Lexus UX SUV (2019 - ) review
The Lexus UX is a small SUV with a premium badge, meaning it competes with desirable rivals like the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA.
The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.0
Dynamically speaking, the UX is the most competitive car Lexus makes, blending a comfortable ride with neat, controlled handling. It’s also very smart inside and – thanks largely to its efficient hybrid system and strong resale values – it promises to be a very shrewd financial investment compared with rivals. However, if you’re looking for family-friendly practicality, you’ll need to look elsewhere, due to the UX’s cramped rear seats and tiny boot. Ergonomics and visibility aren’t exactly strong points, either.
- Very sound financial package
- Generous luxury and safety kit
- Should be faultlessly reliable
- Not practical enough
- Noisy petrol engine
- Infotainment system and buttons are awkward to use
Interested in buying a Lexus UX?
How good does it look?
Style is a big part of why SUVs are so popular, making this a very important area. However, the unconventional styling of the UX is likely to be a little divisive. The front and rear ends of the car have the sharp details and coherent lines you expect, but down the sides of the car, the design is very busy and unusual. There are lots of conflicting lines shooting off in all kinds of different directions; the front and rear door handles sit at significantly different heights; while the wheelarches are a strange non-symmetrical shape. For some, this will provide a welcome sense of individuality, while for others, they might not be as keen.
The entry-level UX comes with alloy wheels, chrome roof rails and all-round LED lighting, while range-topping Takumi cars have bigger wheels, rear privacy glass and a sunroof. In the middle sits the F Sport, which gets a racy makeover thanks to more aggressive-looking bumpers and beefier side sills.
What's the interior like?
Anyone already familiar with Lexus products will instantly feel right at home in the UX. Despite being one of the firm’s cheapest models, the quality of the materials and the standard of assembly are just as high as they are in any of the company’s bigger, more expensive cars, making the UX feel every inch the quality product. It might not be in quite the same way as the cars which it competes – cars such as the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA – but it’s still a very classy environment.
Unfortunately, this close relationship with other Lexuses also means it has many of the same ergonomic issues. You’re surrounded by a vast array of small, fiddly buttons that are hard to read or hit at a glance, and the trackpad controller you use to navigate through the (rather illogical) infotainment menus is distracting to use on the move. Quite thick windscreen pillars and very thick rear pillars – combined with a small rear window – mean your all-round visibility is all less than ideal. That said, the seats are very supportive and have all the adjustment you could ask for, allowing drivers of all shapes and sizes to get comfy.
How practical is it?
The main reason SUVs are so popular is that they provide enough practicality for a family, but in a stylish package, making this another area of crucial importance. Unfortunately, it’s also an area in which the UX trails its rivals, and by quite some distance. Space is fine up front, and while there’s enough headroom and legroom in the back for tall adults to fit, you don’t get anywhere near as much space in which to spread out as you get in rivals, making the rear of the car feel much more cramped and claustrophobic. That’s not helped by small and high-set rear side windows, which might also make smaller children grumble that they can’t see out.
The boot, meanwhile, is much smaller than those of rivals, and the usable space is more akin to what you get in a supermini. You’ll be able to fit in a few bags of shopping, but not a lot else, and those who regularly carry pushchairs or similarly large items will really struggle.
What's it like to drive?
Pick the cars at either end of the range, the standard UX or the range-topping Takumi version, and you get the same basic suspension setup. It’s pretty impressive, giving you enough compliance to keep life comfortable and calm, and enough control to stop the body lolloping about too much in corners. It’s not a car that likes to be thrown around, because of the pronounced weight transfer you feel when changing direction, but it does feel secure, with plenty of grip, and the steering is pleasingly responsive and nicely weighted. For a bit of extra on-road traction, you can also add optional four-wheel drive, which is achieved by adding in another electric motor to power the rear wheels. But to be honest, you probably won’t notice the difference, even in extreme driving situations.
The F Sport version comes as standard with a revised sports suspension that uses various upgraded parts, but we haven’t had the chance to try it yet. However, you can upgrade your F Sport with an optional adaptive suspension system that lets you firm things up or soften things off according to how sporty you’re feeling. Whichever mode you pick, though, it doesn’t feel as smooth or as comfortable as the standard suspension, and when you firm things up, it doesn’t result in a massive improvement in the handling. For that reason, we’d advise sticking with the standard suspension.
How powerful is it?
All UXs are powered by the same hardware, which is a hybrid system, combining a 2.0-litre petrol engine with an electric motor to deliver 184 horsepower.
Performance is reasonably sprightly and entirely adequate for everyday use, but like with most hybrids, pressing the accelerator with any meaningful force sends the engine revs soaring, meaning the engine become noisy and coarse for way too much of the time. It’s a shame, because otherwise, exterior noises are really well isolated from the cabin of the UX.
A shade more road noise finds its way into the F Sport’s cabin than in the other versions, but it’s nothing that’ll bother you too much.
How much will it cost me?
The UX is one of Lexus’ most affordable cars, and importantly, it undercuts most of its premium-badged rivals by a wee bit, but don’t go thinking this is a cheap car, because it’s really not. Interestingly, though, it does have super-strong resale values that’ll massively help reduce long-term ownership costs for those that buy outright, and keep monthly payments down for those that get their car on finance.
However, it’s company car drivers who stand to make the biggest financial gains by choosing the UX. Compared with diesel-powered rivals, it has lower CO2 and – because it’s a hybrid – it also avoids the diesel surcharge, meaning monthly benefit-in-kind tax bills are much, much lower.
How reliable is it?
Meaningful reliability data on the UX is virtually impossible to come by, and the same goes for the Toyota C-HR to which it’s closely related.
The Toyota Prius – which also shares the same hardware – has traditionally scored very well in Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index, but that’ll refer to previous generations of the car that use different bits and bobs to the latest one, so you can only read so much into that.
You’ll just have to take solace in the fact that Lexus – and Toyota, for that matter – sits on or near the top of just about every reliability survey out there. And if something does go wrong, it’ll most likely be sorted relatively quickly and easily, because Lexus is renowned for its first-class customer service. You’re also protected by a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, while the hybrid parts are covered for five years/60,000 miles.
How safe is it?
Lexus is usually pretty generous when it comes to standard safety kit, and despite it being one of the firm’s cheaper models, the UX is no different. The car comes with eight airbags to help keep you safe if you have an accident, along with a system that’ll automatically notify the emergency services, but even more impressive is the vast array of clever systems designed to help you avoid having the accident in the first place.
Along with all the usual traction and stability aids, the standard roster includes automatic emergency braking (which slams on the brakes if the driver doesn’t react to warnings about an impending collision with another car, a pedestrian or various other detectable obstacles), active cruise control (which automatically adjusts your speed to keep you a safe distance from the car in front, and can automatically move the car along at lower speeds in stop-go traffic), lane keep assist (which steers you back into your lane if you start to wander out without indicating) and road sign assist (which reads nearby speed limit signs and, when the cruise control is activated, adjusts your speed automatically).
On top of all that, the range-topping Takumi model gets a blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert (which warns of cars approaching from the side as you reverse out of a parking space), which you can also add to the other two versions as an optional extra. The UX hasn’t yet been crashed by the experts at Euro NCAP, but you can take heart from the fact that every Lexus that’s ever been tested has been awarded the full five stars, as have the Toyota C-HR and Prius with which the UX shares many of its parts.
How much equipment do I get?
Lexus cars have always come with loads of standard kit, and that's the case with the UX. Even the entry-level UX comes with sat-nav, Bluetooth, numerous USB ports, dual-zone climate control, powered windows, rain-sensing wipers, a reversing camera and automatic high-beam headlights. The only thing missing buyers might want in a car like this is leather upholstery. You can add it as an option, but only as part of a pack that costs several thousand pounds.
The F Sport has leather seats, along with gearshift paddles, a heated steering wheel and heated front seats with electric adjustment, along with a whole bunch of cosmetic upgrades. The Takumi, meanwhile, comes loaded with anything and everything Lexus has the power to throw at it, including a head-up display, an upgraded Mark Levinson sound system, keyless entry, 360-degree parking cameras, wireless phone charging, a powered tailgate and a sunroof.
The Lexus UX will suit those looking for the style and desirability of a premium-badged SUV, but who also want something a little bit different to the obvious choices everybody else buys. Hybrid power also gives the UX a unique selling point in this class, and it’ll help make the UX a very compelling financial proposition, particularly if you’re a company car driver.