Striking styling and a comfortable ride are strong points, but the 2019 Lexus UX is undone by its awful infotainment system. Still, it’s worth a look for those looking for a premium badge at an affordable price, with stronger reliability than the standard set of European contenders.
The Lexus UX 200 treads on familiar territory with its big, angular grille (surprisingly effective on such a small overall package) and its hatchback-on-stilts persona. In any other era this would be yet another compact five-door, but in our SUV-obsessed times the UX (like rivals BMW X1 and Audi Q3) makes a bid for crossover country with its taller ride height and plastic fender over-riders.
It’s not unattractive, but I couldn’t help but think if I were to buy one, the first order of business would be a set of lowering springs. This is particularly true of the F Sport model, which offers LED fog lights and cornering lights, a unique grille, and special 18-inch wheels.
The Lexus UX 200 is more urban runabout that do-everything hauler, which is evident as soon as you pop the hatch and realize that its small cargo opening is going to be a limiting factor. There’s 614 litres of space back there between the hatch and the rear seatbacks, which is fairly average for its class, but the shape of the trunk doesn’t lend itself well to handing larger items. Fold down the split seats and you’ll gain some length, but again, the UX’s angular styling has intruded into the cabin to pinch your packages.
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The Lexus UX 200 provides respectable gear for its price point, including dual automatic climate control, a heated steering wheel (with heated F Sport-badged seats to match), a push-button starter, and fairly convincing imitation leather throughout the cabin. It’s a slick-looking setup and a little warmer than what you might find in a similarly spec’d BMW, although the grey-and-black colour scheme could have used a bit more detail. It’s worth mentioning, however, that there’s little to be found in the Lexus feature set that isn’t duplicated outside the premium segment.
My Lexus UX 200 F Sport came with a comprehensive list of safety equipment. It included blind spot monitoring, as well as the contents of the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 package (adaptive cruise control, automatic forward braking, and something called lane-tracing assist, which is a more subtle system for keeping the crossover in its lane).
User Friendliness: 4/10
The single worst aspect of the Lexus UX is its infotainment system. Despite its luxury positioning, Lexus Enform offers the most frustrating interface on the entire market. The mousepad sitting on the centre console is exceedingly difficult to use while driving, onscreen menus feature low-rent graphics and unclear logic, and hiding the volume knob on the leading edge of the console lid means I didn’t even notice it was there until the third day I drove the vehicle. It’s a shockingly bad effort that’s repeated throughout the entire Lexus lineup.
There are a few other weird quirks about the UX’s switchgear, such as the decision to place the drive mode selector on a twist-dial at the top of the gauge cluster (matched by a stability control knob on the opposite side). Twist up for Sport mode, twist down for Eco, and I guess press “in” for Normal. I say “guess”, because when you’re in Normal driving mode, there’s no indication on the cluster whatsoever, and the ECO light in the right-hand corner periodically illuminates anyway. Confusing, at best.
The Lexus UX 200 F Sport features the same engine as the base model: a 2.0-litre, 169 horsepower four-cylinder that shares its lineage with the engine under the hood of the Toyota Corolla. The unit’s 151 lb-ft of torque are managed by a continuously variable automatic gearbox. If you want all-wheel drive, you won’t find it unless you pay more for the Hybrid version of the UX, which delivers less power but adds an extra set of drive wheels.
Driving Feel: 7/10
“Average” is the perfect word to describe the Lexus UX’s personality from behind the wheel. With modest power and a comfort-oriented chassis setup, the crossover can merge and weave through highway and urban traffic with little concern. Ask it to perform more complex manoeuvres, and you’ll soon reach its limits – particularly those of its transmission, which buzzes and hangs on to revs as noisily as possible when set to Sport mode, which I soon learned to avoid. Lexus has attempted to disguise the coarser nature of its Corolla engine by way of a fake engine noise generator, but you can turn that off via a button to the left of the steering wheel to get the full unvarnished experience.
For those riding up front, the Lexus UX 200 delivers a well-damped ride and a good amount of room to stretch out. The second row is considerably tighter, but as long as your passengers are under six foot, there shouldn’t be any complaints on shorter drives. Again, there’s not much here to set the UX apart from non-luxury crossovers, which highlights the fact that the vehicle shares its platform with the less-expensive Toyota C-HR.
Fuel Economy: 8/10
The Lexus UX 200 is rated at 8.0 L/100 km in city driving and 6.3 L/100 km on the highway. These numbers reflect what you’d find in similarly small hatchbacks, which is absolutely no surprise since that’s exactly what the UX is. If you want maximum fuel sipping you’ll have to pony up for the hybrid, but even the base UX is pleasantly frugal when driven responsibly.
It’s rare for an entry-level luxury vehicle to deliver when it comes to value. After all, a big part of the pricing plan for these models is adding a surcharge for the pleasure you get when your neighbour spies the badge in your driveway. Still, on this front the Lexus UX 200 manages to dial things down below what you’d pay for a Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class or a BMW X1, with a starting MSRP of $37,100. That’s a savings of several thousand dollars, and a gap that widens when you start to play in netherworld of German options packages.
The 2019 Lexus UX 200 F Sport presents status-seekers with a relative bargain entry point into the brand. If not for the truly terrible infotainment system, I’d be much more likely to recommend the crossover for those seeking a fuel efficient commuter with a touch of class.
|Engine Displacement||2.0L||Model Tested||2019 Lexus UX 200 F Sport|
|Engine Cylinders||I4||Base Price||$37,100|
|Peak Horsepower||169 hp @ 6,600 rpm||A/C Tax||$100|
|Peak Torque||151 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm||Destination Fee||$2,075|
|Fuel Economy||8.0/6.3/7.2 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb||Price as Tested||$41,575|
|Cargo Space||614 L|
$2,300 – F Sport Series 1 $2,300