Road Test: Lexus UX 250h
A C-segment luxury SUV that doesn’t break the bank? Lexus thinks it has the answer, discovers Jonathan Musk.
SECTOR C-SUV PRICE £29,900-£39,100 FUEL 46.3-53.3mpg* CO2 94-103g/km**
Premium is mainstream, diesel is demoded and SUVs are in: all sentiments that play to the strengths of the new Lexus UX. And, with Lexus’ entry-level CT hatchback now in its ninth year of production (and despite a recent facelift), the UX is likely to encroach into would-be CT customers before its eventual replacement in a few years’ time too. Consequently, this is the right car at the right time for the Japanese luxury brand.
UK fleets will be interested to learn Lexus’ bean counters have been hard at work and reckon between £5-8k could be saved over three years with the UX, compared to premium-brand competition including the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Volvo XC40 – with expected depreciation, fuel consumption, SMR costs, employers’ National Insurance and road tax all taken into account.
And the story repeats for BiK with a low 22%, compared to the average competitor diesel commanding 32%. Hybrid power bestows the UX with best-in-class CO2 of 94g/km (FWD variant), while fuel consumption is marginally better than the rest with a WLTP-high of 53.2mpg.
Prices start from £29,990 for the base-level UX, while the F-Sport commands £33,900 and the range-topping Takumi is £39,100.
Three simple grades will be available in the UK: UX, F-Sport and Takumi plus the choice of E-FOUR electric all-wheel drive and a handful of useful options packs that allow base-level cars to get premium features.
There’s no question then that the UX appeals to the mind, but what about the heart? The UK is only getting the hybrid UX, which is powered by a new 2.0-litre petrol engine that’s efficient and light, while the hybrid element has been tweaked to deliver plenty of EV-focus – for example during our time with the car the UX managed around 35% of the time in EV mode. The hybrid system, however, never provides much thrill, with the car better looked at as a comfortable cruiser.
But there’s no denying its impeccable on-road handling; thanks to a low-centre of gravity it’s nimble and agile. Suspension is beautifully setup, providing a cosseting ride without jarring over traffic calming, and expressing low amounts of roll in corners.
Inside it’s a pleasant place to be with plentiful attention to detail. Quality materials, engineered door shuts, sublimely comfortable seats and a high-tech spec are stock across the board. Lexus’ Safety System+ comes as standard across all models too and incorporates cruise control, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection and so on. The 17-inch alloys even direct air onto the brakes and aid aerodynamics, like a racing car.
On the flip side, the UX’s compact size and rakish styling result in a distinct lack of luggage space and rear passengers aren’t treated to much legroom either. And then there’s Lexus’ fabled infotainment system, which is operated using a notoriously fiddly trackpad. However, Fleet World can reveal that Lexus is working on replacing the system with an all-new touchscreen, although no more details are available as yet.
Key Fleet Model: UX 250h
Strengths: Luxurious ride, good handling
Weaknesses: Tiny boot, weak infotainment system
The Verdict: Lexus’ entry into this segment wasn’t easy, but the company has come up with the goods. Only minor foibles catch out an otherwise impressive package.
FW Rating: 4.5/5
*WLTP ** NEDC correlated