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Driven: Lexus UX 250h F Sport. Image by Lexus UK.

Driven: Lexus UX 250h F Sport
A week in the often-overlooked Lexus UX compact crossover, in high-ranking F Sport Takumi format, yields pleasing results.

   



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Lexus UX 250h F Sport Takumi

4 4 4 4 4

Good points: incredibly refined and quiet on the motorway, pleasant steering, sharp styling, quality cabin, much-improved hybrid drivetrain

Not so good: pricey, still has a rubbish infotainment controller, not masses of room in the back, small boot

Key Facts

Model tested: Lexus UX 250h F Sport E-Four Takumi Pack
Price: UX range from 29,950; 250h F Sport Takumi from 42,720, car as tested 43,290
Engine: 2.0-litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder petrol with 80kW front electric motor and 5.3kW rear electric motor, plus nickel metal-hydride battery
Transmission: Electric CVT, E-Four all-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hybrid crossover-SUV
CO2 emissions: 136g/km (VED Band 131-150 Alternative Fuel Vehicles: 205 in year one, then 465 years two-six of ownership, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 47mpg
Top speed: 110mph
0-62mph: 8.7 seconds
Power: petrol 152hp at 6,000rpm, electric motor 109hp, system maximum output 184hp
Torque: petrol 190Nm at 4,400-5,200rpm, electric motor 202Nm, no system maximum torque quoted
Boot space: 283-1,194 litres

Our view:

We always feel the Lexus UX has been unfairly overlooked in the compact premium crossover marketplace. Maybe it has kind of been tarred with the sort of indifferent brush with which people sweep the larger NX and RX models from the same manufacturer under the metaphorical carpet, considering the UX to be a thoughtful, leftfield choice but by no means up there with the class elite. Maybe it was simply bad timing - the UX entered the market in 2019 and, just as it was finding its feet and gaining traction in the UK, the Covid pandemic hit and all car sales went to buggery. Maybe it's a case of consumer exhaustion with Toyota and Lexus' 'self-charging' hybrid approach, or maybe the arrival of the all-electric 300e derivative has completely overshadowed this 250h version.

Whatever it is that's causing the UX to be denied wider critical acclaim, it won't matter to the company - this is already its best-selling model across Europe and also here in the UK, too. And it's one we think deserves further commercial success. For starters, whenever we see a UX out and about on the roads, it stands out among the crowds of safe, smoothed-off rivals - and in a good way. Sure, it's angular and creasy like other Lexus models, which has the propensity to be more divisive to people's tastes than it is all-conquering the whims of the masses. But get an F Sport model like our test car in a nice, bold colour and sitting on its 18s, and we think it looks cracking. There are several nice details, like the full-width light strip at the rear, the frowning front-lamp clusters and those square-edged, plastic-clad wheel arches, so that overall it's an appealing, modern and classy shape. Aside from a Volvo XC40, nothing we can think of in this class looks better than the Lexus.

Moving inside, things arguably get even better. Aside from one glaring blunder on the part of its parent company, the UX enjoys a superb cabin. There's the digital instrument cluster with the sliding dial and the stumpy little drive control levers on the binnacle that are features shared with the majestic LC, while the infotainment screen's graphics are crisply presented and Lexus seems to have toned down that manic era in its history when it thought firing the 'Blunderbuss of Many Fascia Finishes' at the dashboard was a good idea; see the old CT 200h F Sport for details. Everything in the UX 250h operates with a reassuringly hefty thunk or click, which makes it feel prestige through and through, there's nice contrast stitching on all the plush leather uppers, and the steering wheel and seats both deserve major plaudits; the former is lovely to hold, the latter items support you admirably on long journeys.

OK, there's not a mass of room in the back for adults and the boot on an E-Four model like ours is smaller than on any other UX, the 300e zero-emissions model included, due to the housing of the battery and the rear electric motor. But as it comes with almost every toy you could possibly want as a Takumi Pack (including heated and cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel, wireless smartphone charging, a 360-degree camera system, a banging Mark Levinson audio system and more), perhaps somewhat mitigating a robust 43,000-plus asking price, it feels like a great place to be.

Except for that one clunking detail and it is, of course, the infotainment controller. Quite when Lexus is going to have the bottle to admit it got these things wrong about ten years ago and has been getting them wronger and wronger ever since, we're not sure, but it needs to act fast to remedy the situation before it ends up light years behind the human-machine interfaces of rival manufacturers. Yes, you can bypass much of the controller's most infuriating tendencies - such as a wildly flitting on-screen cursor and, by turns, erratically over- and under-sensitive touch responses - by pairing up your phone through Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, both of which the Lexus' infotainment system supports. But then you're at the vagaries of voice recognition and if you have a, er, strong regional dialect (mentioning no names), then you're back to using that bloody stupid flat-pad controller, by 'eck. And it does not work. At least, not in any fashion that'll avoid you sitting there, furiously invoking the name of the engineer who thought it up to be subjected to every rotten curse you can think of. Not that you should be using any in-car infotainment system to a great degree when on the move, but in the Lexus it's an absolute must that you avoid trying to interface with the controller when the UX is in motion. It is the one black mark on an interior that we otherwise heartily approve of.

On happier notes, the UX redeems itself with its driving manners. This crossover has an Atkinson-cycle, normally aspirated four-cylinder engine and an Electric CVT 'box, a combination that hasn't always led to the happiest of endings in tales of Toyota and Lexus hybrids of the past - certainly when it comes to refinement levels and the amount of agonising high-revs noise booming about the cabin. But this is a 2.0-litre unit in the UX 250h and that means, save a few minor detail changes, that it's broadly the same drivetrain found in the more potent model of the current Toyota Corolla Hybrid range. Well, we liked it in that car and we like it in the Lexus crossover too. Great strides have been made in the way the eCVT responds to great bootfuls of throttle to make it feel more natural for power delivery and even when the transmission does let the four-pot combustion engine rev out, the noise is no longer appallingly harsh and tortured. It's maybe still not the most tuneful of engines but the whole process of eliciting pace from the UX 250h is far more enjoyable than it has been in other self-charging hybrids before.

It's even parsimonious. The UX 250h isn't designed to run on electric power for any significant distance, save for at low speeds in towns and when coasting, yet across a 672-mile week in our care, it turned in a thoroughly admirable 44.5mpg overall and a best of 48mpg on a long motorway run. Those numbers are about bang on the claimed economy of the Lexus on the WLTP cycle, so you don't feel short-changed in the slightest. Also, few turbodiesel rivals that would eclipse the UX's frugality would then be able to perform like this petrol-powered crossover, which feels decently quick when you want it to be.

And the ride and handling balance is also super-sweet. We're not about to say the UX is some sort of hyper-sporty SUV in disguise, as its roadholding is moderately enjoyable and reasonably accomplished, if not standout. However, the steering is particularly noteworthy, being beautifully weighted, accurate and precise, while we almost need not tell you that the UX's GA-C underpinnings form the back half of the sensational GR Yaris' chassis. Admittedly, there are alternatives that will perhaps provide a more engaging drive at the limit than the UX 250h, but we'd wager that they'd ask compromises of you in other departments that would put them at a disadvantage to the Lexus.

Because, on the motorway or when cruising along, this Japanese crossover is unparalleled for the general sense of wellbeing it provides for its occupants. There's next-to-no wind noise or tyre roar permeating the cabin, while the ride is supple and forgiving. Not only that, but the UX 250h feels steadfast and stolid at 70mph, refusing to be deflected from its path even in high crosswinds and on badly rutted carriageways gouged out by the relentless passage of HGV traffic. Everything it does at a steady-state cruising pace is designed to make it feel expensive and assured, and that's where it is at its most deeply likeable.

So whatever the reasons are for some folk in the critical world overlooking the Lexus UX 250h, they ought to give it more due consideration going forward. It's not cheap in this trim and that infotainment controller can just about get in the sea these days, but aside from that it provides a polished all-round performance that's not just the equal of several supposedly more prestigious rivals in this segment, it's actually superior to many of them too. If you only need to go shorter distances on a regular basis, obviously go for the UX 300e; if you frequently go further on journeys, this 250h is an excellent substitute for the full electric model and it's also clearly Lexus' best crossover-SUV model line so far.

Alternatives:

Audi Q3 Sportback: a slightly more eye-catching shape as a Sportback, the Audi has a finer human machine interface than the Lexus and more engine choice, but it doesn't really drive any better than the Japanese car.

Jaguar E-Pace: Jaguar's in the process of refreshing its E-Pace model and bringing in a plug-in hybrid variant, but below that level it has an array of so-so petrol and diesel engines, plus an interior that's not as smart as the UX's.

Volvo XC40: our favourite machine in this particular segment, although it's at its least impressive in its range-topping T5 plug-in hybrid variant. Nevertheless, staid handling aside, the Volvo is very, very easy to love.


Matt Robinson - 2 Oct 2020



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2020 Lexus UX 250h F-Sport UK test. Image by Lexus UK.2020 Lexus UX 250h F-Sport UK test. Image by Lexus UK.2020 Lexus UX 250h F-Sport UK test. Image by Lexus UK.2020 Lexus UX 250h F-Sport UK test. Image by Lexus UK.2020 Lexus UX 250h F-Sport UK test. Image by Lexus UK.

2020 Lexus UX 250h F-Sport UK test. Image by Lexus UK.2020 Lexus UX 250h F-Sport UK test. Image by Lexus UK.2020 Lexus UX 250h F-Sport UK test. Image by Lexus UK.2020 Lexus UX 250h F-Sport UK test. Image by Lexus UK.2020 Lexus UX 250h F-Sport UK test. Image by Lexus UK.








 

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