Ride, Handling & Performance
Interior Comfort & Practicality
Technology & Safety
Value & Ownership
Lexus is a brand trending upwards. On the back of a raft of new and updated models, the Japanese luxury marque is aiming to sell 10,000 new cars in Australia this year. If successful, it will be the first time Lexus has reached five figures.
The new UX is a key plank in the plan for growth, it’s the brand’s first attempt at the increasingly popular compact SUV segment. In the Lexus line-up, the UX slots beneath the underrated NX.
The arrival of the UX takes the number of Lexus SUV model lines to four. Perhaps most importantly, it gives Lexus a competitor in all of the SUV categories that consistently perform strongly.
Pushing aside the ancient CT hatch, for many first time visitors to a Lexus showroom, the UX will now be the entry point to the range. Pricing is relative to other premium offerings and starts at $44,450 plus on-road costs.
As luck would have it, our tester is the base UX200 Luxury variant. Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, acoustic windscreen glass, roof rails, LED headlamps, fog lights and tail lamps, power-adjustable heated mirrors, a leather steering wheel and shift lever, power-adjustable steering column, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and eight-way power-adjustable and heated front seats.
It’s also loaded with safety tech and achieved a five-star safety rating from independent crash tester ANCAP.
Our car was also optioned with the Enhancement Pack 2 ($4050) which adds a hands-free power tailgate, wireless smartphone charging, alloy scuff plates, headlamp washers, rear privacy glass, cornering lamp and a sunroof (or moonroof in Lexus lingo). The Mercury Grey paint bumps the final price up another $1500.
While the UX is officially marketed and sold as an SUV, in the metal, it’s diminutive stature is a long way removed from what many would consider an SUV to be. At best, the UX is a very compact crossover that has more in common with a city hatchback than any SUV.
The hatchback comparison is reinforced when it comes to entry and egress, the car’s low hip point will have many prospective buyers questioning the SUV terminology. For context, the UX’s ground clearance measurement is only 20mm more than BMW’s 1 Series hatch. The desirable high seating position and commanding view of the road that SUV buyers say are important are not on show here.
When inside, there’s no doubt it’s a Lexus through and through. The layout and materials are first class. Lexus consistently produces high-quality cabins, yet they don’t always receive the kudos for the effort. For the most part, it looks and feels every bit the luxury car. We love the stalks protruding from the sides of the instrument cluster, takes us back to our time in the glorious LC500.
In saying that, there are a few inconsistencies. Firstly, it was a shock to see the chrome trim bubbling around the gear selector, a minor issue but not something usually found in a Lexus. No doubt this would be replaced under warranty.
Then there’s the infotainment system. It looks great with a 10.3-inch HD screen with satellite navigation, digital radio and an eight-speaker audio system, but it’s frustratingly difficult to use. This is an issue in every Lexus model, it’s impossible to use safely while on the move. Thankfully Lexus will be rolling out Apple CarPlay and Android Auto before the end of the year. UX buyers will be able to have their system updated to include the smartphone mirroring tech.
The final issue is packaging, the UX isn't the last word in practicality. Room in the back seat is tight, as is the available boot space (321 litres) meaning the UX is for the young 'uns or empty nesters.
Now to the drive, expectations are high for the UX, it’s built on the new GA-C platform which is closely related to the Toyota New Global Architecture that underpins the C-HR. Lexus tells us a number of elements are engineered specifically for the UX. Other cars we have driven that use the platform have been surprisingly engaging to drive.
In this instance, Lexus has struck a sensible compromise between dynamics and comfort. The benefit of its compact proportions is a low centre of gravity which keeps things tightly controlled in the twisty stuff.
The suspension is compliant with the tune calibrated on the supple side of things. Rougher roads pose no problems, it glides along as a luxury car should. Same can be said about the steering, it’s very light which is perfectly fine for driving around town, however, it doesn’t have a genuinely firmer option for those who enjoy a bit of extra resistance.
Performance-wise, accelerating from 0-100km/h takes 9.2 seconds which isn't exactly fast. The 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine produces 126kW and 205Nm, outputs that are remarkably close those in the 2.0-litre Toyota Corolla. Those chasing more shove will need to stump up for the hybrid powertrain.
All UX variants use a CVT automatic, pleasingly, it’s one of the better units going around. Lexus has engineered it to feel more like a traditional torque converter which makes us again wonder if it’s worth the additional effort for a largely unnoticeable real-world fuel saving.
Around town, where most UX owners will likely spend most of their time, the long, low bonnet makes it difficult to determine where the front of the car actually is. The parking sensors need to be relied upon during tight manoeuvres.
We spent 1107km behind the wheel of the UX200 during our assessment week, it consumed a very competitive 6.6L/100km. Buyers should note, the UX happily drinks regular 91 RON unleaded, all of its rivals require premium fuel.
Lexus is the pacesetter when it comes to warranty coverage in the premium segment. Lexus offers a four-year/100,000km warranty. It betters BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz, though it doesn’t trump any of the mainstream manufacturers that now offer five years of coverage.
Maintenance intervals are set at 12 months or 15,000km, whichever occurs first. Unfortunately, Lexus doesn’t have an official capped-price service scheme, however, dealers say owners should expect to part with about $1800 during the warranty period.
So the Lexus UX200 is a solid compact crossover that should be on the radar of anyone wanting an upmarket hatch. It’s a good looking car, but one where style has been placed at the forefront to the detriment of substance and practicality.
Hybrid versions will bring better performance and economy, though the practicality issues will remain. From the front chairs, the UX looks, feels and glides around with an emphasis on comfort. We will leave it to you to decide if that is worth the premium over mainstream offerings. Unless you’re in love, there are better ways to part with this amount
of coin that provide the genuine SUV experience.
2019 Lexus UX200 Specifications
Price from $44,450 plus on-road costs Engine 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder petrol Power 126kW @ 6600rpm Torque 205Nm @ 4800rpm Transmission CVT automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 5.8L/100km Tank Capacity 47L Length 4495mm Width 1840mm Height 1520mm Wheelbase 2640mm Ground Clearance 160mm Kerb Weight 1490 - 1540kg Performance 0-100km/h 9.2 seconds Turning Circle 10.4m Service Intervals 12 months/15,000km Warranty four-year/100,000km
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