Review: Lexus UX (2019)
Smooth and rapid performance from impressive hybrid system. Genuinely economical.
Tiny boot and cramped rear seats. Ride can be on the unsettled side. Poor infotainment system.
Lexus UX (2019): At A Glance
- On average it achieves 50% of the official MPG figure
With their raised driving position and extra practicality it's not hard to see why ever smaller crossovers are becoming popular, particularly with buyers who would ordinarily choose a Focus sized hatchback. Indeed, the Lexus UX joins a market where it has to rival cars like the Volvo XC40, Audi Q3 and Volkswagen T-Roc.
What the UX has over much of the direct competition is that - at launch at least - it's one of very few hybrid small crossovers, alongside the Kia Niro and of course the Toyota C-HR.
Lexus however, is marketing this as a more premium model. So unlike the C-HR, it gets the more powerful 2.0-litre petrol self-charging hybrid system, also used with impressive results in the Toyota Corolla. This has 180PS and means the UX is not short of pace or acceleration. It can also travel at up to 71mph solely on EV power.
The standard UX is front wheel drive (the electric motor is located at the front axle) but there is also a four-wheel-drive model, badged the E-Four, with an extra electric motor powering the rear.
Driving the UX is an undemanding and refined experience, while the hybrid system gives it a surprisingly quick turn of pace when needed. Yet it's also genuinely economical with 50mpg easily achievable in every day driving - not far short of what Lexus claims. Its compact dimensions - it's less than 4.5 metres long - make it easy to park too.
What does let the Lexus down is a tiny boot. Even for a compact crossover it lacks carrying space with just 320 litres of boot space - that's less than a Volkswagen Golf. The rear seats are also cramped, especially with a taller driver or front passenger.
Prices start at around £30,000 which compares strongly with the rivals like the Q3, especially when you take into account the high level of standard equipment. There are advantages for company car drivers too - they’ll pay BIK tax of 22 per cent, saving around £5000 over three years compared to a diesel alternative.
While we like the UX in some ways, not least its fuel economy, smoothness and renowned Lexus reliability, it's hard to recommend it over rival crossovers due to its terrible practicality and the infotainment system is a let down. There are too many compromises and for us, a Toyota RAV4 is a better value proposition.
What does a Lexus UX (2019) cost?
Lexus UX (2019): What's It Like Inside?
While this may be a crossover, the driving position in the UX is a lot lower than you may expect. Those wanting a high driving position and a car that's easy to get in and out of may want to look elsewhere.
The driving position overall could be better, mainly due to the fact the steering wheel doesn't adjust for reach enough, something taller drivers will notice. Entry-level models have six-way manual seat adjustment while there's the Tech and Sound Pack as an option which adds electric eight-way seat adjustment with lumbar support.
The build quality is as high as you'd expect of a Lexus but while it's all very good, it doesn't have the style or cutting edge of rivals. There are too many scratchy plastics for a car intending to take on the premium cars of this world. Compare this to the interior of an Audi Q3 and it feels a generation behind in that respect. Nothing stands out as innovative here.
The infotainment is one of the worst offenders. The rather uninspiring menus and small screen we could forgive but the touchpad system and strange volume and radio controls are awkward. It makes the whole thing annoying and often distracting to use.
The simple system used in the Corolla is much better. Although like that, there's still no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto in the Lexus, something we think should certainly be standard on a £30k car.
Similarly, the standard 7.0-inch display is small compared to rivals and even if you go for the larger 10.3-inch screen, it's display is low res compared to the bright and sharp screens that have become the norm, even on cheaper cars.
It's as you move back that the UX's real weakness quickly become apparent. The rear seats are cramped - even when compared to other small crossovers. It's hard to get in and out of - the tight footwells and lack of knee room mean even children can struggle, especially with a taller driver or front passenger. You'd struggle to get four adults in the UX. There aren't even any rear door pockets.
But worse still is the tiny boot. It's just 320 litres which is terrible for a small crossover and by far the smallest in its class. Go for an E-Four model and this drops to just 283 litres - less than a Ford Fiesta. Meanwhile the odd flimsy luggage 'cover' is hardly what you'd expect in a premium car.
Lexus says that because there’s no room under the bonnet for the standard 12v car battery, it has been located under the boot floor, along with the power control unit for the second electric motor in four-wheel-drive versions. Unsurprisingly, there’s no room for a spare wheel, space-saver or otherwise.
Standard Equipment from launch:
UX grade features the second generation Lexus Safety System+, seven-inch Lexus Navigation and multimedia system with DAB, dual-zone air conditioning, heated front seats, roof rails and 17-inch alloys.
F Sport includes F Sport interior and exterior styling features, including F Sport 18-inch alloy wheels, black front spindle grille and black door mirror housings. In the cabin there are F Sport front seats with fabric and Tahara upholstery and F Sport pedals and steering wheel. The specification also includes rear privacy glass, LED front fog lights, heated, power-adjustable front seats, heated steering wheel and a memory setting for the door mirrors.
Takumi, named in celebration of Lexus’s skilled takumi craftsmen, offers smooth leather upholstery, washi paper-grain trim inlays, integrated front seat heating and ventilation, a bespoke Mark Levinson 13-speaker Premium Surround Sound system, 10.3-inch Lexus Navigation and multimedia display, 360-degree camera, colour head-up display, sunroof, power tailgate, auto-folding function for the door mirrors, smart entry system, 18-inch alloy wheels, Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert with braking function.
Child seats that fit a Lexus UX (2019)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the Lexus UX (2019) like to drive?
There's only one engine in the UX range - a self charging hybrid. As it's not a PHEV, you don't have to plug-in the UX to charge. Instead the battery is continually recharged whenever you brake or coast - there's a handy graphic on the dash to show you what's powering and recharging as you go.
Despite the 250h badge, the UX actually uses the same 2.0-litre self charging system as found in the Toyota Corolla and not the 2.5-litre from the RAV4. Not that it's any poorer for using the smaller engine. In fact, we think the 2.0-litre is the better hybrid.
When it comes to hybrids, Toyota has more experience than any other manufacturer and it shows. The UX is incredibly smooth. You pull away in electric power and the engine kicks in when need. However, the transition is so polished, you will hardly notice.
That's down to the fact the UX is well insulated from noise. Indeed, refinement is a big plus for the Lexus and around town it's wonderfully quiet and effortless. In fact, it will go up to 71mph on electric power alone if you want, although at leisurely pace.
There are no problems with performance when the UX is driven in standard hybrid mode. It's never short on power and accelerates with plenty of gusto if required. The issue that you'll find here is the CVT gearbox.
Yes it's a recurring complaint, but we can't ignore the fact that the single variable gear CVT set-up means hard acceleration is met with a continual engine drone. However, what we wil say is that it's far less noticeable in the UX than other Lexus models - the ES for instance.
Plus, in everyday driving it's something you're unlikely to experience unless you really plant your right foot for a prolonged period. It means you can still drive the UX quickly without having to endure the resultant noise created by the CVT gearbox.
The brakes are good too with little of the on/off nature you often find with hybrids due to the regenerative braking. Instead the UX slows down and stops smoothly, although it's still not quite as natural as a petrol or diesel crossover.
Our experience of the ride is a bit of a mixed bag. Initially it seems very smooth and forgiving, but it's soon caught out on uneven roads and the suspension tends to feel busy and quite firm over rough surfaces.
Go for an F Sport model and you can go for the optional Adaptive Variable Suspension as part of the Tech & Safety Pack. This is designed to decrease body roll when cornering and improve ride comfort.
Rear visibility isn't the best but the compact dimensions of the UX make it easy to park in the average space and all models get a rearview camera, although strangely, front and rear parking sensors are available as an option on lower trims.
The light and responsive steering is great around town but it's artificial feel means the UX isn't especially enjoyable or agile on a more challenging road. And at motorway speeds you can find yourself constantly correcting the steering.
|250h||94–97 mpg||8.5 s||94–97 g/km|
|250h E4||103 mpg||8.5 s||103 g/km|
Real MPG average for a Lexus UX (2019)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
What have we been asked about the Lexus UX (2019)?
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Could you suggest a small, comfortable crossover?
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