Lexus’ cheapest vehicle is a 2020 SUV of the Year contender
- Decent value story
- Fantastic fuel economy
- Smooth transmission
- Gutless powertrains
- Molar-rattling ride
- Useless in snow/dirt
Although appealingly priced in line with the outgoing CT 200h hatchback, the UX isn’t so much an entry sport utility—especially when there’s no all-wheel-drive option on the base engine—so much as a tall compact hatchback.
“The UX is an unbelievable value,” senior production editor and proudly frugal Zach Gale said, calling out the “very interesting and uniquely textured trim on the dash and the soft-touch surfaces almost everywhere.” But features editor Christian Seabaugh sharply disagreed: “Truly disappointing how little you get for your money,” calling it “a luxury product by reputation only.”
A lot of folks will find use for the UX as a commuter car, and the smooth CVT (one the best executions we’ve found) will make the stop-and-go experience much easier. Fuel economy of 29/37/33 for the base 2.0-liter UX 200 and 41/38/39 for the hybrid UX 250h AWD is about the best you can find for a crossover from a premium brand.
How it gets those numbers is another story. It’s downright cynical that a car with a luxury badge would offer an engine that so laboriously disperses its meager, thrashy 169 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque. “I refuse to believe it hits 60 in 8.5 seconds,” features editor Scott Evans said. “It’s way too slow for that. Don’t buy this car if you live somewhere where the freeways have hills.”
Plus, the UX’s jarring ride—thanks to its economy car roots—is appalling. Tall drivers will crease their noggins on the headliner over sharp bumps. What’s more, the hybrid edition’s brake feel and actuation are harsh and without modulation.
And don’t buy this car if you need to traverse anywhere with terrain or accumulated snow. It’s a crossover by slogan only. Lexus doesn’t give ground clearance measurements for the UX; all we know is we got repeatedly stuck and high-centered in the Honda proving ground’s silty-sand oval that mimics snowdrifts. The hybrid’s AWD system even overheated and shut off within a couple short minutes of struggle, requiring a tow to extricate it.
Inside, Lexus did its homework. Rhe driver’s surroundings are “modern and handsome, with clear investment and quality fit/finish,” editor-in-chief Ed Loh said. “It looks way ahead of Cadillac and some of the other luxury executions.” Just know, the stylish sweep of the lower dash panel juts out into the front door opening; you will painfully scythe your left kneecap on its capsule if you’re not careful.
The situation darkens for passengers. The rear door aperture to access the second row is tiny, and the situation doesn’t improve as you intricate yourself into its claustrophobic confines. It’s hard to convince your passengers they are in a premium vehicle if their knees are in their chins (exception obviously given for the Porsche 911). If you need space for your gear, the UX 200’s hatch area is trifling and shrinks to “a joke” in the hybrid version, Zach Gale said.
For years, we have torched Lexus for its unintuitive, distracting touchpad infotainment interface. At least for this model, Lexus smartly placed the audio controls in a convenient resting-palm location, with fingertip actuation of volume and channel changes.
Loh defended the UX’s use case in tight-parking urban areas, especially for drivers who might like the high seating position, fashion-forward style, and high-touch interior.
All this aside, you still need to look at the thing every morning. You might be used to Lexus’ oversized Predator grille by now, but the UX’s manga-influenced lines are startling, to put it nicely. But some folks see the beauty in such beasts.
|2019 Lexus UX 200||2019 Lexus UX 250h F-Sport|
|Base Price/As Tested||$33,175/$40,450||$37,175/$42,685|
|Power (SAE net)||169 hp @ 6,600 rpm||143 hp @ 6,000 rpm + elec motor; 181 hp comb|
|Torque (SAE net)||151 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm||132 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm + elec motor|
|Accel, 0-60 mph||8.5 sec||8.3 sec|
|Quarter Mile||16.5 sec @ 85.6 mph||16.3 sec @ 87.3 mph|
|Braking, 60-0 mph||129 ft||128 ft|
|Lateral Acceleration||0.78 g (avg)||0.80 g (avg)|
|MT Figure Eight||28.2 sec @ 0.62 g (avg)||28.1 sec @ 0.62 g (avg)|
|EPA City/Hwy/Comb||29/37/33 mpg||41/38/39 mpg|