It's a Guy Thing

Lexus Capitalizes

Lexus UX 250h SE

Enter the Lexus brand here.

People are no longer clambering for sedans so while the Lexus IS 300 EX was the brand’s erstwhile capture point, that critical acquisition junction is now on the shoulders of the UX.  

Who’s it up against?

Not a small number of foes by any means. This is the segment that’s been heavily mined by crossovers like the Volvo XC40, BMW X2, Audi Q2, Mercedes GLA, then outliers like the Peugeot 3008 and Jaguar E-Pace. Some of them come in deceptively cheaper than the UX but those with enough configurator experience will know the tables can soon be turned. If you want a small hybrid crossover that’s not a Toyota C-HR, the UX is the only one to offer this dual powertrain in its segment, beating down carbon emissions but banging on government’s deaf ears.

So it’s economical instead of fast?

Lexus is in danger of having the most revised 2.0-liter engine in the last five years. They’ve offered turbo and then lopped them off for another specification and offer hybrid and non-hybrid versions. The IS 300h we drove just last month had a 2.0-liter engine and guess what, it’s not the same as this one. A new Lexus also arrives with the fanciful optimism of a revised CVT gearbox, but inevitably fails to impress. It does feel slightly quieter in a plusher Lexus than it does in a Toyota but continues to communicate every flex of the throttle pedal to each and every one of your passengers, so you reluctantly change your driving style while numbing the inputs in, and receiving the same numbness in return. The EV range won’t see you pass through two sets of traffic lights before the combustion engine erupts into some garbled malaise and we’ve reached a stage now where buyers are now comfortable with plug-in hybrids that can be charged overnight.

Styling is not for the shy

You won’t buy a Lexus based purely on the drive but you may be lured by the way it looks. To that we say, no cheap 16-inch wheels, no additional black moldings. A base UX is the complete image, although it can be said that their most appealing designs are still reserved for the IS, RC and LS. This is a small car, made to feel even smaller by the slits of glass. It’s simply not as cleverly packaged as the X2 or Volvo XC40 which belie their physical footprint. You’ll come across a few things in the UX that aren’t present in other Lexus models and what appears to be the first promising steps to disassociate itself from the clumsy touchpad interface that has afflicted all models.

The Lexus UX should have been the company’s clean sheet design. You can sense, with the revised controller, mostly digital display as well as new engine, that it set off with those intentions. But this is a severely compromised package in size, performance and local hybrid incentives – in that order – that the Lexus UX seems unable to progress from niche to mainstream. John Page