What the UX?

The hard­ware’s new but it’s put to fa­mil­iar use in an­other slightly odd Lexus SUV. By Keith Jones

CAR (UK) - - First Drives -

FEW CARS HAVE such a zeit­geisty moniker as the Lexus UX, the Ja­panese lux­ury mar­que’s most com­pact of SUVs. Think not of ‘user ex­pe­ri­ence’ but of ‘ur­ban cross­over’. It’s one size smaller than the RX, and is clearly an­gling for a piece of the BMW X1/ Volvo XC40 ac­tion, although it’s so lack­ing in height and the usual cross­over rugged­ness that if Lexus wanted to talk about it as a hatch­back few would quib­ble. Like the Mer­cedes GLA and In­finiti QX30, it’s right on the bor­der.

The crisply creased steel and alu­minium body­work is strik­ing rather than pretty; its shapes are de­signed to con­di­tion the air­flow for ef­fi­ciency gains. Un­der the skin there’s no diesel-en­gined op­tion. In fact, the UK doesn’t even get the petrolonly UX200 – in­stead we re­ceive the UX250h, where a new 2.0-litre long-stroke in­line-four is mated to Lexus’s fourth-gen self-charg­ing (non­plug-in) hy­brid sys­tem. It’s good for a com­bined sys­tem out­put of 174bhp and a 0-62mph time of 8.5 sec­onds, but it never feels es­pe­cially quick.

The han­dling is well-sorted, if un­en­gag­ing in a fa­mil­iar Lexus-like way. There’s de­cent weight to the steer­ing, although more feed­back to your palms would be wel­come. Body con­trol is well-main­tained, thanks largely to the low cen­tre of grav­ity.

As is of­ten the case with a Lexus, the UX feels more re­ward­ing – and re­laxed – the gen­tler you are with it. Con­sider spec­c­ing the com­fort-am­pli­fy­ing Adap­tive Vari­able Sus­pen­sion that’s avail­able on the Lux­ury ver­sion for a pol­ished ride.

In­side it’s fa­mil­iar Lexus fare, with first-rate ma­te­ri­als stacked in many lay­ers, sul­lied by the clumsy op­er­a­tion of the mul­ti­me­dia touch­pad.

Although the front seats are snugly plush, the rear bench is short on room for adults, and in­stalling child seats will be tight given the slen­der door open­ings; the boot’s tight, too.

There’s an ap­peal­ing, if com­pro­mised, cross­over here, but whether premium cus­tomers will over­look its hatch-alike stance re­mains to be seen.

Shapely body­work el­e­vates the UX above the cur­rent CT hatch­back

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