Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The UX's hybrid set-up comprises a 2.0-litre petrol engine and an electric motor, producing a combined power output of 182bhp. It's not a plug-in hybrid, so it can't make a long journey using just its battery power, but if you are gentle with the accelerator in stop-start traffic it will go for extended periods using the electric motor alone. Of course, that makes it a very quiet companion indeed for the urban crawl.
It's not quick when running on electricity, but fast enough for tootling along in town. Out on the open road, though, when the petrol engine cuts in, it delivers plenty of poke. In fact, it's quicker than a Range Rover Evoque D180 diesel, and a match for faster rivals, such as the Volvo XC40 D4.
Even with the petrol engine running it's smoother and quieter than most diesel rivals, but to pick up speed petrols generally need to work harder because they have less torque. That issue is amplified in the UX because of its CVT automatic gearbox. Unlike regular multi-geared automatic gearboxes a CVT has one, variable gear, and this set-up is notorious for causing the engine to rev harder than usual, even just to maintain speed up an incline. The UX's gearbox isn't as bad as some CVTs, but still you’ll notice the engine soar noisily and the rev counter needle hang around the top quarter of the dial the minute you demand a bit of oomph.
Another issue common to hybrids is a spiky brake pedal that feels either on or off when pressed — as opposed to smooth and progressive like you'd expect. This is caused by the regenerative braking system, which produces electricity during braking and uses it to top up the battery. For a hybrid, the UX's brake pedal is pretty good, although it's not as easy to stop calmly as many regular cars with regular braking systems. It's also a relatively noisy vehicle at motorway speeds, with more wind and road roar than the best family SUVs, such as the Evoque. You won't suffer the biblical amount of road noise that you will in a BMW X1, though.
The UX is reasonably comfortable on the motorway, but you will notice a greater degree of fidget over rippled surfaces than would be the case in a Volvo XC40. It's also much less able to absorb the kicks and knocks around town from sharper-edged potholes and ridges than the XC40. On the plus side, the UX isn't very tall for an SUV so it feels more stable and doesn't rock from side to side as much as the Volvo, or indeed the Evoque.
The steering is smooth and light. This is fine around town but it doesn’t feel particularly weighty or confidence inspiring at higher speeds. Body roll, meanwhile, is reasonably well controlled but the UX runs out of front grip in bends comparatively quickly. F-Sport trim features sports suspension with ‘performance’ dampers and can be specified with Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) at extra cost. In the sportiest driving modes, this firms it up to help the UX lean less in corners.
This still doesn’t make the UX particularly inspiring to drive quickly. The BMW X2 is a much more agile and rewarding companion on a country road, and there are cheaper options that are just as nimble, such as the Seat Ateca.
Every UX has front-wheel drive as standard, but E-Four four-wheel drive is optional across the range. It isn’t intended to turn the UX into a Land Rover Discovery-like mud machine because, for a start, it lacks much in the way of ground clearance, but it adds a little bit of extra traction to complement its SUV style. The system is only available in conjunction with additional option packs, though, pushing the price up considerably. We'd suggest avoiding this option: if you want to go off road, or indeed tow a caravan (the UX will tow only 750kg maximum), then buy an Evoque.