As is the case with many modern cars, you don’t initially expect the Lexus UX to offer much in the way of excitement when you’re driving it, but it’s deceptive. The Japanese carmaker is gunning for a new customer base with this striking mini SUV, presumably hoping that they can get away from the misconception that their cars are only bought by more ‘mature’ customers. And the UX has enough edginess to hopefully help them achieve that goal.
And, while it’s really quite sensible when you’re pootling around town navigating congested streets, the Lexus UX becomes another beast entirely when you get out and onto deserted backroads. This is particularly so if you’re lucky enough to be driving the F-Sport model, which boasts no less than five driving modes and a suite of other goodies that fall under the £1,800 ‘Tech and Safety’ pack option.
This compact SUV benefits from having the option of adaptable F Sport suspension too, which features uprated springs and dampers that boost the handling characteristics. It’s also based on the new Lexus GA-C architecture, which the carmaker claims makes the perfect platform for its new model and utilises cutting-edge construction processes to produce a lightweight but extremely rigid combination that add to the overall driveability of the car.
The Active Corner Assist feature makes barrelling through tight mountain corners particularly entertaining, with not much in the way of roll going on. The 2-litre petrol-hybrid setup works to great effect too, with the engine seemingly more than happy to deliver an enthusiastic revvy feel if you push your foot deep into the reassuringly thick Lexus carpet. The continuously variable transmission, or CVT, is effortless and impressive in equal measure too, while the EV aspect means the car is gloriously quiet when you’re back in city traffic.
Lexus has been quick to flag-up some of the tech innovations in this new model too. For example, getting air in and around the wheels of a car is generally seen as a great way to help cool the brakes. But, in the case of the new Lexus UX, they say, the entry-level model has an aero-ventilating design with Gurney flaps (small tabs effectively) on the 17-inch rims that reduce wind resistance and aid cooling. Quite how this works in reality remains to be seen, however, but it’s a good point to bore people in the pub with.
It’s the interior that’s one of the best bits though, with lots of premium-grade leather and a smattering of tech that is comprehensive enough to keep most gadget fans happy. Granted, the trackpad feature down by the shifter is not for everyone, but it grows on you the more you use it. This is the same feature that you’ll also see in other Lexus models and you’ll need to have dexterous digits to get the best from its charms, especially when you’re driving. Just behind it, nestling under the central armrest is another neat touch in the shape of core controls for managing your audio entertainment. The best thing about this is that they fall right under your hand, so you can tweak and tune your music on-the-fly.
That trackpad, meanwhile, which does seem to tie some people up in knots to be honest, lets you pick your way around the 10.25-inch infotainment screen in methodical fashion. We also think the heads-up display is super cool too and makes satellite navigation that little bit easier into the bargain. There are other neat touches, like the multi-adjustable electric seats that offer hours of fun. Curiously, Lexus is also keen to underline the wireless illuminated vent controls in its Takumi model, which it says are powered by electrical induction and allows them to be seen in the dark. Fair enough.
Similarly, in the Takumi edition, there’s an impressive in-car audio experience to be had thanks to a Mark Levinson Surround Sound arrangement (and an old-school CD player no less) that boasts 13 speakers. In fact, if you plump for the premium model at the top of the range it comes fully-loaded with all manner of tech treats and extra bling. Hell, Lexus has even engineered the wipers to have an automatic pause when a door is opened, just so nobody gets splashed as they get in and out in the rain. How considerate.
Granted, to get there you’ll need to part with nearly forty grand in cash, so it’s not cheap. However, it is a whole bundle of fun and if you want the plain ‘n’ simple base version that’s just £29,900, though really the whole point of a Lexus is to pile on the tech toys and extravagant trim flourishes, right?
While the boot isn’t huge and the space for your ‘stuff’ is a little bit on the frugal side of things, and the rear seats aren’t very accommodating either, the Lexus UX is cool on lots of levels. Mainly if you’re the driver rather than a passenger, and that’s mainly due to the fun it delivers while you’re behind the wheel. It looks great from most angles, there are some tasty colours – both interior and exterior – we like the look of new shade Blazing Carnelian for example though the Therrane Khaki (er, metallic green basically) looks fetching in bright sunlight.
So, where does the Lexus UX sit alongside others in this category? Well, if you’re looking for something different to the likes of the oh-so-predictable Audi Q3 or BMW X1 then the UX fits the bill for sure. You can even get variations on the SUV theme from the Lexus range too, with the mid-size NX or capacious RX models. There’s the very tasty Volvo XC 40 too if you’re looking for a killer combination of style, safety and performance. Nevertheless, the Lexus UX is right up there with the best of ‘em and drives a treat, with the added attraction of that very beefy sound system.