Lexus LBX long-term test: report 1

Back in January we named this small SUV as the best new car to buy in 2024 – and now we're backing up that verdict by living with one...

Darren inside Lexus LBX

The car Lexus LBX 1.5 Hybrid Premium Plus | Run by Darren Moss, deputy digital editor

Why it’s here To see what our much-praised Car of the Year is like to live with on a daily basis, providing frugal transport while not sacrificing SUV practicality.

Needs to be Frugal, fun to drive, and able to function as a mobile office when needed

Mileage 560 List price £35,260 Target Price £35,260 Price as tested £35,605 Test economy 53.5mpg Official economy 61.4mpg Options None

27 April 2024 – Masterclass

What do Judi Dench, Kanye West and Lewis Hamilton have in common with the Lexus LBX? Well, they’ve each been presented with awards for outstanding achievements in their field. And in January, the LBX got its own trophy, winning the coveted Car of the Year title at our annual What Car? Car of the Year Awards.

Welcome to what is not only our top-rated small SUV, then, but also the best new car to buy in 2024 – all of which makes me feel rather happy about having one as my company car for the next few months.

Lexus LBX driving rear

On paper, the LBX is a good fit for me. Its SUV proportions should mean that there’s decent room for passengers and luggage whenever I’m the designated driver for am-dram rehearsals, while its hybrid setup will hopefully bring a welcome reduction in my running costs. And having just stepped out of a Genesis GV70, which managed just 24mpg on a good day, the LBX’s official figure of 61.4mpg is cause for celebration.

No version of the LBX is poorly equipped, with even entry-level Urban cars getting automatic LED headlights, dual-zone climate control and a reversing camera. I’ve splashed out on a mid-range Premium Plus Design car, which takes our recommended Premium Plus specification’s stellar kit list – including a 12.3in digital driver’s display, a head-up display, keyless entry and an air purification system – and adds a wider range of paint and alloy wheel options. 

Indeed, while most of the UK’s new car buyers will choose various shades of black, grey and white for their new cars, I’ve gone for Passionate Yellow – a colour which makes my car look about as shy and retiring as a circus clown holding an oversized novelty lollipop. It’s already getting me noticed – when myself and What Car? Photographer John Bradshaw were collecting the photos for this report, the soft snapping of the camera shutter was masked only by the sound of horns and windows being wound down from drivers passing by. And most of the things shouted at me were complimentary.

Lexus LBX with Darren driving

In what could be a major personality shift, I haven’t added any options to the LBX, but in truth there aren’t many to choose from, and those which are available are mostly designed to make family life less wearing on the interior by protecting bits of it. I’ll take my chances, considering most of my journeys involve a combination of me, some friends, and an old cat.

My early journeys with the LBX have been good. I like the plushness of its seats as I lower myself into them, and the soft leather of the LBX’s steering wheel. I also like that while the LBX follows the trend of having a large infotainment screen to handle most functions, it’s retained physical controls for the climate, which means I can press a button to change the temperature rather than prod at the screen. The touchscreen itself has been quick to respond to my inputs, but I don’t like that I have to accept terms and conditions each time I start a journey. 

The LBX’s digital dials are clear to read, and I like that the head-up display can put all the most useful information – including handy reminders of which button on the steering wheel I’m pressing – right in front of me.

The fuel economy afforded by my car’s 1.5-litre petrol engine and electric motor is raising a smile, because I’m getting 53.5mpg without really trying. Like most hybrids – including the Toyota Yaris Cross, with which my car shares most of its oily bits – the LBX’s system is at its most efficient around town, where it can run on electric power for most of the time. The electric shove from its motor helps me to make the most out of gaps in the traffic, too.

Lexus LBX driving front

Despite being a hybrid, the LBX is priced roughly in line with non-hybrid small SUV rivals like the Audi Q2 – but is also significantly more expensive than its Yaris Cross sister car. Over the next few months, I want to see if the LBX does enough to justify that increase, and whether it can offer comfortable conveyance while also helping me to slash my fuel bills.

 If it can do all of that, it’ll reaffirm why we awarded the LBX our top accolade. And just like Ms Dench, Mr Hamilton and Mr West, it’ll show that this small Lexus SUV is at the very top of its game.

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