2020 Lexus UX 250h AWD: Is the new small crossover hybrid worth a second look?
Price: $41,975 as tested. Parking assist, $565; power rear door with kick sensor, $600; heated steering wheel, $150. More options noted below.
Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver likes that it’s “enjoyable to drive” and has a "convincingly upscale interior, generous standard features,” but not the “unrefined engine noises, annoying infotainment touchpad, small cargo area.”
Marketer’s pitch: “Category-leading. Category-defying.”
Reality: It’s better if you don’t look at it, at least the outside. But the UX is nice in all other regards.
What’s new: The whole thing. The UX line is Lexus’ foray into the smallest crossover category, starting with the 2019 model year.
From the outside, sadly, it looks as if it’s right out of the Toyota stable, with nondescript angles and the appearance of something I might have hammered together in my dad’s shop when I was 4.
But, take a moment to step inside. Lexus has made a fortune by allowing people to step into luxury — no matter how much the outside looks like a Camry or a Norelco Microscreen — and the UX does not fail on this count.
Underneath, the UX250 offers front-wheel drive with only a hybrid powertrain, while the front-drive UX200 is just a four-cylinder engine.
Driver’s Seat: The UX comes with probably the most comfortable Driver’s Seat I have parked in ever. It’s a small crossover, so large people might be a little squeezed, but the seat is cushioned with magic and cuddles, as most Lexuses are.
Play some tunes: The UX with the 8-speaker Lexus Premium sound system is definitely for audiophiles. I heard pieces of songs that I haven’t heard since … the last time I drove a Lexus. It came as part of a $2,200 package that provided a 10.3-inch navigation screen and tilt/telescoping wheel (which didn’t slide out as far or as high as I would have liked).
It’s still attached to the Lexus touchpad, and I must be getting better at it. I never pounded angrily on this one.
Volume and tuning are controlled by roller dials in the armrest, an unusual setup. It works, not wonderfully, but it’s easier than the touchpad.
Changing lanes: Look really hard and adjust the sideview mirrors carefully. I almost sideswiped a car on my right even though I’d checked the mirror and turned my head. The blind-spot monitor ($500) activated only after honking commenced. The rear windows grow short quickly, and a large pillar obscures a whole lot of road.
Up to speed: The hybrid powertrain system creates 181 horses, and the vehicle gets to 60 mph in a lethargic 8.6 seconds, according to Toyota. The UX250 is all-wheel drive only; the 2.0-liter four powers the front wheels and a 24-kw motor powers the rear and adds stability control.
On the road: The UX handles nicely on curves and highways both. The Sport mode makes the curves extra fun but can be a hair touchy for highway driving. Normal mode actually handles acceptably on winding roads as well.
Shiftless: The special hybrid setup in the test vehicle was not optimized for acceleration, but it worked fairly well nonetheless. The powertrain emits a big whine under hard acceleration, but the feel is crisp and clean.
The front-wheel-drive version features a 10-speed automatic.
Friends and stuff: All the comfort I gushed about above is for front-seat passengers only. People in the rear have zero legroom, even behind a 5-10 Mr. Driver’s Seat like myself.
The UX is surprisingly small. Foot room behind the driver’s seat is also almost nonexistent. Headroom is fine, though. Note: No Sturgis kids were harmed in the making of this review.
Cargo space is 21.7 cubic feet, according to Lexus, and I can only assume that’s behind the second row.
Keeping warm — and cool: Heated and cooled seats (part of the $1,175 Premium Package, which also adds moonroof and rain-sensing wipers) keep things feeling just right.
HVAC system operation involves dials for temperature control and buttons for everything else.
Night shift: Triple Beam LED headlights ($1,600) make seeing the road clear and sit just right. Interior lights are subtle and won’t get in the way.
Maintaining speed: The cruise control has moved off the Toyota-Lexus stalk to the steering wheel. I’d almost gotten over this, but the stereo control buttons are too small and fussy to be useful. I can think of a way to make them bigger, guys.
Fuel economy: I averaged just under 42 mpg in the usual Mr. Driver’s Seat rush from place to place. Feed the UX whatever.
Where it’s built: Miyawaka, Japan.
How it’s built: Consumer Reports gives the UX a 5 out of 5 for reliability.