Utilities clearly rule the road these days, and they come in just about every size, from very big to very small. And at the most diminutive end is where we find the smallest Lexus yet, the new subcompact UX. So, is this the “little Lexus that can?” Or is it just too tiny to deliver the large luxury Lexus buyers demand.
Make room, although it doesn’t need a lot of it, for one more fancy crossover, the 2019 Lexus UX. And, like most modern utilities, the important numbers are not horsepower, ground clearance, or tire size; but rather the number of luxury features, how many USB ports there are, and of course MPGs.
That relates to more numbers as a 2.0-liter I4 sits under the hood. No turbo, though, so naturally aspirating, it cranks a modest 169–horsepower and 151 lb-ft. of torque.
So, it won’t set your world on fire, but it does work with a CVT tran to keep oil burning in check; 29-City, 37-Highway, and 33-Combined are the generous Government Fuel Economy Ratings.
The UX is based on the Toyota C-HR, but where that one is front-wheel-drive only, here in the UX, all-wheel-drive is available; but only if you opt for the hybrid model, where an electric motor drives the rear differential.
Combine that with a pair of additional motor-generators added up front and not only do you get all-wheel-drive, but much better ratings of 41-City, 38-Highway 39-Combined, and additional power as well, with a combined output of 181-horsepower. Though we averaged just 36.5 miles-per-gallon on Regular with our 250h F-Sport hybrid test car.
It has a great Energy Impact Score too with 8.5-barrels of annual petroleum consumption, with 3.7-tons of CO2 emissions.
Now, regardless of hybrid or gas only, this CVT responds better than in similar Toyota powertrains; and you can even manually work your way through ten simulated gears.
Despite the small scale, it’s easily recognizable as a Lexus, with the signature spindle grille. But, the standard LED headlights and full width tail light should easily help it appeal to a new audience of young urbanites.
Our F Sport adds just a hint of Euro-style with 18-inch wheels, unique front and rear bumpers, F Sport grille insert, and LED fog lamps.
But, it’s more than just looks here, as there is unique suspension tuning as well. Things are indeed firmer, more sport than soft; but otherwise nicely refined.
We found the F Sport’s front interior a bit stark. But, considering its sporty theme, it works. Top-level Luxury trim looks less entry level and clearly more Lexus.
F Sport trim does add unique seats and steering wheel; as well as aluminum accents, 8-inch multi-information display, and Active Sound Control.
Of much more importance, is its tech tally, and there’s plenty of useful stuff like a standard 7-inch or optional 10-inch multimedia display with navigation; as well as full integration with just about any assistant, be it from Apple, Google, or Alexa.
Some un-useful stuff is here too, like Lexus’ Remote Touch Interface; we’re still not fans.
We didn’t expect abundant rear legroom and we’re right. Same goes for cargo room. In the Hybrid with all 5 seat belts in use there’s just 17.1 cubic-ft. of space. With no batteries to store, the non-hybrid has a bit more, at 21.7 cubic-ft.
F Sport performance is more for stop light dashing than pink slips although 8.3-seconds to 60 is typical for an urban commuter.
Even working overtime, it’s pretty quiet in here, except for the simulated engine noise; which actually includes shifting, even though the CVT is holding the tach steady throughout the 16.4-second ¼-mile at 85 miles-per-hour.
Being that the UX was designed for both narrow European country roads and clogged American city streets, agility clearly got a lot of attention. Through the cones, we found surprisingly little body roll, with steering that’s more responsive than many in the segment.
Front drive UX pricing starts at $33,025; its only 2-grand more for the all-wheel-drive hybrid, with our hybrid F-Sport tester another $2000 more.
So, while this Urban Crossover is not intended to leave the asphalt, the 2019 Lexus UX more than delivers in all the ways that are important to its buyers; it’s easy and confident to drive, easy to maneuver and park, and in the end, easy to love.
0-60 mph: 8.3 seconds
1/4 mile: 16.4 seconds @ 85 mph
EPA: 41 mpg city / 38 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 8.5 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 3.7 tons/yr