Hello. Small crossovers and suv’s are all the rage now. Oh, we’ve said that? Well, without further ado, let us introduce the latest of the small luxury crossovers, the 2019 Lexus UX. Small in size, but big in goodies, the UX competes in the segment where we find the BMW X1 and Audi Q3. But we found it’s a very different vehicle than the Europeans, and it’s quite tempting.
It’s all about the UX.
While Lexus says UX stands for Urban Crossover, in this case, we think it means the tech term User Experience (known as UX) – the process of creating products that serve meaningful and relevant experiences to users. And here the UX really brings the uh..ux, giving loads of Lexus goodness at a smaller size and price.
Key to understanding the UX’s dimensions are that it shares the platform with the Toyota C-HR crossover, and even the new Corolla. Like the C-HR, the UX straddles the line between an SUV and tall hatchback – at least on UX, all-wheel-drive is available. While we guess most UX’s will seldom see off-road duty, it’s tall enough to stand above the crowd of sedans, while having easy entry and exit.
We really like the styling. It’s crisp and modern, and fits right in as the baby brother of the NX and RX Lexus SUVs. There’s a new block-shape mesh pattern in the huge grille, while LED daytime running lamps form eyebrows over LED headlights, and give a serious, “don’t mess with me” look.
The sides look sporty and muscular, much like the NX, but the UX’s stubbier proportions make it look even more aggressive. Giving it added macho, there’s plastic wheel arch moldings, which frame substantial-looking 18-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels. At the rear, the lights Lexus calls “Aero Stabilizing Blade Lights” span across the vehicle and look upscale and tough. The finishing touch, a wing type rear spoiler.
To catch the eye – and the imagination – of younger buyers Lexus wants to lure, there are some very cool colors. How about Cadmium Orange, or Nori Green Pearl? Our tester was a rich chocolate brown called Autumn Shimmer, and we loved how it looked rich, and sold the lines without looking to extroverted. Sorry, kids…
A Calm and Warm Feeling
As sharp as the exterior is, the interior may be the best part of the UX. It wows you with handsome design – the dashboard has a nice sweep that makes it feel wider than it is, and smaller windows and angled center console feel more sport coupe than SUV. There’s a 7-inch TFT LCD display that creates realistic looking analog gauges. In our Luxury version, that means you get a big speedo with a tachometer inset inside. We’d prefer the F Sport model setup, with an 8-inch screen, that you can vary gauge display depending on mood and info you want served up.
Our tester fired back with an optional 10.3-inch navi screen that looks beautiful and creates a wow-factor when you get in. Connective tech is another wow – Apple CarPlay is standard along with Amazon Alexa, WiFi by Verizon that can connect up to 5 devices, and even includes 4GB of complimentary data for one year. More, you say, you tech-savvy Millennial?
There’s also Instant Replay allows the user to capture SiriusXM content for later playback. USB Video and RealMedia video formats are supported. There’s even Favorite Genre for FM and SiriusXM that allows the user to select a preferred music genre to discover new stations.
The Luxury model also feels, well, luxurious. Everywhere you look, touch, or sit feels like expensive gear. It’s a huge step over the conservative Europeans – you even get a choice of two different grain patterns and three colors. And the UX is the first Lex to offer a new trim finish inspired by the grain of Japanese paper, known as Washi. Lexus says it’s common in traditional Japanese homes, and evokes a calm and warm feeling. Mmmm cozy.
You certainly feel delicious in our tester’s Glazed Caramel interior – it’s a beautiful color, and the textures in the seat feel special and upscale. Not so delicious is the haptic touch pad interface for the info-tainment system – we have to say it is getting better and less fussy than previous models, but still requires a little too much effort. To alleviate that, Lexus has moved redundant control on the center console. Looking kind of like a flattened-out remote control, it falls to your hand, and once you get used to it, it works well.
Those riding in back will find good headroom, good shoulder room, but legroom is tight. Not a surprise with the overall dimensions, and you’ll find about the same with competitors. The same can be said about the cargo space – although with the Luxury Package you do get a hands-free rear hatch that you can open with a sweep of the leg.
We think the UX gives the Europeans a kick in the Lederhosen when it comes to luxury and design of the interior. But how does it stand up in the driving department?
U X-me, how does it drive?
Better than expected. At first, we were concerned that we’d be getting the same 144 hp in the Toyota C-HR. It’s sprightly in the Toy, but with all the added luxury goodies and sound deadening, not enough. Lexus kicks the UX up a notch, and the 2.0-liter, four cylinder, serves you a meatier 169 hp and 151 lb.-ft of torque.
Combined with a CVT transmission that’s about mid-pack for the genre, it feels quickish, and in Sport mode, funnish. That fun is relative though, the engine doesn’t sound particularly happy being pushed, and gets harsh in the upper rpms.
The Germans are running turbo power in their competitors, so the UX is not going to win any stoplight grand prix. Those turbos make them thirsty, though, so with less power comes greater efficiency, and it’s easy to top 30 mpg if you’re not flogging it.
The UX comes a lot closer to the BMW and Audi where they always excel – ride and handling. The ride is very comfortable and well-controlled, and steering feel is exceptional. This is an enjoyable car to drive quickly, and it’s nice and comfy for the daily drive. Maybe the best blend of any Lexus.
Befitting its Lexus status, the UX is also loaded with safety tech. All models include Pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, daytime and low-light bicyclist detection, radar cruise control, road sign assist, Lane tracing assist, and Lane Departure Alert with steering assist. Loaded. Only blind spot assist is optional on the base UX, and we’d highly recommend it – the sporty coupe lines make it difficult to see out of, especially for shorter drivers.
Smaller price, too.
The nice thing about sharing a Toyota platform – Lexus can make the UX attractively priced. The Front wheel drive UX 200 starts at $32,000, and it features most of what we’ve mentioned above. Within the family, moving up to the larger NX SUV means a starting point of $36,485.
Opt for the UX 200 Luxury model like our tester, and you jump up to $37,200, but you get all the good stuff, including moonroof, heated and ventilated front seats, hands-free rear door with Kick Sensor, Washi trim, Lexus memory system, Blind Spot Warning and more. Add in $2,200 for Navigation and our pre-production tester carried an estimated price of $39,400.
You have other interesting choices in the UX line. The F Sport model starts at $34,000 and gives you performance and styling upgrades, special sport seats, unique 18-inch wheels, and more. And for those interested in ultimate fuel economy, there’s the UX 250h hybrid, which Lexus says has the highest combined MPG estimate of any non-EV suv. Pretty cool.
Feeling European? A comparably-equipped to our tester Audi Q3 comes in at $40,320. And a BMW X1, $41,325. So, the UX offers excellent value as well.
While it may be a crowded marketplace, the Lexus UX is a welcome addition.
The UX 200 is a great package. Style, luxury, value and quality.
It’s a UX (User Experience) we can all enjoy.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.