The Lexus UX 250h is a compact SUV, it has an efficient petrol-electric hybrid powertrain, and a premium badge, so it ticks lots of boxes with potential buyers – and it’s also good to drive.
Car buyers want compact SUVs, and they also want premium badges. There’s also increased demand for lower emission cars. The hybrid Lexus UX should tick all these boxes. So should this car be on your shortlist?
The Lexus UX is based on a new platform and has a 4-cylinder, 2-litre petrol engine, an ‘E-CVT’ transmission, and an electric motor which takes energy from a nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery. Lexus calls this system a ‘self-charging hybrid’, which is intended to mean that you don’t need to plug it in to charge it. The downside is that you can’t drive the UX any significant distance on electric power, but the car can operate on electric at standstill and during low loads (including coasting up to 71mph). The electric motor can also assist the petrol engine during acceleration.
We think the UX looks good on the outside and the inside, but although it’s an SUV, which should mean a practical and spacious body style, it has a very shallow boot.
The Toyota/Lexus hybrid system has been undergoing continuous improvement over the years since it was first introduced, to take it from being revvy and noisy, especially under acceleration, to being comparable to cars with automatic transmission in its latest iteration.
The UX is marketed as an SUV, and although it’s available in all-wheel drive form, our test car was just front-wheel drive. This means that grip in the wet isn’t what would traditionally be associated with an SUV, with the front wheels easily scrabbling to get out of junctions on wet and cold roads, but at least the handling is more car-like than a typical SUV, and a relatively low centre of gravity helps with this. In fact the UX is enjoyable and responsive on winding country roads, despite it being billed as an ‘urban’ SUV. It’s actually in urban areas where the ride quality – which is normally good – is upset by potholes. And the UX is generally a refined place to be on motorways, but some surfaces generate road noise.
There are drive modes of Normal, Eco and Sport to choose from, and you can change gear manually (with the gear selector, there are no steering wheel-mounted paddles). There’s an EV mode, but there’s often not enough battery charge to be able to select this.
So all is mostly good with the Lexus, apart from one item. We’ve reported on this before, as have colleagues in the industry, but it still remains a strange thing: the infomedia system is effectively controlled by a touchpad, which gives you a cursor that you have to try and position on the correct button on the screen. This is challenging enough to do when the vehicle is stationary, such as entering an address in the satnav, but it’s extremely difficult when you’re driving the car. We even tried the voice control to do this, but that didn’t work either. The satnav also only displays a small map, which is even smaller when a list of motorway junctions appears and takes over half of the screen. And the satnav always seemed to default to North-facing rather than direction of travel facing, despite trying to override this. At least the head-up display helped with satnav guidance, but this feature isn’t standard on the UX. Lexus just needs to try the iDrive system in the latest BMW 3 Series to find out how a user-friendly and effective infomedia system can be designed.
The official WLTP combined fuel economy for the Lexus UX 250h is 49.5 – 53.2 mpg, with CO2 emissions – based on the older NEDC test – of 94 g/km (with 17-inch wheels). After a week of real-world driving, including trips from Manchester to Wetherby and Nottingham, we averaged a real-world economy figure of 54.6mpg, which is slightly better than the official WLTP figure and very good for a car described as an SUV (even though in our view the definition of an SUV is being stretched these days).
The Lexus UX 250h Premium Pack and Tech and Safety Pack costs £33,505. In the UK the UX is available only as a Hybrid. There’s also the option of the E-Four all-wheel drive system. There are three equipment grades: UX (from £29,900), F Sport (from £33,900) and Takumi (£39,100).
The Lexus UX 250h offers a compact SUV body style, a premium badge, a decent driving experience and good real-world economy thanks to its petrol-electric hybrid powertrain. If you want an efficient car and can’t make an electric or plug-in hybrid car work for you, then the UX offers a viable alternative. It’s just a shame that everyone we’ve come across finds the infomedia system difficult to use, and you may be expecting a larger boot in a car labelled as an SUV. Overall the Lexus UX 250h gains a Green Car Guide rating of 8 out of 10.