The Lexus lineup continues to expand with the arrival of the UX. The sub-compact crossover joins the NX, RX, RXL, GX and LX family of utility vehicles.
At $37,100, the new small ute becomes the entry point for the Lexus brand, which also includes a full range of cars ranging from $41,000 to $103,000. Something for everyone.
The UX may be marketed as a utility vehicle. It does not have the ground clearance or seating height expected from a ute, but more closely resembles a tall wagon or hatchback. The UX shares its platform, suspension and transmission with the Toyota C-HR. The UX 200 comes with a gasoline engine and front-wheel drive, The UX 200h as a hybrid with all-wheel drive, with an electric motor driving the rear wheels. Both use a continuously variable automatic transmission.
Like its Toyota sibling, the UX has a polarizing design, starting with a prominent proboscis and sharp creases along the sides. The test vehicle was the FWD UX200 with the F Sport package. This $2,300 option brought a unique, grill, steering wheel, seats, trim items and LED fog and cornering lights. The Sport components consisted of larger wheels, paddle shifters, and an active noise control system to enhance the engine sound.
The interior is stylish without going over the top. Fit and finish are first rate as expected from a Lexus. The relative silence while underway is also very Lexus-like The sound when closing the doors, however, lacked the solid “thunk” expected from this brand. The control layout is logical and visibility very good other than the rear quarters. The standard backup camera alleviates that issue.
As befits a luxury vehicle, the UX comes with a long list of standard features beyond the usual automatic climate control and power assist for everything. The list includes: LED headlights with washers, power moonroof, windshield wiper de-icer, blind spot monitor system, automatic high beams, full-speed dynamic cruise control, pre-collision system with pedestrian and bicycle detection, lane tracing assist (LTA) and Enform Audio (six speakers, 17-cm infotainment screen). There is no provision for Android Auto, but Apple CarPlay works flawlessly.
Like some other Toyota/Lexus products, the infotainment system is controlled by the latest version of Lexus’s Remote Touch “control interface.” Unfortunately, this flat touch screen requires you to move your fingers across the surface and press for a selection. This is all but impossible to do while underway on anything other than a billiard-table-smooth surface.
This is a sub-compact vehicle so rear seat and cargo space are sized accordingly and competitively.
The UX is no hot rod. Giving up 25 or more horsepower to the competition, acceleration is leisurely. Lexus does not make torque figures available, but the same engine in the Toyota Corolla produces a rather meagre 151 lb.-ft. On the other hand, fuel economy is impressive. I averaged 8.9 litres/100 km for a week of mixed driving conditions. The UX is meant as an urban runabout and in this realm it is in its element.
The low seating position and centre of gravity result in a car-like driving experience. This is an agile little vehicle with the ability to absorb major road imperfections beyond its size and weight. The UX comes with drive mode select, via a knob located on the side of the instrument binnacle. The driver can choose between normal, eco or sport, altering the steering feel and throttle response. There is a good amount of feeling from the steering wheel, especially in Sport mode and a lack of response in eco mode.
This new subcompact luxury crossover deserves a look for its value and nameplate. Extensively equipped, and best suited to city living, it can be expected to perform flawlessly for a very long period of time.
Model: 2019 Lexus UX 200 FWD
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, 169 horsepower, 151 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel
Transmission: continuously variable automatic
NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 5.7 / 6.2
Length: 4,495 mm; width: 1,840 mm; wheelbase: 2,640 m; Weight: 1,500 kg
Price: $37,100 base, $41,601 as tested including freight
Competition: Audi Q3, BMW X1, Mercedes GLA
Standard equipment: all-season floor mats, tilt and telescope steering wheel, heated steering wheel, power windows, locks, mirrors and front seats, remote keyless entry, dual zone automatic climate control, back-up camera, cargo area mat and tonneau cover, heated mirrors, LED headlights with washers, power moonroof, , heated front seats, four-year subscription to Enform Safety Connect with — Automatic Collision Notification, Stolen Vehicle Locator, Emergency Assistance button, and Enhanced Roadside Assistance, Enform App Suite 2.0 including — Traffic Incidents, Weather, Slacker, Yelp, Sports, Stocks, Fuel Prices and NPR1 (no subscription required), windshield wiper de-icer, blind spot monitor system, automatic high beams , full-speed dynamic cruise control, pre-collision system with pedestrian and bicycle detection, Lane Tracing Assist (LTA), Enform Audio (six speakers ,17-cm infotainment screen)
Options on test vehicle: F Sport Series 1 (F Sport steering wheel, front grill, front seats, shift knob, scuff plates, Nulux upholstery, 18” Alloy Wheels, LED cornering and fog lights), $2,300