Gareth Butterfield reviews Lexus’s new entry into the small SUV market, the UX
IF you’re in the market for a small SUV – and, let’s face it, the world and his wife seems to be at the moment, then you’ve got a tough choice. Pretty much every manufacturer is getting in on the act.
Lexus is the latest car-maker to join the fray and its entry is a bold one – the new UX. It stands for Urban Crossover and it’s bold for two reasons.
Firstly, it’s bold because it looks a bit mad. I like it. I think it stands out in a sector where design is often overlooked in favour of ticking family boxes. It’s array of sharp lines won’t please everyone, but that’s the great thing about a flooded sector – there’s a car for you somewhere along the line.
Another bold move with Lexus’s newcomer is the engine line-up. It’s only available as a petrol-hybrid. So, sorry diesel devotees, you’re not welcome in Lexus Land.
Not that that should be a problem to many though. Diesel sales are slumping at an alarming rate and Lexus is getting rather good at honing the hybrid systems it shares with its mates at Toyota. This one, in fact, is probably the best one I’ve tried from those two stables.
The UX is unashamedly marketed as a premium product. Prices start a shade under £30,000 and you’ll notice you’re in a premium car the minute you step in.
Although this car effectively sits at the start of the Lexus line-up, there’s been absolutely no skimping on the fit and finish. The UX is every bit as good as you would expect a Lexus to be. Build quality is top-notch, it’s extremely comfortable and the infotainment system is still annoyingly fiddly. So not everything is spot on, but it’s pretty damn close.
There’s plenty of buttons to play with and hunt down in the interior, but everything works well and falls easily to hand. Space is decent for a small SUV and there’s room for three adults, as long as they’re not too tall, in the back.
Lexus has put a lot of work into the way the UX drives. Successful compact SUVs and crossovers often handle better than you’d expect and this one is no different. Sure, it’s no Golf GTI, but it’s sure-footed and feels reasonably fun without the expense of firm suspension.
Any fun you might want to have in a hybrid is usually quickly tempered by the wailing song created by a CVT gearbox, which is what’s served up in the UX. But it’s one of the better systems I’ve used, thanks largely to its 2.0-litre petrol engine combining with the electric motor for a meaty 176bhp overall.
So it all stacks up well for the UX. Fuel economy and the tax benefits that will bring will lure plenty of buyers, while its looks will either divide or conquer. Its comfort, build quality, refinement and spec are the icing on the cake.
So if a small SUV is on your shopping list, the choice has just got a little bit harder.