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Car of the Year Awards 2024: Small SUV of the Year

A small SUV's compact size mustn’t come at the expense of practicality and should be reflected by low running costs. It should ride comfortably, too, while maintaining a sense of fun...

WINNER: Small SUV of the Year

Lexus LBX 1.5 Premium Plus

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Fully electric cars may be the future, but then so is wearable tech – and not everyone has bought a virtual reality headset or even a smartwatch yet.

The truth is that right now there are valid reasons for not going electric. If you don’t have off-street parking, for example, you’ll have the added inconvenience of lengthy (and expensive) charging stops. And then there’s the price of the car. Sure, you’ll be quids in if you’re a company car driver paying benefit-in-kind tax, but if you aren’t, you’ll face a bigger initial outlay or higher monthly finance repayments than for an equivalent petrol model.

Lexus LBX interior

But what if you still want to do your bit for reducing air pollution? Well, in that case a hybrid like the Lexus LBX could be just the thing. The LBX is the regular sort of hybrid that doesn’t need plugging in, so you treat it just like a normal petrol car by squirting unleaded into the tank. The difference is that there’s a battery that harvests energy that would otherwise be wasted, and that’s then fed to an electric motor to help drive the car along, including on electric power alone at times around town.

The biggest bonus of this is fabulous fuel economy. The LBX officially sips petrol at a rate of a gallon every 65.7 miles, which means it’s even more frugal than the closely related Toyota Yaris Cross – the most efficient car we’ve ever put through our Real MPG test.

However, in the same way that a Porsche Cayenne sits on similar underpinnings to a Volkswagen Touareg but feels very different, this is so much more than a cynical rebadging of a cheaper car. The LBX is more powerful, for starters, so it has noticeably stronger acceleration. The engine has also been modified to minimise vibration, while extra sound-deadening material in the doors reduces how much unwanted noise gets inside the car.

Lexus LBX front

But the biggest difference is undoubtedly the interior. The small SUV features lots of plush, upmarket materials and class-leading build quality to ensure it feels like a proper Lexus.

The driving position is excellent, too; you sit in a supportive seat that’s mounted noticeably higher up than in a conventional hatchback, and forward visibility is superb. Plus, you get the same intuitive, 9.8in touchscreen infotainment system that features in the firm's pricier models, including the Lexus NX.

Any drawbacks? Well, apart from a slightly choppy ride and the fact that some rivals offer more rear seat space, not really. The LBX may be pricier than conventional rivals such as the Volkswagen T-Roc, but it’s cheaper than electric alternatives, and our recommended Premium Plus trim gets lots of creature comforts, including synthetic leather seats (heated in the front), a powered tailgate and a head-up display. 

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