First Drive

First Drive: Lexus UX

The story:
The addition of the new UX is an important launch for Lexus – it will instantly vie for top-seller status with the larger LX SUV, and will be responsible for introducing new people to the Lexus brand, with around 70% of buyers being conquests from other manufacturers.
Category:Premium compact crossover
Key rival:BMW X1
Lexus UX F-Sport
Price:£33,900
MPG:49.6mpg
Emissions:97g/km
On sale:Now

 

 

The new UX is a big one for Lexus, because it’s expected to instantly become the Japanese luxury brand’s biggest-selling model. It’s also tasked with bringing new people into the fold, with 70% of customers expected to come from other marques, while also bringing down the average age of Lexus buyers.

So, plenty on the plate of the new compact crossover, which has such luminaries as the Audi Q3, BMW X1, Mercedes GLA and Volvo XC40 as rivals.

Lexus is also expecting an above-average company car uptake, primarily from SMEs and user-chooser drivers, thanks to the low emissions figures that make for some serious benefit-in-kind and National Insurance savings. Better still, the UX also avoids the four-band BIK penalty imposed on all the diesel competition.

First Drive-April 2019-Lexus UX-Image 8The range is straightforward, with just one hybrid powertrain option, a 181hp combination of 2.0-litre petrol engine and electric motor making for a car with emissions figures of 94g/km for the entry trim on 17-inch alloys; it’s 97g/km for the F Sport and Takumi models, which both have 18-inch wheels. There’s also an optional four-wheel-drive system at £1250 that adds another electric motor for the rear wheels. This bumps up CO2 emissions to 103g/km on all trim levels, and cuts the already-diminutive boot space from 320 litres down to just 283.

The hybrid system is improved, although it still makes the engine rev noisily under acceleration (as all such set-ups do), but at least acceleration and response is better than other petrol-electric hybrids’.

Otherwise the car is as refined and comfortable as we’ve come to expect from Lexus, although the F Sport’s harder suspension set-up does the ride quality on that trim level no favours. Neither is the UX the most enthusiastic companion when asked to perform briskly, but the good news is that you can easily feel it heading towards its handling limitations.

The cabin is a fine example of Lexus design, with high-quality materials and comfortable seats, although some of the layout is a little random in design, and the frankly awful trackpad system for controlling the infotainment remains in place. Nowadays it’s complete with haptic pulses that feel like they are sending mini electric shocks with every movement.

Rear-seat passengers will find an amount of space that’s at least in line with the class, if not better than some rivals, once they have ducked their head under the roofline to get in. The story isn’t so positive at the back, where the minuscule 283-litre boot (not including the under-floor area) is more comparable with a supermini than crossover rivals, which generally boast more than 500 litres.

The design is also challenging in some areas, mainly the cheap-looking and asymmetrical plastic wheelarch guards, while there are various elements, creases and surfaces that are seemingly deliberately awkward, such as the fact that the front and rear door handles don’t line up. If you’re fine with the gaping grille then front and rear it looks good, but the side-on view in particular is less so.

 

 

 

Paul Barker

The verdict

The UX is appealing because it’s so much cheaper to run and tax than any of its rival premium compact crossovers, but the poor boot, some design elements and the refinement of the admittedly improved hybrid powertrain all count against it.