Introduction

2019 LEXUS UX Review

Late in 2018 LEXUS launched their new small SUV, the UX. The name comes from a somewhat unimaginative combination of Urban and (X)Crossover.

They saw a gap in the market and a chance to offer an entry level luxury car to newcomers to the brand. The SUV market is crammed full of so LEXUS needed to be bold to stand out, so they are, and they do.

Is the LEXUS any good?

Exterior

The new global platform allows car of many sizes and shapes to be made with the same main components. It can be stretched for width and length making manufacturing more efficient and cost effective.

Toyota also uses this platform.

As with all new LEXUS’s (or is that LEXII), the metalwork folded by an origami artist. The bends and creases show less-than-subtle flashes of light and shade.

Signature LEXUS grille is garnished by triple-stacked LED headlights to give the front end a “love or hate” face. It looks good if only as a foil to the unrelieved ubiquity of the blandness of the local Coles carpark.

A high-set aluminium/resin rear hatch opens to a floor level with the bottom lip of the opening.

There is a lot of space in the wheel arches even with a high-set body. 17” wheels have fancy vents to create vortices to increase cooling air flow without creating drag. Some models have 18” wheels.

 

There are new technologies crafted in to the bodywork construction, and includes the use of aluminium around the doors and a lap-jointed centre pillar. The tailgate is made of aluminium and resin. Depending on trim level, blinkers are 20 sequential LEDs that sweep majestically in the direction of turn.

Taillights have built in “stabilising blades” reminiscent of 60’s American cars. LEXUS says it helps the car when changing lanes or in high winds. Some just think it looks good.

LEXUS has made a big noise about door sound. They called in the acoustic engineers to give it just the right amount of clunk. Only a luxurious one will do. It probably sounds like a Golf!

Finally, there is a single line of LED lights right across the rear end in what LEXUS calls, L-Finesse styling. It is both unusual, and striking apart from being practical and safe.

Interior

As with all LEXUS cars, the cabin oozes luxury from every pore. It is restrained in a slightly over the top kind of way..

There are neat touches such as vent controls with wireless illumination. No one will ever notice the lack of wires, but it is innovation none the less. It lets you find the knob in the dark. I’m a huge fan of backlit controls, wirelessly lit or not.

Depending on grade, you’ll get leather seats, navigation, 8 airbags and a GPS clock, a 10” centre LCD screen, DAB and a Mark Levinson 13 speaker sound system.

Seating is leather or Nulux, with heating/cooling, power adjustment and memory up front. Seats are comfortable but firm. Even leather seats have touches of the man-made Nulux on areas such as seat sides and back.

Back seats are snug, and a low door opening makes ingress and egress a challenge if you’re a taller type.

There are nifty bins in the doors, and cup holders in the centre console and rear armrest.

Space feels cosy and cocoon-like. The only complaint is a high cargo floor with lots of wasted space underneath.

Over all, design and feel is considered and well-constructed.

Features

Infotainment controls mounted in the centre console can be fiddly to use and the warnings for traffic cameras complicated to turn off. They’ve made it even more complex by adding buttons on the side of the centre hand rest. It looks very stylish but completely impractical. Added to the fact that there is no CarPlay, a screen without a touch control surface is not up to snuff.

Dual zone climate control includes “climate concierge” which individually adjusts seat heating or cooling, steering wheel heating, and airconditioning to keep the front passengers exactly in the desired temperature zone. It feels odd at first but is very effective.

The reversing camera has a 360° feature and comes with rear cross traffic alert depending on trim level.

LEXUS designers are so OCD, that they adopted ‘Omotenashi’ principle (Japanese for “hospitality and polite service”) to pause windscreen wipers when the doors open so perky passengers aren’t wetted with wayward waterflow.

The windscreen has acoustic damping to make the cabin even quieter.

Cars with leather seats have Sashiko stitching, and the perforations for venting are precisely aligned to reflect the front grille design.

Anti-snag power windows prevent little fingers from being caught in them, and LED Headlights are fully automatic including high beam.

Drive and Engine

UX includes the latest version of hybrid drive.

It is more energy efficient, using less fuel while self-charging the longer life batteries.Both the batteries and electric motors also have improved efficiency. The 180 cells have an 8 year warranty.

There is a 2.0L petrol engine which combines with the electric motor to produce 131kw. Hybrid versions feel more spritely than the pure petrol UX models and put power to either front wheels, or all wheel-drive, through a CVT automatic.

Fuel consumption ranges from 5.8 L/100k  for the 2.0L FWD, to 4.5L/100k for the hybrid FWD, and 4.7 L/100k for the hybrid AWD. Acceleration is a leisurely 9.2, 8.5 and 8.7 seconds too 100kph respectively.

On models with drive mode selection, a sportier drive can be had by fettling to controls, but ride is firmer than one might expect. Models without variable suspension is very firm.

Our chores mainly consisted the boring and the mundane. Food shopping and airport runs are dispatched without breaking a sweat.

On first impression, the 2.0L UX feels slightly uninspiring. A buyer test driving a front wheel drive petrol against an AWD hybrid is going to have to find many extra shekels for the top model but the reward would be well worth it.

LEXUS owners enjoy the benefits of ownership such as the dealer collecting your car for servicing. If you’d rather drop it in yourself, they’ll lend you a car for the duration.

Despite being the entry level car, you don’t feel like an entry level owner.

 

Safety

  • Lexus Safety Sense+ including:
    • Pre-collision system with pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection
    • All-speed radar active cruise control
    • Lane Tracing Assist
    • Traffic-sign recognition
    • Automatic high beam
  • Blind-spot monitor
  • Reversing camera
  • Parking support alert
    • Clearance sonar
    • Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA)
    • Rear Camera Detection
  • 8 airbags: driver, front passenger (dual), driver’s knee, side, cushion & curtain side.
  • Anti-theft system with siren, intrusion and glass sensors
  • Parking sensors
  • Tyre inflation warning
  • Vehicle speed-limit warning

Good Bits:

  • Luxurious cabin feel
  • Low fuel consumption
  • Driving range

Not so Good Bits:  

  • Cargo capacity (321 to 374L depending on grade/drive train)
  • Lacklustre performance of 2.0L petrol model
  • Terrible infotainment control system with no Apple Carplay/Android auto

Summary

As a package, LEXUS UX fills a space in an expanding market. It looks neat and feels top notch inside. They’ve shoe-horned as much high-end technology in as they possibly can while pricing it starting under the magic 50k figure.

Like most cars, UX will be used around town, and at that it is brilliant. I would choose the hybrid for its thrifty drinking habits and the spookily quiet drive.

I like the looks very much. Pitted against Mercedes’ GLA and BMW’s X2, I prefer the UX looks over the Europeans. UX looks as good inside, but falls over when it comes to the user interface. You will drive yourself mad trying to tackle the controls on the centre console. You certainly can’t use it while on the move, and many of the menus don’t seem as intuitive as they might.

We are well down the development road without any appreciable improvement. You get used to it after a while but you’ll always feel like a hostage and his captor.

To be fair, there are niggles with every car on the road. None is 100% perfect. Although LEXUS offers Mirracast for phone connection, it is far behind the ease of CarPlay.

Excluding the 2.0L which I didn’t care for, the hybrid even in FWD only, is excellent.

My advice is definitely have a test drive but save time by skipping the entry level petrol engine.

Also look at:

Facts and Figures: 2019 Ford Ranger Raptor

  • Engine: 2.0 L 4Cyl 126kW/205Nm or 131kw hybrid drive
  • Transmission: CVT
  • Warranty: 5 Yr./ Unlimited km
  • Safety: not yet rated
  • Origin: Japan
  • Price: from $44,450-$61,450MLP*

*MLP – Manufacturers List Price includes GST and LCT but excluding statutory charges, dealer costs and dealer delivery. See your dealer for RDAP. Does not include price of any options.