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Driven: 2024 Lexus LBX. Image by Lexus.

Driven: 2024 Lexus LBX
Will the baby of the Lexus range be a hit or a miss for the Japanese luxury brand?

   



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2024 Lexus LBX

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Lexus has already dipped its toe into the more compact vehicle segments with the long since forgotten CT hatchback and the current UX, but now the company has gone even smaller with the new LBX. Designed to appeal to younger buyers and urban dwellers, it mixes Lexus' hybrid know-how with 'casual luxury' in a compact package, but the question remains: is it any good?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2024 Lexus LBX Premium Plus 1.5 Hybrid 136 FWD
Price: LBX from £29,995, Premium Plus from £34,505
Motors: 1.5-litre, three-cylinder petrol with 69kW electric motor
Battery: 1kWh nickel metal hydride
Transmission: e-CVT automatic, front-wheel drive
Power: 136hp
Torque: 120Nm
Emissions: 106g/km
Economy: 61.4mpg
0-62mph: 9.2 seconds
Top speed: 106mph
Boot space: 402-994 litres

Styling

Lexus has tried hard to put its design language into the LBX, which is a relatively small canvas on which to play, but the overall effect is pretty smart. The nose looks a bit stubby, but the silhouette is smart enough and you can tell this is a premium product without looking at the badges on the front and back. It's nice and compact, which should play well with the target market, yet it still feels like a properly upmarket car. A smart and well-chosen colour palette only adds to the effect.

Interior

Lexus has a reputation for building cars properly, but that feat is more difficult with small cars, where profit margins are much tighter. Nevertheless, Lexus has carried the baton forward admirably with the LBX, which feels as solid as any other Lexus product despite its diminutive dimensions.

Yes, some of the materials ó mainly those below knee level ó feel more mainstream than premium, but theyíre not quite low-rent. And theyíre all well stitched together, which is the more important consideration.

And the style is fitting of a Lexus, with the smart, Japanese design dominated by the large central touchscreen, which uses Lexusí latest infotainment tech. Admittedly, it isnít the best system on the market, occasionally tripping itself up and hiding some buttons in odd places, but itís a vast improvement on some of the clunky systems we saw in Lexuses just a few years ago.

Practicality

Because the LBX is small, itís very manoeuvrable, but it isnít especially spacious inside. Not that youíll notice from the front, where seat adjustment is ample and headroom is very good. Elbow room isnít exactly generous, but you donít feel as though youíre smacking your passenger every time you move, so itís more spacious than most compact hatchbacks.

Further back, however, things start to unravel. Sit behind a tall driver and adults will find the rear legroom cramped to the point of impracticality, but kids might cope with it. Headroom is tight but not desperately so, so while four average-sized adults might just about fit in the LBX, four six-footers will find it way too tight Ė especially on a journey of any great length.

Boot space is a little more competitive, but only a little. At 402 litres in front-drive variants (assuming they donít have the Mark Levinson sound system), the space is reasonable and should be adequate for most, but the all-wheel-drive cars offer quite a bit less space than the front-drive equivalents, at 317 litres. Still, thatís more than you get in a Toyota Yaris, so itís hardly disastrously small.

Performance

Under the skin, the LBX shares much with parent company Toyota's Yaris Cross, including the 1.5-litre 'full' hybrid system, which combines a 1.5-litre petrol engine with an electric motor. Like the Yaris Cross, it's available in front- and all-wheel-drive forms, but unlike the Yaris Cross, the LBX gets a 136hp power output, which keeps the 0-62mph time below the 10-second mark.

Admittedly, the engine can get a bit raucous if you push it hard, but the noise isn't too dramatic and the electric motor takes the strain more often than you might think, with its near-soundless operation. And most of the time, you don't even notice when the engine starts up, such is the soundproofing of the cabin.

The real advantage of all that, though, is the fuel economy. The LBX returns more than 60mpg in front-wheel-drive form, and even the all-wheel-drive cars manage to top 55mpg on the official economy test. Admittedly, the hybrid systems mean they won't be quite as efficient on a longer motorway slog, but they should still manage 50mpg or more on average, no matter where you take them.

Ride & Handling

We didn't expect all that much from the LBX in terms of handling, but the littlest Lexus surprised with its poise. It isn't as agile as some, but it still handles sweetly, with rapid yet smooth responses to the steering and decent body control. It rolls a little bit in corners, of course, but it's not too much, and there's plenty of grip on offer. It isn't especially exciting per se, but it's more than happy to whip along a good country road.

Despite that, it's surprisingly comfortable. Small cars don't always ride brilliantly, and a few bumps make their way into the LBX's cabin, but the edges are neatly smoothed over to create a feeling of suppleness and serenity. It's quite refined, too, without too much wind or road noise penetrating the cabin, and that gives it the air of luxury you expect from a Lexus, despite its lack of bulk.

Value

LBX prices start at a smidgen under £30,000, which isn't bad going for a compact SUV with a premium touch. Given the closely related Yaris Cross is less than £5,000 cheaper in basic form, and the LBX comes with plenty of goodies, it looks like remarkable value for money. Admittedly, the lowly Urban and Premium models don't get the digital instrument display found in the Premium Plus (from £34,505) version we tested, but they still get two-zone climate control, a reversing camera and parking sensors at the front and rear. Alloy wheels are standard, too, along with wireless smartphone integration tech.

The Premium Plus is probably the sweet spot in the range, though, with the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, heated seats and Tahara man-made leather upholstery all thrown in, along with a head-up display and larger alloy wheels, plus a power-operated tailgate. But range-topping Takumi versions get a 13-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, proper leather and power seat adjustment.

Verdict

The LBX has its foibles, but that doesn't stop it from being a really likeable small SUV. Reasonably comfortable and very pleasant to drive, it manages to put all the Lexus trademarks into one small and easy-to-manoeuvre package, which can only be a good thing. For urban driving with the occasional foray further afield, it's a really appealing small luxury car, and it's even competitively priced.



James Fossdyke - 9 Apr 2024



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2024 Lexus LBX Premium Plus. Image by Lexus.2024 Lexus LBX Premium Plus. Image by Lexus.2024 Lexus LBX Premium Plus. Image by Lexus.2024 Lexus LBX Premium Plus. Image by Lexus.2024 Lexus LBX Premium Plus. Image by Lexus.

2024 Lexus LBX Premium Plus. Image by Lexus.2024 Lexus LBX Premium Plus. Image by Lexus.2024 Lexus LBX Premium Plus. Image by Lexus.2024 Lexus LBX Premium Plus. Image by Lexus.2024 Lexus LBX Premium Plus. Image by Lexus.








 

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