Distinctive hybrid crossover with the Lexus quality hallmark
Lexus claims that its new compact crossover SUV is aimed at ‘creative urban explorers’, i.e. people who are more likely to live in a city and need an SUV for its versatility than explore Kielder Forest off-road in the snow. Compact SUVs are a fast-growing segment and this challenger from Lexus offers an intriguing alternative to the same old prestige brands
All models come with the Lexus Safety System + 2 which includes a host of safety and driver assistance systems. These include dynamic radar cruise control with road sign assist, pre-crash safety (PCS) day & night, road sign assist, lane keep assist, and an automatic high beam (AHB)/adaptive high beam system (AHS). The Takumi model also includes blind spot monitoring with rear traffic alert – useful if you’re reversing out of a parking place.
Lexus likes to stand out from the crowd, and the UX certainly leaves you in no doubt about its origins, starting with that dramatic ‘spindle’ grille. Like the NX and RX SUVs from Lexus that are its two bigger siblings, the design of the UX from the outside is all about sharp angles and sculpted surfaces. The effect is rather like the way a landscape of sand dunes looks like after being shaped by the desert wind. Some will love it, others won’t. Inside, you could be won over by the harmony and craftsmanship of Lexus’ Takumi craftsmen and women. A Lexus interior is always a good place to spend some time; comfortable seats, carefully-matched materials and superlative build quality distinguish the UX.
Lexus has decided to go its own way when it comes to the driver/infotainment interface. Instead of a touchscreen or a dial, the UX features a haptic trackpad which works rather like the trackpads on most laptops. After an initial acclimatisation session, it’s intuitive and simple – and doesn’t leave fingerprints all over the display screen. The entry-level UX and the next step up, the F Sport, come with a 7” display but if you opt for the flagship Takumi model, you’ll enjoy a full 10.3” screen with Lexus Premium navigation.
Cleverly Lexus describes the UX as a ‘self-charging hybrid’ which is another way of saying that the only way to charge the battery and power its allied electric motor is via the engine plus regenerative braking and coasting. This doesn’t offer the full mpg and CO2-saving potential of a plug-in hybrid but for many urban dwellers without garages, especially those living in flats, there’s little chance to leave a car plugged in overnight anyway. Lexus claims 65.7mpg for the combined cycle. The 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine produces 146 DIN hp, the electric motor adds the equivalent of another 109hp (with an extra 7h for the rear motor in AWD models) so acceleration is brisk and motorway cruising is refined. Stepless gears are a feature of the Constantly Variable Transmission (CVT), and there’s a choice of front- or all-wheel-drive.
Verdict: Lexus offers a strong alternative to the German, British and Swedish contenders in the premium SUV crossover market and the loyalty of existing Lexus customers proves that it’s a brand that delivers on its quality promise. You won’t see one on every street and for Lexus owners that only adds to the feeling of ‘in the know’ exclusivity.