Lexus entry-level model crossover is called the UX. It's a 4-door, subcompact wagon that was introduced in 2019 and is offered with front- or all-wheel drive. Sharing underpinnings with the Toyota C-HR, the UX seats five and comes with a gas-electric hybrid powertrain. Competitors include the Audi Q3, BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Volvo XC40 and Lexus' own larger NX. For 2023 the UX gets an updated infotainment system with a larger screen and upgrades to the suite of driver assist and safety features.
Trim levels include base, Premium, F Sport Design and F Sport Handling. All get a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder Atkinson-cycle gasoline engine paired with with a hybrid system for 181 total horsepower. Both engines mate to a CVT automatic transmission. The UX is not rated for towing.
Prices start at $36,500 and climb to more than $45,000 on the top of the line F Sport Handling. The new infotainment system comes with either an 8-inch or 12.3-inch display and includes wireless support for Android Auto and Apple Car Play. Lexus Safety System 2.5 is now standard on all models and ads an improved pre-collision system, better lane-recognition and lane-tracking systems and curve speed-control. The F Sport packages add custom wheels, grille, dark roof rails, a black roof, power tilt-and-slide moonroof, rain-sensing windshield wipers, fog and cornering lamps, automatic headlamp leveling and painted wheel arch molding. Building on F Sport Design, the F Sport Handling package adds standard performance dampers and an Active Variable Suspension.
Despite its overtly sporty styling, the Lexus UX isn't going to win any stoplight grand prix. In fact, with a 0-60 MPH time of about 9.5 seconds, the UX one of the slowest vehicles in the class. In addition, the engine lacks refinement as it is pushed toward redline.
On the flip side, fuel economy is great. The hybrid four nets EPA numbers of 43 MPG city and 42 MPG highway. All competitors fall significantly short of both marks and they require premium-grade fuel while the UX runs fine on regular-grade fuel. In routine suburban commuting expect to average about 38 MPG overall with the hybrid, perhaps a touch more if you hyper-mile on your commute. The smallish 10.6-gallon fuel tank compromises overall highway range.
The all-wheel-drive system does not have a low range and is not intended for severe off-road use. Like other through-the-road all-wheel-drive systems, there's no mechanical connection between the engine and the rear wheels, rather a separate electric motor is used to power the rear wheels when the fronts start to slip.
While the UX might not offer much driving excitement under the hood, dynamically the changes for 2023, allow it to hold its own when the road gets twisty. There's a nimble feel to the chassis that encourages spirited driving. Step up to the larger wheels and tires and sport suspension on the F SPORT Handling Package and the UX feels downright nimble -- thanks in part to its compact packaging and short overhangs. Regardless of model, the suspension does a good job of filtering out road imperfections and softening big blows. At times, the ride can grow busy if the road is really rough.
The steering boasts progressive feedback and is nicely tuned for highway driving. Brakes on the hybrid have that numb pedal feel that makes it almost impossible to come to smooth stops. Thankfully, it's not as bad as in some other hybrids, but you can certainly feel the transition from motor-assisted regenerative braking to full-on friction braking. Body lean is minimal and there's little dive or squat when transitioning on and off the power.
Interior noise levels are appropriately low for the type of vehicle. However, it's likely this might be the nosiest volume-produced Lexus in the lineup. The main culprit is a droning engine in acceleration, but at times, there's a fair amount of tire noise as well.
Inside, the Lexus UX tries to cater to younger buyers with a modern and somewhat busy interior that awash in buttons and knobs. Materials seem price appropriate, but plastic rules the day where as some competitors offer wood and metal trim.
The instrument cluster is a somewhat confusing blend of analog and digital, but for vehicle that only comes with a CVT automatic, all you really need is an easy-to-read speedometer. There's a nice color head-up display that's available as well. The center stack boasts a very large display screen and an integrated wireless charging tray. There are two rows of climate-control buttons between the screen and charging tray. The new-for-'23 infotainment system ditches the console-mounted touchpad for a more straightforward touchscreen and a radio dial finally re-appears (thankfully).
The front seats are firmly padded and offer generous lateral support. Head and leg room are acceptable for adults, though large adults may want a trifle more of both. Getting in and out is easy thanks to a low step in and large door openings. Visibility is good to all directions thanks to thin pillars and an open-feeling greenhouse. The rear seats are adult friendly if you push the front seats well forward. Otherwise, large adults may find that knee space is limited.
Cargo capacity is a scant 17 cubic feet. Those are better numbers than a typical subcompact car, but certainly near the bottom of the class of subcompact crossovers. Interior storage is tight with just a few open and covered bins throughout.
Bottom Line -- The UX succeeds at providing a modern and luxurious subcompact crossover. At the same time. those wanting more room or power can easily step up to the Lexus NX. Which really explains a lot. Lexus carves out a very small space for the UX, and pricing is key. It's the most affordable Lexus by a long shot, and still provides a taste of what the brand can offer from a safety and technology standpoint. Drawbacks include uninspired engine performance and lack of cargo space. Pluses include fine driving manners, exceptional fuel economy and a solid value for the money.