What Car? says...
There’s no magic potion that’ll guarantee success in the new-car market, but the Lexus UX has jumped on two bandwagons that are the next best thing to a magical elixir. For starters, it’s one of those ever-so-popular SUVs, and for seconds it’s powered by a petrol-electric hybrid system.
Unlike with a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), you don’t charge the UX’s battery to cover short distances on pure electric power. Instead, it automatically tops up its relatively small battery, which provides electric power in short bursts. In other words, the UX is just like its bigger Lexus SUV siblings, the Lexus NX and the Lexus RX.
That means that as well as competing with traditional rivals, such as the BMW X1, Range Rover Evoque and Volvo XC40, the UX must confront the growing army of hybrid SUVs. They include the X1 xDrive 25e, the Audi Q3 TFSIe the Kia Niro and the PHEV version of the Mini Countryman.
And if you’re really keen on cutting out petrol altogether, there’s also a fully electric version, which you can read about in our Lexus UX 300e review.
Over the next few pages, we’ll tell you what the Lexus UX is like to drive, how plush and spacious it is, plus how much it costs to buy and run. We’ll be comparing it with those rival family SUVs as we go.
Don't forget that when you do decide which make and model is for you, you can get big savings off the list price by searching our free What Car? New Car Deals service. It's a good place to find the best new family SUV deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The UX's hybrid system comprises a 2.0-litre petrol engine and an electric motor, producing a combined power output of 181bhp. Because it’s not a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), it can't cover a short journey using just its battery power, but if you’re gentle with the accelerator pedal in stop-start traffic it will go for extended periods using the electric motor alone.
It's not quick when running on electricity, but it’s fast enough for tootling along in town. Out on the open road, though, there’s plenty of poke when the petrol engine cuts in. In fact, its 0-62mph time of 8.5sec (or 8.7sec with four-wheel drive) is a match for the Range Rover Evoque D200 diesel and not far behind the Volvo XC40 B4.
The UX’s petrol engine is smoother and quieter than most diesel rivals, but to pick up speed, petrols generally need to work harder because they require a few more revs to generate maximum pulling power. 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 tends to hold the engine revs high up in the rev range longer than a conventional automatic gearbox would. The UX's gearbox isn't as bad as some CVTs, though, and it does set off from stationary with a bit more pep than other cars with this type of gearbox, but you’ll notice the engine soar noisily when you demand a bit of oomph.
Another issue common to hybrid cars is that the brake pedal action isn’t as smooth and progressive as would be ideal. This is caused by the regenerative braking system which harvests energy during braking and turns it into electricity to top up the battery. For a hybrid, the UX's brake pedal is pretty good, although it's not quite as easy to stop calmly as it is in a car with regular brakes.
It's also relatively noisy at motorway speeds, with more wind and road roar than the best family SUVs. Top-spec Takumi comes with laminated front side windows to try and reduce the volume, but the Evoque is more hushed. There’s much less road noise than there is in larger-wheeled versions of the BMW X1 though.
The UX is reasonably comfortable on the motorway, but there’s a greater degree of fidget over rippled surfaces than in a 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, but while it’s fine around town, it isn’t particularly confidence-inspiring at higher speeds. Body roll is reasonably well controlled, but the UX runs out of front-end grip in bends comparatively quickly. F-Sport trim features sports suspension with ‘performance’ dampers and Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) as standard.
The AVS system firms up the springs to help the UX lean less in corners when the sportiest driving modes are set but 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 versions with four-wheel drive are available on most trim levels. However, this isn’t intended to turn the UX into a Land Rover Discovery like mud machine. The rear wheels are powered by an electric motor that doesn’t have a lot of power, and there’s not much ground clearance. Instead, E-Four is intended to provide a bit more bite when pulling away on low-traction surfaces such as snow and ice. You’re certainly unlikely to feel its effects on a dry day.
As it’s also only available in conjunction with pricey option packs, you’d be better off looking towards a Range Rover Evoque if you need a family SUV that’s capable off-road. It also has a much higher towing capacity than the UX’s rather weak 750kg.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Behind the wheel of the Lexus UX you'll find an acceptable rather than outstanding driving position. Some may find the steering wheel doesn't extend out far enough, for instance.
Entry-level UX trim comes with six-way manual seat adjustment, but you can pay extra for the Premium Plus Pack’s electric eight-way seat adjustment with variable lumbar support. Electric seats are standard on F-Sport and Takumi versions. However, the seat is narrow and doesn't grab you at the sides to hold you in place through corners. The F-Sport trim's sports seats hold you a little better.
If you crave the elevated driving position that many do from an SUV, the UX won't fit the bill. You sit barely any higher from the ground than you would in a hatchback, and far lower than you do in an Volvo XC40 or Range Rover Evoque. That doesn't aid visibility either, and nor does its rising rear window line that limits over-the-shoulder vision. All models bar entry-level UX come with a rear-view camera, although front and rear parking sensors are available as part of an option pack on UX and F Sport trims.
While the UX is designed to look distinctive inside, we’d prefer its apparent attention to detail to be backed up with a little more substance. While it feels sturdily made and there are plush soft-touch finishes to the dashboard and doors, there’s also far too much scratchy plastic on display lower down for a car at this price point.
The most recent update rectified a major sticking point in the UX: it’s infotainment system. Thankfully, the latest model’s 12.3in touchscreen system is much easier to use than its predecessor. The display is bright, sharp and clear to read.
Some of the sub menus are hidden away and tricky to find initially on some functions, but the main layout is otherwise easy to deal with. The fiddly laptop-style touchpad has now gone so while it can still be a little distracting when driving, it’s much better than before.
The row of physical climate control buttons make it easier to adjust the temperature than the BMW X1’s touchscreen icons, while Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring are standard, allowing you to use the navigation software on your phone. A couple of the option packs include wireless phone-charging, while a head-up display and a 13-speaker Mark Levinson sound system that is standard on Takumi is part of the Takumi pack on F Sport trim.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
There's plenty of head and leg room up front, but rear passenger space is woeful for the class. Indeed, it's hard to think of anything from the family SUV class that has less room, or that makes it as difficult to get in or out of through such narrow door openings and tight footwells.
The BMW X1, the Range Rover Evoque and the Volvo XC40 serve their rear-seat passengers much better. And that's just with two adults in the rear. Try fitting three adults in the back of a UX and it'll be a real struggle for the middle passenger especially – their seat is mounted higher than the other two, reducing head room. Also, there's precious little room for anyone's feet underneath the front seats.
The boot is a usefully square shape, has no awkward load lip at its entrance, and some reasonable under-floor storage. However, that's completely undermined by the fact that the main compartment is so small.
How small? Well we managed to fit four carry-on suitcases in the boot of an Audi TT Roadster – a two-seater convertible, don't forget – but just three in the UX's boot. Yes, you did read that correctly: three. The E-Four model has an even smaller boot on account of the electric motor between the rear wheels. For comparison, an XC40 can take up to seven carry-on cases.
Passenger storage is reasonable, but not superb. There's a smallish glovebox and front door bins, along with a decent cubby under the central armrest and a couple of cup holders. Rear-seat passengers are served with a couple of map pockets but disappointingly no door bins.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The entry-level UX starts off looking like good value for a premium family SUV but the level of standard equipment isn't anything to write home about. It's only when adding on option packs, such as the Premium or Premium Plus Packs that you start to build in the luxuries that count. While these packs hike up the price to something matching a high-spec Volvo XC40 it does get you a very well equipped car.
For instance, the Premium Pack adds rear privacy glass, front and rear parking sensors, heated front seats and steering wheel, and automatic windscreen wipers. The Premium Plus Pack adds leather seats, bigger 18in alloy wheels, a larger 12.3in infotainment screen, wireless phone-charging, electric lumbar adjustment, electric steering wheel adjustment, keyless entry and a powered tailgate.
F-Sport, meanwhile, costs more than the standard UX with a Premium Plus Pack fitted, yet it still doesn't come quite as well equipped. You do get unique features, though, including sports suspension, sports seats and a black grille, bumpers and side sills. The optional Takumi Pack (limited to this trim level) adds even more kit, including a Mark Levinson sound system and head-up display.
Takumi spec is focused on luxury and is equipped with a larger, 12.3in infotainment screen, the Mark Levinson sound system, head-up display, leather upholstery and sunroof – but it costs far too much to be recommended.
Every model comes with Lexus’s Safety System Plus package, which includes adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance and road sign detection. All trim levels bar entry-level UX also come with blind spot monitoring, plus a system to warn you of things crossing your path as you reverse.
The Volvo XC40 is one of the safest cars in the class, according to its Euro NCAP results, and the UX isn't quite a match in that regard. Although it's not far off the Volvo in terms of adult and child occupancy protection, it falls short for pedestrian safety. That said, it still achieved five stars overall in 2019, when tests were a little less stringent.
Lexus regains some serious ground for reliability over rivals such as Range Rover and Volvo, though. As a manufacturer it finished in first place out of 32 manufacturers in the 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey. Volvo finished around mid-table and Land Rover was second from bottom.
So while the UX's three-year/60,000-mile warranty is far from generous, chances are you'll not need to make use of it. Following this initial period, the warranty can be extended for up to 10 years or 100,000 miles if you have your car serviced at a franchised dealer every 12 months or 10,000 miles. The UX’s hybrid components and battery are covered for five years, but a 60,000-mile cap still applies.
The UX also deserves some praise for its relatively affordable running costs. In our fuel economy test it managed 47.7mpg, which was much better than a diesel XC40 or Range Rover Evoque could achieve. That was on a mix of roads, but if you drive mainly around town you can expect even better results, because that is when a hybrid is most efficient.
Another benefit of being a hybrid is low company car tax bills. Official CO2 emissions of just 120g/km mean it will cost you substantially less than any diesel or petrol rival of a similar price and size. That said, if you're a cash buyer the UX will depreciate a little quicker over three years than an XC40 or Evoque, and generally that makes PCP finance payments higher, too.
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|RRP price range
|£34,770 - £57,095
|Number of trims (see all)
|Number of engines (see all)
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)
|MPG range across all versions
|47 - 53.2
|Available doors options
|3 years / 60000 miles
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)
|£95 / £2,965
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)
|£190 / £5,930