There is an age-old conundrum in vehicles.
At a certain price, should you buy the top of the line of a mainstream manufacturer, or go into the entry-level of a premium brand?
And here is a perfect example – the Lexus UX 250h. You’ll pay a premium in price over, say a RAV4 hybrid, but is it worth it?
We think so.
It Looks Like a Lexus
This is a second time we’ve tested the UX. We previously had the UX 200, and we really liked the lines of the vehicle. While it is the baby in the family, and fits in the slot below the RX and NX SUV’s, its smaller proportions actually make it more eye-catching and aggressive.
You either love or hate the large Lexus corporate grille – we rather like it – especially on taller SUV’s or crossovers. The lines also flow perfectly along with the our tester’s optional daytime LED running lights and triple beam LED headlights.
The sides have a chunky, muscular look, with black plastic wheel arches crouching over handsome 18-inch 5-poke alloy wheels. You’ll also find a subtle hybrid badge ahead of the rear wheels – the only place Lexus calls out the powertrain.
The rear end looks spicy and sporty, with “Aero Stabilizing Blade Lights” that are echoed in the lower rear finisher. Perfectly suited to a hybrid, our tester wore an outdoorsy Nori Green Pearl (Nori is an edible seaweed you’ll find in many sushi places) color that was quite beautiful, and when the light hits it, it has a gold undertone, bringing a nice tasteful palette to the exuberant styling.
You’re Spoiled Like a Lexus
What’s really amazing about the UX, is that it shares the chassis and hardpoints with the Toyota C-HR, but it is so radically upscale on the inside.
This is a lovely place to spend time. It starts with the stunning Glazed Caramel NuLuxe color interior that covers the seats and armrests as well as the dash with elegant stitching. It’s made all the better by a new trim finish inspired by the grain of Japanese paper known as washi – a Lexus first, and it’s on the UX.
You settle into a very comfortable heated and cooled 10-way driver seat and look across a 7-inch TFT display that recreates real-looking analog displays. If you opt for the F Sport model, you get a larger 8-inch model.
The info-tainment gets served up on a massive 10.3-inch screen nestled in above the dash that makes the popular “tablet” style displays look cheap and old. Tech is up to date too, with Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, Wi-Fi, even smartwatch integration.
We still don’t love the small haptic touchpad in the console you use to access the screens – it’s too fiddly, and the rotary dials on the “arm” of the center console look cool, but we’d really just rather have a few knobs to control the system.
That’s about the only thing we don’t like, and we you find out about the lengths Lexus goes to make you feel special, it’s easy to forgive.
Apple CarPlay also enables access to the music streaming app Spotify. As a special feature for UX drivers, the music streaming service has compiled its over one million driving-themed playlists into a CarPlay hub. Monday morning commuters receive recommendations for upbeat songs to help energize them for the week ahead. On a Friday, travelers gearing up for the weekend receive brand new music from Spotify‘s popular Release Radar playlist.
We also love the little details to impress your friends, like illuminated vent controls with distinctive LED light sources wirelessly powered by electromagnetic resonance of two adjacent magnetic coils vibrating at the same frequency.
While this is all fun for those in front, the vehicle’s overall size means the rear seat is best only on short trips for adults, and with the rear seat up rear cargo space is smallish. Hey, if you need more space, it’s an easy step up to the larger NX300.
It Drives Like a Lexus
Looks and luxury to be sure, but we’re most impressed with the UX 250h’s drive.
It starts with a hybrid system creating 181 total system horsepower, thanks to a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine and a small electric motor driving the rear wheels to create all-wheel-drive. This is the latest generation of Lexus Hybrid Drive, and Lexus is proud to point out that the UX 250h is the most fuel-efficient crossover or SUV without a plug in the U.S. market.
While that sounds like a recipe for sloth-like performance, the UX is smooth, refined and quick. Fast, no – but put it in Sport mode and it zips along nicely for effortless merging. And with it shutting off into EV mode – at speeds up to 71 mph! – you get a serene, gliding drive that’s oh so Lexus-y. We enjoyed the zippiness and still showed an excellent indicated 40 mpg.
The ride is also superb for a small vehicle – well controlled, but plush, and impressively quiet. If you were downsizing from a larger Lexus, or stepping up from a smaller non-luxury vehicle, you’d be pleased.
We love to drive, and we were pleased to find that the steering has excellent feel, and with the shorter wheelbase, the UX is a hoot to throw around. Someone snuck some sporty genes in the UX, and let’s just keep it our little secret.
What you will want to tell your friends about is the UX 250h world-first Predictive Eco Drive Control, that couples with the navigation system, learns your driving habits, predicts the expected roadway ahead and analyzes real-time traffic reports to optimize charging and discharging of the hybrid battery. The more miles the UX 250h is driven, the more data is gathered to help optimize fuel consumption.
Predictive Deceleration Support technology uses accumulated knowledge about a driver’s behavior to predict when and where the vehicle is likely to slow down or stop. For example, when the UX approaches a location where the driver has slowed or stopped in the past, and the driver releases the accelerator pedal, Predictive Deceleration Support increases regenerative braking, allowing more efficient energy to be recovered and recharged into the hybrid battery. The system can provide deceleration support up to about 1,000 feet ahead of the vehicle. Super cool!
Safety is always an important issue, and every UX features the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0, which includes Pre-Collision System, with Pedestrian Detection, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Lane Tracing Assist, Road Sign Assist and Intelligent High-Beam headlamps. You’ll feel well looked after.
It’s Priced Like a Lexus
That’s either good or bad, depending on your viewpoint. If you think that the UX is just a fancy Toyota C-HR, which starts at $21,145 you might balk at the $32,150 UX starting price. But if you look at the Volvo XC40 starting at $33,700, the Audi Q3 at $34,700 and the BMW X2 at $36,400 you’ll see the Lexus as impressive value.
Our UX 250h Luxury is the most expensive member of the lineup, starting at $39,350. Our tester added an LED lighting package at $1,660, Parking Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert with Braking for $565 (a bargain), wireless phone charging for $75, and $1,025 for destination, and totaled out at $42,525. Load up a competitor, and you’ll definitely see higher prices.
We’re big fans of the Lexus UX – the style, the luxury, the driving experience. And we were blown away by all the little bits of luxury and technology on our 250h and the enhanced drive as well.
The Lexus UX 250h may be small, but it’s huge on all the things we love about Lexus!
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.