2023 Lexus UX Review

2023 Lexus UX - The sharply designed small crossover is now exclusively a hybrid.


The UX is a subcompact luxury crossover that was introduced for the 2019 model year. It's currently the smallest and most affordable in the Lexus lineup. New for 2023 is an exclusive hybrid powertrain, an available 12.3" multimedia touchscreen, new F Sport grade levels, and enhanced vehicle rigidity and quietness. The UX is exclusively available with a 2.0L inline 4-cylinder paired with an electric motor to deliver a combined 181 horsepower.  It pairs with an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission and is available with front or all-wheel drive. There are four trims to choose from that include the base model, premium, F Sport Design, and F Sport Handling. Prices start at $36,490 for a FWD UX 250h and climb to a starting price of $45,320 for an AWD UX 250h F Sport Handling. Competition includes vehicles such as the Audi Q3, BMW X1 or X2, Cadillac XT4, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Jaguar E-Pace, and Volvo XC40. I spent a week in a fully equipped UX 250h F Sport Handling with additional options that checked in at $49,140 (including delivery & processing). Here's what stood out...

Affordability / Value (+)
The UX offers a lot of variations with a price range of $36k - $50k which is great for an entry-level model. The base model comes with many standard features inside such as dual-zone climate control, 8-way power-adjustable front seats, an 8" multimedia touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. Outside, it comes standard with 18" five-spoke alloys, aluminum roof rails, Bi-LED headlamps, LED taillamps, and heated outside mirrors. Standard safety features include Blindspot Monitor with Rear-Cross Traffic Alert, Lexus Safety System+ 2.5 with Pre-Collision System and Pedestrian Detection, Lane Tracing Assist, Lane Departure Alert, Road Sign Assist, All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, and Intelligent High-Beams. That is a lot of solid features for a $36k Lexus that you won't be able to match on other luxury brands. You may notice some driver comfort features like heated seats, heated steering wheel and larger touchscreens are not standard, but they are all either standard or available options on the higher trim models. Just be wary as you add those options... you might end up with a $50k vehicle.

Exterior Styling (+)
Whether it's the base model or the fully equipped F Sport model, the UX has a sharp, trendy style to it. It rides higher than a traditional hatchback but has the shape and stylings of a "hot hatch." Up front the wide black spindle grille is flanked by standard LED headlights and a hood that dips in to create some angles. All models have flared fenders, although F Sport models will be body-colored versus the black finish found on other models. Around back are LED taillights that stretch across the hatch with a slim strip and the Lexus emblem underneath. The color palette includes nine base colors and six options that have a two-tone package with a black roof (available on F Sport models). I was a big fan of the black / blue color combination on my test vehicle. It also added in the black F Sport 18" gloss wheels. Overall proportions are good with the wheels pushed to edges to maximize space inside. From any angle it looks sporty and well put together.

Powertrain (+/-)
The UX was updated this year to now only offer a hybrid powertrain which is a naturally aspirated 2.0L inline four paired with front and rear motors (for the all-wheel drive models) and a continuously variable transmission that makes a combined 181 horsepower. It will get from 0-60 MPH in approximately 8.4 seconds, which is average for the class. The UX feels reasonably zippy around town, but it's not overly engaging. On the highway, it seems to work harder than it should, feeling somewhat underpowered when trying to pass or merge. The CVT works well and operates smoothly, and the hybrid powertrain works seamlessly. There are five total drive modes to choose from which will adjust the overall ride based on the mode selected. Sport will be the most engaging.

Handling / Dynamics (+/-)

While it has improved since the UX launched, handling and road athleticism are not where the UX shines. It handles sufficiently around town with well-balanced steering and taut suspension, but it falls short in comparison to competitors like Audi or BMW. Ride quality is good as it operates smoothly over various terrains and road noise is kept to a minimum. The UX is also impressively nimble. It boasts a 17.1-foot turning radius that will make it very user-friendly in city environments. This vehicle can sneak in and out of tight spaces without any issues.

Opting for an F Sport Handling model will be the most engaging as it adds standard performance dampers and an active variable suspension (AVS). The rear performance dampers quickly absorb body flex and minor vibrations to further sharpen handling and improve overall ride comfort and quietness. In addition, the AVS simultaneously maintains a flat posture and absorbs excess shock, even on road surfaces with a combination of large fluctuations in the pavement and minor bumps. This results in enhanced steering response, stability, and a comfortable ride. Steering response is further improved by adding a brace to the steering gear.

Efficiency (+)
The UX is one of the most fuel-efficient options available. When it arrived with a full 12.4-gallon tank it offered a range of around 400 miles. It's estimated at 41/38/39 MPG city/highway/combined on AWD models and after a week of suburban driving, I averaged 40 MPG. Front wheel drive models will do slightly better with an EPS estimated 42 MPG combined. As a bonus, it also runs on regular fuel.

Interior (+)
Hopping inside, the UX carries on with the high-quality reputation set by Lexus. The layout is modern with a sporty vibe, especially on F Sport models. Drivers will face a digital gauge cluster with a sliding bezel to provide various information as needed. A leather wrapped steering wheel includes controls for various driver assist features, audio, and drive modes.  At the center of the dash is either the 8 or 12.3" touchscreen that angles towards the driver. The updated system is intuitive and easy to use. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration was flawless. There is also a wireless charging tray tucked underneath the dash that works well and includes two fast-charging USB-C ports. It comes with a traditional gear shifter in the center console that includes a button for an EV Mode just below it. Heated / ventilated seat controls and heated steering wheel controls are located adjacent to the gear selector. One odd placement is the knob for drive modes which is placed behind the steering wheel above the instrument cluster.  Overall, it's a contemporary design that should appeal to some younger Lexus buyers.

Seats (+)
Despite its small size, I found the UX to be very comfortable up front. The seats are supportive and when fitted with the optional sport seats add additional bolstering and comfort. There's enough head, shoulder, and leg room up front without feeling like you're in a confined space. As expected in a vehicle of this size, the rear seats are more cramped. I was able to fit my three kids in the back, but there was little room for comfort or things like bags and water bottles to accompany them. The UX is best suited for those not needing to haul three kids or adults in the back. Seats and door trim are available in up to seven different colors, including a striking red available on F Sport models. The red and black combination worked well on the interior of the UX.

Cargo (-)
Space is limited for cargo in the UX with only 17.1 cubic feet in the back, perhaps the lowest in the segment. The rear seats do fold down to offer more space, but it's still not much. I found myself filling the space quickly with a weekly grocery trip. A manual liftgate is standard, but the hands-free power liftgate is available on all models and standard on Premium and up.

F Sport Packages (+)
Adding the F Sport appearance and handling packages make a big difference to a vehicle like the UX. On the exterior, models get exclusive F SPORT 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. It gives the UX a striking look that highlights the exterior design of the vehicle, especially in some of the bold colors offered.

Inside the F Sport models also receive an aluminum footrest and scuff plate in addition to F SPORT-exclusive sports seats, steering wheel, shift knob, meters, and aluminum sports pedals. Both driver and passenger can enjoy memory F SPORT seats with heated and ventilated options. Digital key, heated auto-dimming side mirrors with memory and auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink increase the F SPORT Handling experience for the driver in tangible ways.

Final Statement

The UX hybrid is a nice addition to the Lexus lineup with striking style, an efficient powertrain, and a high-quality build. It's a small, but nimble crossover that is perfect for an urban environment. Where it lacks overall power, it makes up for it in its hybrid efficiency and lightweight nimbleness. This is a fun vehicle to zip around in that looks great dressed in its F Sport guise.

First Impression Summary
Test Vehicle:
2023 Lexus UX 250h F Sport
Exterior Color: Ultrasonic Blue / Black
Interior Color: Circuit Red NuLuxe and Black dash
Options: 18" Gloss Black Wheel Package ($1,300), Roof Rack Cross Bars ($500), F Sport Heated Steering Wheel ($595), Power Rear Door with Kick Sensor ($550), Intuitive Parking Assist ($565), and more.
MSRP as tested: $49,140

Jim OBrill

Jim is Director of Marketing for the Chicago Automobile Trade Association and Chicago Auto Show and a co-host of Drive Chicago Radio on WLS 890 AM Chicago. His passion for cars started young and he’s often referred to as the ‘car-guy’ among family and friends. As a former auto detailer, he has an eye for identifying solid used cars and tags along on many car buying adventures. Early in his career he worked at several car dealerships in various areas of the business. As a co-host on Drive Chicago and member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, Jim has had opportunities to attend track school and drive vehicles on multiple circuits such as Road America and Gingerman Raceway. With a background in photography, taking pictures of vehicles has always been a hobby.

Jim also enjoys the trails and taking trucks like his 4Runner off road. He has a special appreciation for older cars and can often be found spending free time at cruise nights or home washing one his four vehicles. Jim resides in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three kids. Follow Jim on Instagram at @jpcars22 for new vehicle content or @forgotten_survivors.312 for shots of older cars still on the streets of Chicagoland.