The Lexus UX 200 is a low ride height hatchback-based luxury subcompact crossover. There is a sentiment that Lexus needed a sensibly-priced model to take on the variety from the competition. The Lexus UX 200 has been hoped to be the brand that will fill in the gaps left by the likes of the Lexus NX. As a range opener, the front-wheel drive UX was introduced to the market last year. It has impressed the market with its original design and economical pricing, but not without some compromises.
The Lexus UX is among one of the smallest within the luxury SUV segment. Even though the overall length is longer compared to rivals from BMW and Volvo, the wheelbase is shorter. The muscular styling is arguably directed at the millennial market; although the UX is suited to anyone who seeks a luxurious subcompact with sharp looks and some ride height to boot. The significant spindle grille is undeniably distinctive, and the headlights are not overly complicated.
The design seems to be consistent with the quality requirements of Lexus. There are typical details such as the drive mode setting selectors on the instrument panel along with the F Sport sliding gauge cluster. The 10.25-inch infotainment display is placed on top of a low, flat dashboard. The materials which cover the front doors and the dash are appropriate for the pricing.
It may be relatively compact as an SUV, but the Lexus UX 200 is sizeable for the urban scene. For the interior, the day to day practicality in the form of cabin storage is represented by cupholders in the front centre console with a wide charging mat. There is a sizeable lidded storage box between the seats with two USB ports, an aux-in socket, and a 12 V outlet.
The back has a fold-down centre armrest with twin cupholders but absent are the usual storage pockets on the back of the front seats and bins in the doors. The UX features unique touches and different controls as compared to the other Lexus models.
The headroom in the rear is also good though the legroom is a bit tight. The twin air vents in the back of the front console is an excellent addition to a vehicle of this size. The boot space is 371 litres when the rear seats are upright. There are tie-down anchor points at every corner of the cargo floor, as well as a 12-volt power and strategically-placed bag hooks.
The Lexus UX 200 is available with a full infotainment system that has computability with Amazon Alexa and Apple CarPlay. There is a mobile hotspot as well, with four USB ports. Unique toggles set the climate system, and the air vents have rotary controllers that look and feel better than the ES model. The remote touch works better with the Google and Apple interfaces than it does for its own. The UX groups the controls for volume and tuning along with the menu shortcuts for the media and radio in the wrist rest aft of the remote touch control pad.
The Lexus UX 200 is powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, rated at 126 kW. The powertrain is paired with front-wheel drive and the brand's new direct-shift CVT, which simulates a 10-speed transmission. Lexus estimates that the UX 200 has an acceleration of 0 to 100 km per hour within 8.9 seconds, which is a tad slow. The estimated fuel economy for the vehicle is 14 kilometres to the litre on average.
The UX 200 does pull away with some enthusiasm. The continuously variable transmission features a first gear that eases the level of acceleration before switching to ratio mode to save fuel. Ten preset ratios assist the CVT in behaving like a conventional automatic.
The UX F Sports trim has paddle shifters, which help to make the most of the gearbox, though their usefulness would be felt while in a descent. Underneath the electric power steering, the rear multilink suspension options significantly improve the ride quality. The subcompact crossover is also able to weave confidently regardless of the drive modes. The F Sports version has a slightly stiffer suspension and sway bar settings, but it does ride soft enough not to bother with urban potholes.
The UX 200 has a complement of eight airbags with the usual array of safety features from traction and stability control to low-speed automatic braking. The safety package includes lane departure alert with steering assist, which monitors the lane markings to alert the driver in instances of drifting and even helps to steer the vehicle back on the path.
Another feature is the dynamic radar cruise control, which allows the driver to maintain preset distance by adjusting the speed of the car relative to the vehicle in front. Intelligent high beams switch between high and low beams while driving by using camera sensors to detect other vehicles.
For the protection it offers its passengers, the UX 200 has been given a five-star rating by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
The entry-level UX 200 retails at a competitive $54,050 plus on-road costs. The wheel option adds another $1500, and the run-flat Dunlop 225/50 tires also add to the price tag.
The Lexus UX 200 F Sport is an excellent alternative to the European crossovers in the market. It has aggressive styling, and the ride is very comfortable. The engine may seem lacklustre on paper, but it is more than capable, and the fuel economy is admirable for a naturally aspirated unit. The transmission also creates smooth shifts despite being a CVT. It is an excellent option for urban dwellers, considering its practicality and economical pricing. The only drawback may be the spacing in the rear, but it is a subcompact crossover after all.