The vast majority of electric cars feel refined, but the all-electric Lexus UX 300e takes this one step further, as well as offering a premium and comfortable driving experience.
Lexus, along with Toyota, has been slow in coming to the electric car party, instead focusing on hybrids, and more recently, some plug-in hybrids. But at last we have an all-electric offering from the brand in the form of the Lexus UX 300e – so is this an EV you should consider?
The Lexus UX 300e is a compact SUV, and everyone wants a compact SUV. And it has a premium badge, which is also in demand.
The powertrain consists of a 54kWh lithium-ion battery powering a 201 bhp electric motor providing drive through the front wheels. The UX 300e has both a heating system and an air-cooled system for the battery cells in order to improve performance.
Because the battery sits under the floor and under the rear seats, the rear seats feel quite high. However there’s a benefit of the EV powertrain in the luggage department; the boot is 367-litres, which is 47 litres more than the UX 250h petrol-electric hybrid version.
The Lexus UX 300e has no towing rating.
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As soon as you sit in the UX 300e you’re aware of a quality-engineered feel, with well-weighted controls. The steering wheel is reminiscent of a BMW M-Sport rim, and even the gear selector has a feel of weighty precision rather than being flimsy.
However the driving position isn’t brilliant, and drivers with long legs may experience the trim around the central transmission tunnel digging into their left knee.
Once you’re underway it doesn’t take long before you realise that the UX 300e is probably one of the most refined cars that you’ve ever driven. Virtually all electric cars are refined and quiet, but the UX takes this a step further. Add a comfortable ride – helped by the lack of large alloys and low profile tyres – and the UX is a very pleasant driving experience.
One benefit of not having a huge battery is that the UX is lighter than many rivals, which improves the handling (along with the battery in the floor resulting in a low centre of gravity).
There are three drive modes – Eco, Normal, and Sport – which are accessed via a dial on the left-hand side of the driver’s instrument display. Sport provides responsive acceleration, maximising the performance potential of the electric powertrain.
So the driving experience is enjoyable, but the UX can’t be described as a driver’s car. It’s front-wheel drive, which is fine under normal circumstances, but as soon as you need to accelerate quickly out of a junction in the rain into a gap in traffic there’s lots of wheelspin and torque steer. Which is a key reason why the likes of Volkswagen and Hyundai have moved to a rear-wheel drive chassis.
The UX has regenerative braking, and you can adjust the intensity by using steering-wheel mounted paddles, with four levels, which is much better than EVs where you either can’t make changes, or you have to go searching in the touchscreen to find this option in a sub-menu of a sub-menu. However there’s nothing obvious in the instrument display to tell you what level of regenerative braking you’ve selected.
And while we’re on the subject of the touchscreen, the UX’s infotainment system is definitely behind the standard of most rivals. We’re not big fans of all controls hidden away in the touchscreen, and the Lexus scores well here because it has a selection of physical shortcut buttons, but the information in the touchscreen isn’t presented with slick, modern graphics.
Also, there’s a mousepad, which we’ve always believed is a bad idea in a moving car. Even trying to use it to select a different radio station is tricky.
And then there’s one big surprise: there’s no satnav. A satnav should really be a feature of any car that costs over £43,000, but this is especially important in an EV, because you need to be able to navigate to chargepoints. You can connect your phone to use satnav, assuming you have a smartphone, but when you’re viewing maps in Apple CarPlay, it’s not easy to switch back to the car’s system, such as to select a radio station.
There are no heated seats or heated steering wheel in the entry-level UX 300e model, which is bad, as you’ll need to use more heating when it’s cold, which eats up the battery range.
The Lexus UX 300e has a combined WLTP electric driving range of 196 miles. In real-world driving we were averaging 165 miles.
The big news on the charging front is that whereas virtually all new battery electric vehicles apart from the Nissan LEAF are using a CCS charging port for DC rapid charging, the Lexus UX 300e has a CHAdeMO charging socket. This sits on the nearside rear of the car, with a Type 2 socket for home or public AC fast charging on the rear driver’s side. Also, it can only charge at a maximum rate of 35 kW (DC) – when a 0-100% charge will take around 50 minutes. Charging time from 0-100% using a 7kW (AC) home wallbox will take around 8 hours 15 minutes, or 19 hours using a three-pin plug.
The Lexus UX 300e costs £43,900, the Premium Plus Pack costs £47,400, and the Takumi Pack costs £53,500.
The Lexus UX 300e is ultra-refined, comfortable, and has a premium feel. It’s as good to drive as most electric cars, although you can experience wheelspin and torque steer under acceleration thanks to the front-wheel drive chassis. The driving range, at 196 miles, falls short of many EVs, the infomedia system isn’t as polished as many rivals, and there’s no satnav. In a cheap city car, no satnav can be understandable, but we’re not sure it’s acceptable in a car – especially an EV which needs satnav to find chargepoints – that costs £43,900. So it’s good news that Lexus is finally offering a pure EV, but we feel that car buyers will find better value EV offerings elsewhere. The Lexus UX 300e is awarded a Green Car Guide rating of 7 out of 10.