If there is one thing we have learned from the global Covid-19 pandemic is Mother Nature is an extremely resilient lady and the images of clear skies, cleaner waterways and the like resurrected during the various lockdowns is testament to this.
As the automotive world speeds further towards electrification, now even more so egged on by environmentalists gleefully brandishing the clean-air city images, naysayers doggedly show their ‘evidence’ of the manufacturing processes involved in zero-emission vehicles to be worse than their fossil fuel counterparts.
That is an argument for another forum – what is undeniable is the fact zero emission vehicles will make city centres a lot more palatable and will have some level of saving on dwindling oil reserves.
The infrastructure requirements for all of this is enormous and costly and this is a factor in the decision by Toyota to press on with the development of hybrid technology. Heck, even Mercedes-Benz is adding more electrification into its new ranges – although, given the levels of tech being incorporated in some of those models, they will need their own power stations just to keep it all up and running.
Hybrid is not ‘the best of both worlds’ but it is the best we have at the moment.
I have spent a pleasant week with the Lexus UX 250 hybrid, the Compact Crossover providing all one has come to expect from a Lexus product in terms of comfort, ride, handling and tech – in reality, other than the silent start-up or watching the power transfer patterns on the digital dash, you would not really know this was a hybrid.
Toyota claims an average fuel consumption for this vehicle of 4,9 l/100 km but I battled to get anywhere near that. Averaging 100 km/h on the highway, consumption was 7,4 l/100 km, while rural use dropped down to 5,2 l/100 km. Placing the car in peak traffic and trying to crawl along on as much electric power as possible dropped that to 3,8 l/100 km – an average of 5,46 l/100 km.
So, while you are entitled to have the warm and fuzzy feeling that comes with knowing you are trying to do something positive for the environment, you will not necessarily get the same elation in the pocket – still, in the grand scheme of things, consumption is better than the average for non-hybrid competitors.
The new Lexus UX 250h EX boasts the same efficiency and performance as its SE grade sibling. The 2.0-litre petrol engine alone delivers 107 kW of power at 6 000 r/min and 180 Nm of torque at 4 400 r/min, equating to a 0-100km/h sprint time of 8,5 seconds, topped off by a maximum speed of 177 km/h.
As with the SE Hybrid model grade, the UX 250h EX is similarly-specced, and comes standard with features such as park distance control with a reverse camera (without panoramic view), push start system, Drive Mode Select, which allows the driver to tailor the driving experience by selecting from three different drive modes (Normal, ECO and Sport), as well as niceties such as two rear USB charging ports (ideal for passengers), a navigation system and a hands-free rear boot.
In addition, other standard features include Normal Cruise Control, Heated Power Retractable Side Mirrors as well as Day and Night Mirrors.
In the cabin, the UX 250h EX model is available with five standard Nulux (simulated leather) interior options, namely Black, White Ash, Rich Cream, B Ocher and Cobalt. The Lexus Remote Touch Interface (RTI) with haptic feedback is designed to feel as familiar to use as a smartphone. It also features the Lexus 8-Speaker Premium Sound System which uses bamboo charcoal speaker diaphragms to reduce mass and deliver natural-sounding voices and improved mid-range sound.
The finger-driven mousepad did little for me. Very difficult to use unless the car is stationary, the cursor hops around wildly to the point of irritating, often resulting in incorrect inputs and frequent corrections.
The interior is typical Lexus class with multi-movement comfortable seating, a commanding driving position and all necessary switches or buttons placed within easy reach.
Exterior-wise, the UX 250h EX comes standard with 18-inch aluminium alloy aero-ventilating wheels which are available in a standard silver metallic colour. The model also features front LED daytime running lights, arranged in an arrowhead motif above the headlights which complement the Lexus L-shaped lighting signature.
The instant thrust coming from the electric motor input makes the throttle response, especially on take-off, a delight and the 2,0-litre engine has more than enough grunt to pull the skin off a rice pudding.
Never a fan of CVT gearboxes, I question the choice in the UX. However, if getting from ‘A’ to ‘B’ needs a touch of urgency, switching to Sport mode provides just that and the actual gear changes can be further improved by manually operating the shift lever.
Ride comfort is out of the top drawer and the little Lexus handles itself extremely well in harsh cornering with minimal body roll or nasty understeering tendencies.
The EX Hybrid model joins the rest of the Lexus models with a standard 7-year/105 000 km Warranty and Full Maintenance Plan. Vehicle service intervals are set at every 15 000 km, alternatively once a year.