Lexus entered the growing field of premium subcompact crossover vehicles with last year’s introduction of the UX, which, not surprisingly, comes in conventional and hybrid versions.
For 2020, the gasoline-only UX 200 begins at $32,300 (plus $1,025 freight), while the hybrid UX 250h starts at $34,500.
The UX 200 also comes in F-Sport ($34,300) and Luxury ($37,500) versions, as does the UX 250h – F-Sport ($36,500) and Luxury ($39,700).
Similar to the Toyota C-HR that was introduced a year earlier (but to date is not offered in a hybrid), the UX is low and sleek with a coupelike appearance much like that of the now-discontinued Nissan Juke.
Unlike the C-HR and Juke, the UX has standard rear door handles at waist level. On the C-HR and Juke, the rear door handles are high and to the right edge, nearly hidden from view.
The telltale sign that the UX and C-HR are built on the same basic architecture is their common wheelbase length – 103.9 inches. The UX is a bit longer overall, however – 177 inches versus the C-HR’s 172.6. The UX also has a bit more passenger room, at 90.4 cubic feet (88.5 with the optional moon roof) versus 86 cubic feet for the C-HR.
Cargo space is a bit more generous in the UX 200 as well – 21.7 cubic feet behind the rear seat versus 19.1 cubic feet for the C-HR. The UX 250h battery pack cuts down its cargo space down to 17.1 cubic feet.
There are some other key differences. While both come with a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine, the one in the UX 200 produces 169 horsepower and 151 foot-pounds of torque versus 144 horsepower and 139 foot-pounds of torque for the C-HR.
The front-wheel-drive UX 200 has a 10-speed direct-shift continuously variable automatic transmission, while the C-HR has a simpler CVT.
With the UX 250h, which we tested for this report, there is the same 2.0-liter engine, which drives the front wheels, plus an electric motor that drives the rear wheels, making the vehicle all-wheel drive. The system has a combined 181 horsepower (engine and electric motor).
As light as the UX is – with aluminum doors, fenders and hood, and a composite power tailgate – this engine and motor combo gave us plenty of power with lots of low-end torque.
Fuel-economy ratings are quite decent thanks to the hybrid system – 41 mpg city/38 highway/39 combined. That compares with 29 city/37 highway/33 combined for the UX 200.
The UX is officially in what the auto industry calls the “B-segment,” which also includes premium models such as the Audi Q3, BMW X1, Buick Encore, Infiniti QX30 and Volvo XC40, among others. These are crossovers slightly smaller than the compact models the size of the Lexus NX and its corresponding Toyota model, the RAV4.
Toyota, the Lexus parent, says the UX name stands for “urban crossover,” and that it’s designed for “the modern urban explorer.”
It was the first Lexus to be built on Toyota’s new Global Architecture Compact “platform” (architecture), featuring a “lightweight yet super-rigid structure, extremely low center of gravity and refined suspension” intended to provide a combination of sporty handling and ride comfort. It’s also styled to stand out in the crowd of small crossovers.
Despite its small exterior dimensions, the UX is surprisingly roomy and comfortable, with decent space for up to four people, or five with a small person or child riding in the middle of the back seat. I found the driver’s seat to be quite accommodating for my size, and the driver’s seat position and door opening made it easy for me to enter and exit. Toyota says that was one of the goals in designing the UX.
My co-riders and I appreciated how quiet the UX cabin was at highway speeds. We could carry on conversations without raising our voices, even with backseat passengers. Noise reduction was aided by the use of high-strength steel and sound-absorbing materials throughout the body.
Leather seats are not offered, even on the Luxury model. All UX versions come with the nice Lexus NuLuxe synthetic leather up holster, and the steering wheel is leather wrapped.
Standard safety features include the Lexus Safety System-Plus, with Lane Tracing Assist, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Automatic High Beams, Road Sign Assist and a Pre-Collision System that can recognize pedestrians at night. The radar system also can detect cyclists during the day.
Other standard features include eight-way power adjustable front seats, with adjustable lumbar support for the driver as well as manual forward/backward adjustment for the headrests; the leather-trimmed three-spoke steering wheel and analog clock taken from the LS luxury sedan; and Lexus Climate Concierge, which automatically links heating and cooling air flow with the heated and ventilated seats.
A seven-inch Lexus Multimedia System display is standard, and a 10.25-inch screen is used with the available Lexus Navigation system, which was included on our tester in a $2,200 package that also brought an eight-speaker premium audio system (standard is six speakers), automatic-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink, and a power tilt/telescopic steering wheel.
The new Lexus UX 250h has room for up to five people inside, and comes with a long list of standard and available amenities.
Apple CarPlay is standard, and wisely Lexus has added Android Auto connectivity to the 2020 UX; it was absent in the earlier models.
The Lexus Multimedia System with the upgraded 10.25-inch display includes features to support digital lifestyles, Lexus says.
UX drivers can lock/unlock doors, start the engine, or check the fuel level from a smartphone or even a smart watch, Amazon Alexa-enabled, or Google Assist device. It’s voice controllable and compatible with select Android or Apple devices. A 4GB Wi-Fi Hotspot allows a user device to become an internet access point.
There are 12 available exterior colors, including two0 that are reserved for the F-Sport models — Ultra White and Ultra Sonic Blue Mica ($595 extra, the color of our tester). Two other special colors are Cadmium Orange and Nori Green.
With the F-Sport package comes exclusive suspension tuning with springs and stabilizer bars set up for a tighter ride. Also included are 18-inch, five twin-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels; an exclusive mesh grille with individual L-shaped pieces; a special front bumper with large LED fog light bezels with L-shaped chrome moldings, cornering lamps and the same mesh pattern as the grille; a unique rear bumper; and jet-black trim on the front and rear moldings.
Interior F-Sport features include front sports seats made with a highly supportive integrated foam; a digital instrument meter with a movable ring inspired by the Lexus LFA supercar; a perforated-leather-trimmed F-Sport steering wheel with paddle shifters; perforated-leather-trimmed shift knob; eight-inch TFT color display; and aluminum pedals, door scuff plates and footrest.
Also included is Active Sound Control for the CVT, which “generates the aural effect of up- and down-shifts like those of a geared automatic transmission,” Lexus says.
Besides the navigation package and premium paint, other extras on our UX 250h included the F-Sport Luxury Package ($2,890), which brought a moon roof, rain-sensing wipers, heated/ventilated front seats, power rear door, auto-dim driver’s side mirror with auto reverse tilt-down (a feature I despise) and memory, easy-access driver’s seat with memory, and blind-spot monitor.
We also had the windshield de-icer ($100); parking assist/rear cross-traffic alert, with braking ($565); and heated steering wheel ($150).
Total sticker price for our 2019 Lexus UX 250h F-Sport was $43,525, including freight and options. The 2020 price for this vehicle, as equipped, is $44,025.
The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Express-News since 2000. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @gchambers3.
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The package: Premium, subcompact, five-door, four-cylinder, front- or all-wheel-drive, five-passenger, gasoline-only or gasoline-electric hybrid crossover utility vehicle.
Highlights: Lexus joined the growing small SUV (“B”) segment with the 2019 introduction of the UX, a crossover based on the Toyota C-HR, with a stylish coupe-like exterior, well-designed interior and sporty handling. It comes in regular gasoline-only (UX 200) and hybrid (UX 250h) versions.
Engine: 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder, normally aspirated (UX 200); 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder driving front wheels, combined with electric motor driving rear wheels (UX 250h).
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