Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: March 21, 2021
The Lexus UX will never be as popular as the RX but it uses the latter as a template, distilling all the features, ergonomics, and technology down to a clever, bite-sized package. There’s much to like with the UX, and much to dislike, but there’s never been a more appealing, luxurious, and efficient hybrid SUV.
Catering towards a growing segment with its crosshairs aimed directly at the Mercedes-Benz GLA and MINI Countryman, the UX distinguishes itself with its hybrid powertrain. With a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine mounted to a setup of batteries and electric motors, it’s able to propel itself with a combined 181 hp using barely a sip of fuel. We averaged an exceptional 6.3 L/100km over a mix of both highway and city driving, a major advantage over its combustion-only rivals that hover around the 9.0-10.0 L/100km mark. The UX only requires regular 87-octane fuel as well, unlike other luxury offerings whose turbocharged motors demand 91-octane premium.
Acceleration from the tag-team powertrain is decent, though if you are accustomed to driving vehicles with turbochargers, you might be spending most of your time with your right foot to the floor. The UX lacks low-end grunt, and instead rewards revving out the motor. Overall, its driving and road mannerisms are nothing to write home about - comfortable, calm, but never exciting - and should fit the glove of its intended audience just fine.
Most of our readers will know that we don’t particularly enjoy continuously variable transmissions, but it’s not a terrible companion in this UX application. It still drones when pressed in cold conditions, and whines under heavy acceleration, but it’s undeniably smooth, complimenting the seamless transitions between combustion and electric modes. Of course, we would prefer an automatic gearbox for its predictability in gears and quieter operation, but we cannot argue with the CVT’s better efficiency and how it augments the UX’s hybrid focus.
The UX 250h strengthens its appeal with an upscale interior fixed with the softest leather seats in the top F Sport trim. It borrows the best features from other Lexus models like the Frankenstein-bolt scrolls on top of the instrument binnacle from the ES 250, swoopy door handles from the LC 500, and the strikingly beautiful leather steering wheel from the LS Sedan. The UX is even equipped with that slidable LFA-inspired instrument cluster. The feature list is expansive too with heated and ventilated (and automatic) front seats, 60/40 folding rear seats, Bluetooth connectivity, a power sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, blind spot monitoring system, and a rear view camera.
But don’t get me started on the infotainment system. Though the screen is large, displays crisp graphics, and is neatly tucked into the dashboard, for some reason, Japanese automakers seem to have a hard time designing a simple, intuitive, and fluid infotainment unit. I’m not saying it’s easy but much like the Acura RDX, the mousepad is atrociously difficult to use accurately, and is frustrating when you want to hit a button prompt but the crosshairs constantly bounce around - not something you want to be dealing with when trying to focus on the road ahead. And before you criticize and tell us that we just haven’t spent enough time with the system, we have. There are only so many commands delegated to the steering wheel, and we just are not satisfied. At least there is Apple CarPlay should you want to use a more familiar interface, and the side-mounted volume and tuning dials on the center console wrist rest remedy some of those concerns. It also reminds us of our old MP3 players and Walkmans.
Space in the rear cabin is lacking and the UX’s low roofline, short wheelbase, and poor packaging do not help the cause. The high floor bed means your legs will be slightly elevated and cramped, and the trunk is diminutive in this hybrid model because the battery under the trunk floor takes up most of the real estate. What’s left is a raised platform that should be enough for daily errand runs and the occasional road trip, but don’t expect to pack a whole family in there and make it back from a heavy Costco run.
The Lexus UX 250h is an impressive hybrid offering and should appeal to those who want a compact, efficient, and stylish commuter car. It lacks a fluid infotainment system as well as meaningful cargo space, but it makes up for that with an ergonomically sound interior, a suite of the latest tech, and considerable savings at the pump.
Model: 2021 Lexus UX 250h AWD
Paint Type: Cadmium Orange
Base Price: $40,100
Price as Tested: $49,550
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,494 / 1,839 / 1,539
Curb weight (kg): 1,635
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder + electric motor + battery
Horsepower: 181 combined hp
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 5.7 / 6.2 / 6.0
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 6.3