Sport utility vehicles, or crossovers, or whatever else you want to call them, they are here to stay. From Perodua to Toyota to Rolls-Royce, every brand has jumped on the utility wagon and won’t be getting off anytime soon. What used to be a niche model in a brand’s product line-up is sometimes now the dominant one where consumers have a wide choice of price tags and sizes.
Japanese premium automaker Lexus, is no different. For years, its RX SUV was a top-seller and a popular model in the grey import market. But competition is stiffer now, and diversifying its range to introduce its brand value to a new set of demographics makes sense.
Enter the Lexus UX, the latest and most compact member of the Lexus SUV family. At first glance, the UX bears resemblance to a jacked-up hatchback, which isn’t by accident. Designed from the ground up upon the new Lexus Global Architecture platform, Lexus wants the UX to offer hatchback styling with SUV versatility. With a low centre of gravity, and a rigid chassis, the UX offers a more dynamic driving experience. It also has one of the best turning radius in its class i.e. 5.2 metres, making it easy to manoeuvre, especially in the city.
Power-wise, the 169 hp and 205 Nm from the naturally aspirated 2.0L inline 4-cylinder petrol engine may not look game-changing on paper, but it works well in real world application. The throttle is responsive and acceleration is smooth. Thus, even if it makes do without the turbocharging like some of its rivals, this engine feels solid and capable.
The smooth power delivery is also courtesy of a 10-speed Direct Shift continuously variable transmission (CVT) which has a mechanical gear to aid acceleration from standstill and reduce the ‘rubber band’ feeling of typical CVTs. And once you get the UX going, the Direct Shift CVT is a boon for fuel economy, if you’re into such things. The drive mode selector is located on the left side of the meter binnacle and closer to your hand for faster and easier mode selection.
Its compact dimensions also has the benefit of providing driving thrills as it is one of the most engaging and sharp handling crossovers. It even boasts a world’s first set of aero-stabilising blade lights in the rear that integrate with the tail lights and provide aerodynamic efficiency. The double wishbone rear suspension further helps to keep the car in your control in very enthusiastic driving. Coupled with a steering wheel that is nicely weighted and predictable, this allows the UX driver to have more confidence taking corners on country roads. Ride comfort isn’t far from expectations of a Lexus but don’t count on the rear passengers applauding if you dive into a corner, which you may be inclined to do given the sense of agility you feel at the wheel. Your passengers will however, appreciate the serenity of the interior when your are more civil, even at the highway speed limit, thanks to the well-insulated cabin.
But the compactness of the UX also limits the interior space to that of a cozy one, especially in the rear. However, the cobalt-white smooth leather upholstery and fairly sizeable windows help to lighten the interior mood. There are also cooling vents and a pair of USB ports to keep the rear passengers happy.
Up front, the dashboard has a driver-centric layout for extra convenience. The centre tunnel console seems relatively wide for something like the UX but gives you the convenience of storage, a wireless charging pad, and a Lexus touchpad to work the infotainment system (which is an 8-speaker system that includes a CD slot under the climate control buttons). The touchpad has useful physical buttons surrounding it as well as at the tapered palm rest section of the armrest but needs familiarity to properly use it, which owners will eventually have. Within the armrest storage are another two USB ports and a 3.5 mm auxiliary port. Furthermore, the UX 200 Luxury variant features a Japanese washi paper grain texture to the dashboard trim and sashiko quilting on the seats to add some fanciness to the cabin.
Other notable convenient features offered are the hands-free boot access, ventilated front seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, rear view camera with side view, cornering view and ‘see-through’ view. Additionally, there is the Lexus Safety System+ driving assistance which includes Front Pre-Collision System, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control with Stop & Go function, Lane Keeping System with Lane Tracing Assist and Lane Departure Alert, as well as an Adaptive High Beam System. Some of the other safety features are Active Cornering Assist, Vehicle Stability Control, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Tyre Pressure Monitoring System.
While I admit the Lexus UX is a little too compact for my family (especially with the 271-litre boot), I enjoyed its refinement and beauty enough to totally see this as an additional car in the driveway for lone driving in the city and the occasional long weekend drive with the better half.
But as a primary ride, it is more suited to the singles or couples, and offers the first step for someone to Experience Amazing.