and Tiny
While engaging to drive and not at all boring to look at, the UX250h is not a quick vehicle. Sure, the added electric motors give it a slight boost in immediate acceleration, but the hybrid system’s battery pack adds a considerable amount of weight to the car. While small, this UX250h weighs in at 1,632 kg (3,600 pounds).
This means it’s tremendously slow. Acceleration from a standstill to 100 km/h is achieved in a turtle-like eight seconds. Stomp that throttle pedal and all it’ll do is scream out synthesized engine noises as the CVT gearbox elasticizes itself to oblivion.
The UX is also considerably smaller than its main rivals, which incidentally affects overall cargo and passenger space. For instance, the trunk’s capacity is rated at 484 liters versus 767 liters for a BMW X1 and 900 liters for a Mercedes-Benz GLA. The UX’s rear seat can, however, be lowered flat even with the batteries lying underneath.
And it’s the same story out the rear where tall passengers might find their legs easily crushed by the front seats. That rear bench is better suited for children or teenagers.
We, however, have absolutely nothing to say about the UX250h’s level of refinement and craftsmanship. Even if it sits at the very bottom of the Lexus lineup, the UX’s interior is not only stylish, materials are of great quality, buttons and vents appear to have been taken straight out of the flagship LS and the seating position and general comfort is, bar none, the best of its class. The UX feels expensive and built like a rock as if it’ll last forever.
Lexus, however, needs to rethink its trackpad-operated infotainment interface. It’s a cluttered, complicated, and unintuitive mess that forces you to manipulate it with that ever-so-distracting pad located on the centre console. The menus themselves are hard to comprehend and simple actions like changing radio stations are tedious at best.
All in all though, as far as little urban premium crossovers go, the 2020 Lexus UX250h does many things right. Yes, it’s tiny, and don’t expect to win drag races with it. But if you’re looking for something stylish, well put together and immensely frugal; a vehicle that shouldn’t ruin your budget in maintenance costs, then this Lexus won’t disappoint, even if its name kind of sucks.