So comfy.” I heard that comment about, oh, five different times during my week with the new Lexus UX250h hybrid crossover. A passenger would climb aboard, settle into the padded NuLuxe seats and gaze around the tastefully modern cabin, and within five seconds I’d hear the comment. The effect was enhanced by the handsome “Glazed Caramel” coloring of my test car’s interior—including a new trim finish called “washi” inspired by the grain of Japanese paper. It’s a remarkably elegant and inviting space for such a small exterior package.
The subcompact UX may be Lexus’s smallest SUV—and it’s really more of a slightly lifted hatchback than anything—but my six-foot self felt completely comfortable behind the wheel, and no one riding in back had any complaints, either. (Cargo room is limited, though, at just 17 cubic feet with the rear seats up, much of the space eaten up by the battery pack in this hybrid version.) Visibility is excellent all around, while the sense of airiness is enhanced by a power tilt-and-slide sunroof standard on Luxury models like mine. Other standard fitments on the upgrade Luxury include a 10.3-inch color multimedia display, heated and ventilated front seats, a blind-spot monitoring system, dynamic navigation, an eight-speaker premium audio system, and 18-inch wheels.
The only significant options on my $42,525 test car: triple-beam LED headlamps with washers ($1,660) and parking assist with rear cross-traffic alert ($565). That latter system, by the way, works splendidly. While I was backing out of a parking space, the alerts sounded just before an oblivious kid in a Kia came zooming past me as if he were accelerating on the road instead of negotiating a packed parking garage. If I hadn’t reacted, the system would’ve even hit the brakes for me. Thumbs up.
The UX (generous shorthand for “urban crossover”) is the first Lexus built on the company’s new Global Architecture Compact (GA-C) architecture. Judging by my seat time, the platform is a standout. Ride quality is plush and composed despite the smallish 103.9-inch wheelbase, and the structure is vault-solid, helping to isolate the cabin from most wind and road noise. The UX may sit near the Lexus lineup’s entry doors, but it feels expensive. There’s a lot of polish on display here.
A new-gen hybrid powertrain built around a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas engine drives all four wheels with 181 total system horsepower. A CVT with manual shifting mode is the one and only transmission available. This isn’t a sporty powertrain, nor is it meant to be. Instead, the UX is optimized for nimble, stress-free city motoring, and on that score it acquits itself well. Frankly, the UX feels more like a car than a crossover. You sit relatively low, maybe an inch or so higher than a sedan’s seat would be. Turning diameter is said to be a best-in-class 34 feet. The steering is smooth and quick, sportier than, say, a Mercedes GLA’s. And as noted, the ride is excellent—again, it’s a major contributor to the UX’s deluxe character. The acceleration won’t thrill you, as there’s not much that 181 horses can do with 3,600 pounds’ worth of vehicle and batteries, but during normal driving the UX operates with the calm poise of a good butler. It’s an efficient one, too: The UX250h is rated at 41 mpg in the city and 38 on the highway.
Mostly I loved the interior design. The steering wheel is a beefy, leather-wrapped unit that feels good to the touch. The instrument displays and hard controls are top-notch (there’s even a conventional shift lever in the center console). The contrasting colors and rich materials say, “You’re riding in first-class.” My only quibble was with the touchpad controller from other Lexus products. It’s simply too “touchy,” requiring too much eyeball time to click where you want to go and tricky to use easily while on the move. On a better note, thumbwheel audio controls built into the edge of a pad under the front of the center-console storage cover are a cinch to use. Overall, the UX cockpit is an attractive, enjoyable place to conduct the business of driving.
As do all new Lexus products, the UX sports the company’s signature spindle grille up front. The rest of the bodywork is a blend of chiseled lines and curves that most of my passengers rated as “nice-looking” or “fresh,” though a few dubbed it “busy.” My test example wore a new paint color, Nori Green Pearl, created especially for the UX. Made with enlarged mica particles, the finish is designed to deliver particularly strong visual contrasts between areas that are directly lit and those in the shade. Photos don’t capture the radiant hue well.
The UX is simply too small to carry the cargo easily swallowed by rival machines like the Audi Q3 and the BMW X1—and even Lexus’s own NX. That said, the UX250h Luxury is better equipped than the Germans, beautifully outfitted, extremely pleasant to drive, and trumps them all with its outstanding fuel efficiency. If size isn’t a priority but a premium driving experience is a must, you’ll likely find the new UX right on target.
2019 Lexus UX 250h Specifications
|ENGINE||2.0L DOHC 16-valve I-4, 1 permanent-magnet synchronous AC motor, 1 induction AC motor; total system output, 181 hp|
|TRANSMISSION||Continuously variable automatic|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD hatchback|
|EPA MILEAGE||41/38 mpg (city/highway)|
|L x W x H||177.0 x 72.4 x 59.8 in|
|WEIGHT||3,600 lb (est)|
|0–60 MPH||8.6 sec (mfr)|
|TOP SPEED||110 mph (mfr)|