The Lexus UX is the company’s first compact SUV and it genuinely brings something new to the table. The UX is an unusual subcompact luxury crossover, but, despite its hatchback-like proportions, it is an incredibly classy vehicle. Looking at the UX you notice cuts, creases and shiny details in its exterior design that really make it stand out. The UX is longer than any premium compact SUV rival, lower than most and in the middle of the pack in width. With a seating position lower than other SUVs, the UX feels more car-like to maneuver. Combine that with lightweight aluminum and composite panels and Lexus claims the UX has the lowest center of gravity in its class. Either way, there is a surprising agility to the car when maneuvering in and out of car parks and city streets. Unfortunately, its standard four-cylinder engine and available hybrid powertrain both have poky acceleration and produce coarse noises. Still, the 2021 UX has a host of standard features and a handsome interior that make it an interesting, albeit small, alternative to classmates such as the BMW X1 and the Mercedes-Benz GLA-class.
The Lexus UX is available with either a gas-powered or a hybrid powertrain paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). However, only the hybrid UX250h offers all-wheel drive; the regular UX200 is front-wheel drive. The latter uses a 169-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine which needed a lengthy 8.5 seconds to get to 60 mph– one of the slowest such times in the segment, and the engine sounded unrefined at high revs for a Lexus. Thankfully though both had great steering feel and quiet refinement endearing enough to help make up for their lack of quickness.
The F Sport version which we were able to test brings a sportier suspension, 18-inch wheels paired with the 225/50R15 run-flat tires. These tires are capable of running for 100miles at speeds of up to 50 MPH which is why the UX 200 does not come with a spare tire. The UX 200 didn’t bounce or bob, absorbing bumps with near-luxury indifference. The UX 200 F-Sport comes with ventilated 12-inch disc brakes in the front and 11.1-inch ventilated disc brakes in the rear. Electronically controlled Anti-Lock Braking System with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution comes as standard which can automatically detect which tire has stopped rotating and distribute brakeforce to make sure it starts rotating again. The gas-only model is rated at 29 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway.
Inside, Lexus ensures that passengers know this is a luxury vehicle thanks to an attractive layout and fancy materials, this is probably the vehicle’s strongest feature. The front of the UX’s cabin is where Lexus plays one of its best cards. Smart and logical, the space feels generous and welcoming. The materials that make up the cabin are quality. Lexus is really highlighting its superior craftsmanship inside the cabin. It also boasts a bunch of standard features that includes dual-zone climate control and power-adjustable front seats. The experience can be elevated with options at an extra cost, such as heated and ventilated front seats, a head-up display, and snazzier materials.
The rear seat is quite snug for two people, while three is pushing it. Legroom can range from ok to non-existent if a tall person happens to be sitting upfront. Headroom is decent for most people, even with the optional sunroof. Cargo space is about average for the class with almost 22 cubic feet with the rear seats up. One other downside was a tall lift-over height does make it a little more challenging to load heavy items into the vehicle. Unfortunately, the cargo area behind those seats is even smaller on hybrid models.
Every UX has a loaded infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa compatibility, a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, and four USB ports. The little Lexus also can be enhanced with numerous options that include a larger 10.3-inch center screen, built-in navigation, wireless charging, and an eight-speaker premium audio system.
The 2021 UX earned a five-star crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the last version that was evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) was named a Top Safety Pick. Every model is also equipped with standard driver-assistance technology. Key safety features include forward-collision warning, automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
Another plus is that Lexus provides a competitive limited warranty of four years or 50,000 miles and an extensive powertrain warranty of six years or 70,000 miles. The automaker also includes a short period of complimentary scheduled maintenance for one year or 10,000 miles.
The UX 200 makes a very compelling case for itself in the subcompact luxury crossover class. Being the entry-level car to the entire Lexus range, the UX 200 F-Sport certainly carries a very big stick. Loaded with top-of-the-line safety features and connectivity features that even most flagship cars lack, the car has all the characteristic bells and whistles that easily make it the most luxurious car in its class. However with sub-par engine performance, the Lexus just falls short of hitting its target as the ideal luxury CUV.