If there’s something that we’ve learned about Lexus in recent years, it’s their penchant for making a statement. Despite entering a completely new market, the Japanese carmaker did not settle for a “crowd pleaser” in order to reach its sales targets. Instead, they gave us the Lexus UX, complete with a wild design that is sure to stand out from the sea of mostly bland cars on the roads today. But does it have what it takes to go up against the beloved Volvo XC40, BMW X2, and the Mercedes-Benz GLA?
According to Lexus, the UX name stands for ‘Urban Crossover’, but we’d argue that it looks and feels more like a hatchback than anything else, standing just about 100 mm taller than the Mercedes-Benz A-Class hatchback. What’s not up for discussion, though, is just how special the UX looks.
No matter which angle you glance it from, the Lexus UX stands out with its “brave” use of sharp lines and creases – Lexus said it themselves, and we have to agree. And they aren’t just for style, too – The Japanese carmaker says that the bold lines on the exterior do serve an aerodynamic purpose, a point highlighted by the Aero Stabilising Blades that are integrated into the tail lights, blending form and function.
From the triple LED projector headlights and check mark daytime running lights, to the full-width LED combination tail lights at the back, the Lexus UX does truly feel like a piece of art with careful consideration in every stroke of the brush. Unconventional? Sure. But in our eyes, Lexus truly achieved a masterpiece with the UX.
In true Lexus fashion, the cabin of the UX is also nothing short of amazing. The attention to detail is unmistakable, from the use of the Japanese “washi” paper texture on the dashboard, to the careful perforations on the two-tone seat upholstery. Lexus even included a wirelessly-powered infinity mirror illumination on the air-con vent knobs, just for the sake of it.
But like a double-edged sword, the impressive furnishing also makes the compact crossover’s shortcomings even more apparent. With the extravagant curves and details on the dashboard, the blandness of the door cards just stick out like a sore thumb.
And while we’re at it, Lexus’ infotainment system and trackpad combination is still as awful as ever to use, no matter how sharp the 10.3-inch display looks. The media control panel below the armrest does help, though, but only after you put in the effort to get acquainted to the odd shape and button placements.
In the crusade for style, Lexus seems to have also forgotten about space. Knee room and headroom in the rear quarters are just sufficient to fit a full-sized adult, and Lexus has also chosen to omit any stowage spaces at the rear of the UX 200, save for two cup holders in the centre armrest.
Even worse still, the boot space of 271 litres is borderline laughable, and it also sits ridiculously high, which makes loading the boot with your cargo an unnecessarily labour-intensive task. At least, you still get an electrically-powered boot with hands-free kick-open function, a flat load floor, and folding rear seats.
For all its drawbacks in its practicality, the Lexus UX does make up significant grounds in the driving department. The compact crossover is built on Lexus’ Global Architecture platform, which traces its roots to Toyota’s TNGA-C. Throughout our time spent in the Lexus UX 200 Luxury for this review, we can’t help but come back to the term “un-Lexus-like” when we’re describing its ride quality.
A large part of that boils down to its tighter-sprung suspension set-up (even without the F Sport performance dampers), which makes road imperfections a little more discernible from the driver’s seat. But don’t get me wrong – it doesn’t make the Lexus UX feel any less refined, rather more connected to the road.
When it comes to larger undulations, the UX soaks them up so gracefully that we can only compare it to how a ballerina lands from a hop. On top of that, there’s also the Lexus Safety System+ advanced driver assistance features, which makes the driving experience – especially on highways – completely effortless.
Although Lexus clearly intended for the UX to be mainly driven on the city streets (hence, the name), the little crossover doesn’t lose its charm on the backroads either, with minimal body roll when thrown into corners and instant direction changes – all hallmark features of the TNGA platform. Despite its supposedly taller ride height, you also sit fairly low inside the cabin, which makes driving the UX feel that much more engaging.
The Lexus UX is only offered with a single 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder powertrain option across the board here in Malaysia. While the chassis is perfectly capable of handling more than 169 hp and 205 Nm of torque, we didn’t once feel that it was underpowered during our time with it.
The UX’s secret sauce comes from its 10-speed Direct Shift CVT gearbox, which features a mechanical “launch gear” for acceleration from a standstill. But even at speed, the gearbox reacts almost instantaneously to any form of throttle input, working seamlessly with the engine to send more power to the front wheels.
People often say “once you’ve tried turbocharging, you’ll never go back”, but if the naturally-aspirated engines are all as good as this, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Only downside? It does make quite a racket at full tilt, which – like we’ve alluded to before – isn’t too Lexus-like either.
While the UX might be the cheapest Lexus you can buy, with a price list that starts at RM235,472 (with sales tax exemptions), it does not feel like any lesser of a car, and is more than worthy of the Lexus name that it wears.
Put simply, if I were Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, or BMW, I’d be pretty worried by now, because the Lexus UX might be one of the most well-rounded product in the compact crossover space we’ve come across thus far – that is, if space isn’t much of a concern to you, of course.
Lexus UX 200 Luxury Specifications:
|Engine||1,987 cc; naturally-aspirated inline-four|
|Transmission||10-speed Direct Shift CVT|
|Max horsepower||169 hp @ 6,600 rpm|
|Max torque||205 Nm @ 4,800 rpm|
|0-100 km/h; Top speed||9.2 seconds; 190 km/h|
|Price (OTR, w/o insurance, inclusive of SST exemptions)||RM274,027|