Expanding product options to capture new buyers in different spheres of the market is a natural – and logical – marketing process and one fully embraced by the auto industry.
However, it occasionally can bite back as Jaguar discovered when it introduced the Ford Mondeo based X-Type in order to provide an entry level product to people that previously could not afford one. The ploy was hugely successful – in fact, too much so and the sales volumes decimated the resale values of its premium products.
Lexus has moved into this arena with the UX it describes as an ‘urban crossover’ that, for many, will be their first luxury vehicle and their first Lexus.
Of the three variants, it was the UZ250h that arrived for testing – this pairing a higher-efficiency version of the 2,0 litre petrol engine with a new fourth-generation hybrid drive system engineered specifically for this platform.
It is noticeably shorter, but remains pure Lexus and offers all that makes Lexus, well, Lexus. It is comfortable, refined, luxurious, posed, graceful and handsome.
However, the rear seating is extremely limited and suitable only for small children, while the luggage capacity is certainly not designed for family holiday luggage but, the biggest issue during the test cycle was the fuel consumption.
The Hybrid delivers 107 kW of power at 6 000 r/min and 180 Nm of torque at 4 400 r/min (total system output of 135 kW), equating to a 0-100km/h sprint time of 8,5 seconds, topped off by a maximum speed of 177 km/h (governed).
From that Lexus claims it produces fuel economy figures of 4,5 l/100 km combined but I could not get anywhere near that. With several onboard computer resets, highway cruising came in between 6,3 l/100 km and 7,0 l/100 km.
With electric power available during city and urban driving, I was able to creep down to 6,2 l/100 km – all the figures in keeping with what can be expected from a 2,0-litre petrol engine but certainly more than I expected with the hybrid drive in play.
Perhaps, I am just leaden-footed….
The 2019 UX is the first Lexus constructed on the new Global Architecture Compact (GA C) platform. A lightweight, rigid structure, low center of gravity and refined suspension tuning endow the UX with exemplary handling agility and ride comfort.
All, indeed, true. The UX feels more sedan than crossover in terms of ride quality and handling and comfortably deals with being pressed hard into corners with the Sport mode option (definitely not helping consumption) giving the bit of edge that makes it fun to drive.
The spindle grille, though sharing its basic form with other Lexus models, is unique to the UX. It features a new block-shape mesh pattern with individual elements that gradually change in shape as they radiate out from the central Lexus emblem.
The headlamp design completes the UX’s face, giving it a determined, confident gaze. Daytime running lights arranged in an arrowhead motif above the headlights complement the Lexus L-shaped lighting signature.
The full-width rear lights project a distinctive night-time signature formed by a sequence of 120 LEDs tapering toward the center, measuring just 3 mm thick at its narrowest point.
The wheel arch moldings that protect the body from gravel thrown up by the tyres, use airflow over their edges to reduce turbulence and lift, contributing to the vehicle’s stability.
A similar contribution is made by the rear combination lamps. Aero Stabilising Blade Lights begin at the top of the rear fenders and span the rear of the vehicle. By guiding airflow around the rear of the UX, this design also reduces turbulence and lift.
The standard 5-spoke 18 x 6,5 inch aluminium alloy aero ventilating wheels feature Gurney flaps along the spoke edges designed to reduce wind resistance while also increasing the airflow to cool the disc brakes.
From the driver’s seat, the upper section of the instrument panel appears to extend out beyond the windshield into the fenders giving the driver an excellent field of vision and a clear sense of the vehicle’s dimensions and tyre placement.
Even with a higher seating position than a standard passenger car, the reduction in distance between the hip and heel points gives the UX driver a feeling of being closer to the road than in a conventional SUV.
The Hybrid UX offers 8-way power-adjustable front seats, the latter with adjustable lumbar support for the driver. Front seat cushions use springs and foam specially designed to gently envelop occupants while uniformly dispersing pressure under the occupant’s sciatic area.
The three-spoke steering wheel and analogue clock come from the Lexus LS and Lexus Climate Concierge, as used in other Lexus models, automatically links heating and cooling airflow with the heated and ventilated seats to optimise interior temperature comfort.
The Lexus Remote Touch Interface (RTI) with haptic feedback in the 2019 UX is designed to feel as familiar to use as a smartphone. The RTI utilises intuitive operations, such as double-tapping and flicking, to mimic common phone gestures. Frameless construction eliminates edges, and a special coating on the touch pad surface lets fingers easily slide over it while minimizing the appearance of fingerprints.
The F Sport and Hybrid models feature illuminated vent controls with distinctive LED light sources wirelessly powered by electromagnetic resonance of two adjacent magnetic coils vibrating at the same frequency. The vent control LEDs use mirror optics in the same design principle as the Lexus LC’s tail lamps to create the effect of deep floating light sources, even though the light element is just 3 mm thick.
The standard Lexus Premium Sound System can play back the highest-resolution digital audio formats from a USB device, and the charcoal speaker diaphragms to reduce mass and deliver natural-sounding voices and improved mid-range sound.
The test car was fitted with the optional Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound System that has a 13-speaker array, low-distortion 668 W Class D 8 channel amplifier, Quantum Logic Surround Sound and ClariFi 2.0 technology.
Literally enough to blow your mind.
The MacPherson strut front suspension and multilink rear suspension with trailing arms, both mounted to sub-frames, are specially tuned to deliver a combination of agility and comfort over well-worn urban street surfaces, while Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) helps the vehicle trace the driver’s desired line through a turn by applying some brake control on the inside wheels, suppressing the tendency to understeer.
As mentioned, its ride is poised and confident in all conditions, making it a fun car to drive as opposed to making it the background to a selfie.
The new hybrid system combines the new 2,0 litre four-cylinder petrol engine coupled with two electric motor-generators in a new-generation hybrid transaxle that is more compact, lighter and has less internal friction than previous Lexus hybrid systems. Compared to similarly-sized Lexus hybrid, the power control unit of the UX is more powerful yet 20% smaller and 10% lighter.
Optimising the level of electric motor assistance and engine rpm produces a linear acceleration feel without the engine having to run at high revs. Engine speed is synchronised with vehicle speed to create an immediate and continuous acceleration feel.
The speed at which the hybrid system can shut off the petrol engine, such as when driving on long downward slopes, has been raised from the 70 km/h of previous Lexus hybrids to 115 km/h for the UX 250h.
All UX models are equipped with eight crash bags and the Lexus Safety System includes Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-Crash System (PCS), Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist and LED Adaptive High-beam System (AHS).
The entire UX range has a 7-year/105 000 km Warranty and Full Maintenance Plan. The vehicle service intervals are at every 15 000 km, alternatively once a year.