New car review

Lexus UX test drive

Does its hybrid powertrain give the new Lexus UX an edge against its compact SUV rivals?

What’s the new Lexus UX like inside?

The UX delivers what we’ve come to expect from Lexus interiors. That is, an elegantly designed and well-finished cabin let down somewhat by some strange ergonomics. The central column is festooned with buttons, and the same can be said for the steering wheel.

Like other Lexus models, we still have a gripe with the touchpad controller for the infotainment, too; it just isn’t as intuitive as rival systems and is distracting to use.

That said, the Lexus UX does well in terms of practicality. There’s a reasonable level of legroom in the back for a car in this class, although the 320 litres of boot space is rather poor – and that’s for the front-wheel drive models. It’s even less in all-wheel-drive versions.

What’s under the bonnet?

All Lexus UX models use the same engine for propulsion. It’s a 2.0-litre petrol unit, linked to two electric motors. In front-wheel-drive versions, like our test car, the electric motors are mounted across the front axle. Meanwhile, all-wheel-drive “E-Four” versions have the same set-up paired with an additional electric motor at the rear axle to drive the back wheels.

Together they produce 184hp, which provides the UX (in front-wheel drive spec) with a 0-60mph time of 8.4 seconds and a 110mph top speed. Acceleration figures for the all-wheel-drive version are slightly worse due to the extra weight, although the top speed remains the same.

Lexus claims the UX will return up to 53.3mpg on the combined cycles while emitting 97g/km of CO2. This is what Lexus calls a “self-charging” powertrain – there’s no option to plug it in – with the batteries’ energy being replenished either by the combustion engine or through regenerative braking.

What’s the Lexus UX like to drive?

The way the Lexus UX drives is one of its most surprising aspects. Yes, there’s some drone generated by the engine under hard acceleration (thanks to the CVT gearbox), but there’s very little body roll in the corners, and there’s plenty of weight to the steering too. It gives you a lot of confidence when placing the car. Push too hard, however, and it will be prompted into understeer.

2019 Lexus UX road test - front | The Car Expert

Our F Sport specification car rode on larger 18-inch wheels and tyres, and these did contribute to a fair amount of road noise at higher speeds. That said, it’s contrasted by a quiet around-town experience, with the electric motor making for swift and silent progress.

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It’s not a quick car, but it also doesn’t feel underpowered – the 184 horses available give the UX enough grunt for merging on to motorways or overtaking relatively easily.

Verdict

Although the compact SUV segment is already very crowded, Lexus has done well to offer something different with the UX. For people who don’t want a diesel but also don’t want to rely too much on charging batteries at a plug-in point, it’s able to deliver a limited electrified driving experience with fewer drawbacks.

Yes, it does mean that hard acceleration isn’t the most pleasant of experiences, but those who spend most of their driving time around towns and villages will no doubt find the Lexus UX suits them down to the ground.

Similar cars

BMW X1, Audi Q3, Jaguar E-Pace

Jack Evans
Jack Evans
Articles by Jack Evans are provided for The Car Expert by PA Media (formerly the Press Association). They include test drives of the latest new cars and features on various aspects of automotive life.

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