Lexus makes a statement with its first new entry into one of motoring’s most popular new segments.
Compact crossovers are clearly the hot new ticket in the automotive world. Targeted at young, design-conscious urban dwellers, these stylish vehicles are among the latest offerings from the established luxury car brands, with the likes of the Audi Q3, BMW X2, Jaguar E-Pace, Mercedes-Benz GLA, and Volvo XC40 all jostling for the spotlight in our market.
Recently, however, a newcomer has made quite a dramatic entrance. It is, after all, hard not to notice a Lexus – the L-Finesse design language, with its angled surfaces, sharp creases and signature “spindle” grille, ensure that no car in its range will be mistaken for anything else on the road.
The UX takes its name from the designers’ guiding concept – Urban + X-over – and it introduces a decidedly more aggressive and sportier look to the Lexus crossover design lexicon. Combining the beefier cladding of a crossover with the stance of a sports car, it is a striking piece of automotive design that sees Lexus introduce a unique interpretation of the spindle grille with a new 3D mesh pattern that radiates out from the central Lexus emblem.
A sharply sculpted midsection joins dramatically flared wheel arches, and it is at the rear that you will find my favourite part of the car … the single-unit rear lamp that extends from the bodywork to act as part of the UX’s air-sculpting aerodynamics.
High-quality fit-and-finish has always been a hallmark of a Lexus interior, and the UX combines this along with a multi-surface faceted dash that echoes the exterior – especially in the spindle grille-shaped instrument binnacle. Details like perforated leather and bevelled alloy adorning the car’s touchpoints are another classy Lexus element, as is LED cabin lighting that illuminates the cabin, front footwells, glove-box and console switches.
You will be satisfied with the interior space on offer too. Being spun off Toyota’s modular TNGA-C platform – it underpins the new Toyota RAV4, among others – its boot space is on par with its competitors and, whereas the rising waistline and sloping C-Pillar do make the rear feel a little snug, rear-passenger legroom is very good.
In terms of interior tech, you get the brand’s latest multimedia and navigation technology with a 7-inch display as standard (or a 10.25-inch display with the optional navigation system). The screen reflects key information controlled via the Lexus Remote Touch Interface – a haptic touchpad designed to feel like a smartphone with gestures like double-tapping and flicking across the surface to access the various menus and commands. It is not the most intuitive interface out there, but it doesn’t take too long to get used to.
Under The Skin
There is a choice of two drivetrain options, both with CVT automatic transmissions. The UX 200 has a 126 kW, naturally aspirated 2.0-litre petrol unit, while the 250h is a petrol/electric hybrid with a 2.0-litre petrol + two electric motors producing a combined 135 kW.
The model range also includes an F Sport model in 200 guise that offers a sportier exterior design and under-the-skin upgrades. This derivative comes with an exclusive grille and bumper treatment, unique alloy wheels, and a sportier interior, as well as a bespoke Adaptive Variable Suspension.
And On The Road
As mentioned earlier, the UX is based on the TNGA-C platform – in fact, it is the first Lexus to use this new-generation chassis – and this impressive piece of automotive engineering means it enjoys a chassis that is lightweight, very rigid, and has a particularly low centre of gravity.
The result is that Lexus’ engineers haven’t had to make the suspension too stiff to give it decent driving dynamics. Instead, they have been able to tune it to be impressively supple and responsive for a ride quality that is both comfortable and agile.
The UX 200 and UX 250h Hybrid are also equipped with Lexus Drive Mode Select, which allows the driver to tailor the driving experience by selecting from three different drive modes: Normal, Eco, and Sport. The F Sport model has an added Sport S+ mode.
Not that you would describe performance or handling as particularly sporty, it is, however, quintessentially Lexus. And by that I mean the car feels impressively refined and composed, as opposed to anything that would bother with robot-to-robot dicing.
It also has one of the best CVTs I have sampled. Generally, I am not a fan of these engine response-throttling transmissions, but this system has artificial “steps” that mimic the gear changes of a multi-gear automatic transmission. The result is a smooth and quiet transmission that delivers strong, linear acceleration with the minimum of fuss.
To wrap it all up then, what you are looking at here, is an eye-catching boutique crossover that is both wonderfully distinctive in looks and impressively refined in demeanour. “Sophisticated” would be the word.
UX 200 EX – R599 000
UX 200 F Sport – R726 200
UX Hybrid 250h SE – R699 000
The UX range comes with a 7-year/105 000km warranty and full maintenance plan. The vehicle service intervals are at every 15 000km, alternatively once a year.
ENGINE 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol
POWER 126 kW @ 6 600 r/min
TORQUE 205 Nm @ 4 800 r/min
TRANSMISSION CVT auto
0-100 km/h 9.2 sec*
TOP SPEED 190 km/h*
FUEL ECONOMY 6.1 L/100 km*
ENGINE 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol hybrid
TOTAL OUTPUT 135 kW
TORQUE 180 Nm @ 4 400 r/min
TRANSMISSION CVT auto
0-100 km/h 8.5 sec*
TOP SPEED 177 km/h*
FUEL ECONOMY 4.5 L/100 km*
Words by Steve Smith