I always try to tie these reviews to some sort of human interest story. This time, it’s not exactly human. In 2019, our beloved dog Sari passed away. She had a good run, but her passing was tough on everyone. We made it a year and a few months before the kids wore us down and we got a new puppy. Meet Dublin.
Dublin is a 6 month old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel + Poodle, aka a Cavapoo (or Cavoodle). He’s our first “designer” pup, and admittedly he came from a breeder vs. an animal rescue. My wife finally figured out that she’s allergic to certain dogs and we needed to find a hypoallergenic option. We got him at 8 weeks and he’s been awesome! You’ll have to find out at the end of the review why he’s so pissed off. But first, let’s get to the car.
The Lexus UX is based on the Toyota C-HR. We’ve driven the C-HR a few times, the experiences spread across a few different writers. It wasn’t always positive. I loved my experience, but it involved a different kind of C-HR, the “R-Tuned” one-off iteration that’s faster than a Nissan GT-R. I found the regular C-HR to be perfectly fine for a daily driver, and even had fun throwing it around Willow Springs raceway.
So it was with that context that I started this experience with a 2020 Lexus UX 250h F Sport Luxury for a week.
The UX is available in six different trim levels and it starts at a very reasonable $32,300. That’s cheaper than luxury rivals like the BMW X1 or Volvo XC40. Back when I first started driving, you could get a good entry level luxury car for around $30,000. As those cars all got larger, and more expensive, we had to rely on automakers to slot in cheaper versions. That hasn’t always been a good thing. Stay tuned to see if Lexus pulled it off.
The basic difference is the drivetrain, the UX 200 series, of which you can get F Sport and Luxury trims, comes in FWD-only and has a 169 horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine. That’s thankfully a decent bump from the C-HR’s 144 horsepower.
Our test car came pretty loaded. $42,930.00 loaded. That’s a far cry from the near-$30K base. But you get a lot of stuff. Here, take a look.
The 250h series all come standard with AWD and a 181 horsepower 2.0L hybrid engine. So, some of our biggest complaints about the C-HR are getting remedied already, it’s got AWD and more power. Let’s see if the rest of the car justifies the significant bump in price.
This is my second Lexus in a row with red seats, and I love it. My wife, however, hated it. Bright red seats are an instant turn-off for her whenever I get a press loaner. So consider this particular UX’s interior color pallette to be polarizing, not a big deal since you can opt for more staid colors.
Overall, I really liked the interior of the UX, it is convincingly upscale, which isn’t always the case when you base your luxury car on a more pedestrian model. The screen is mercifully more integrated than a lot of other luxury brands that look like they super-glued an iPad to the dash.
I really like the toggle switch configuration for the heating and air-conditioning system. While they don’t stay click up or down in a satisfying “click”, they look cool. Any interface that makes me feel like I’m firing up a fighter plane, or some sort of military vehicle, is cool in my book.
Did I mention that I love the seats, they are very comfortable and nicely adjustable. I think the lumbar may have gone all the way through me if I kept moving it forward, and it felt great. The red may not be for you, but it definitely makes for a dramatic entry.
When I wanted to quickly turn down the radio, you know, like when I was trying to pay attention to directions, I immediately reached for the dash. It’s not there. Instead, it’s down near the touchpad. So, while I don’t like not having a knob for the volume, I could get used to having this little controller down by my right hand with volume, tune, etc.
I’m on the fence about the old school shifter. In an era with push-button drive select, this felt pretty dated. Plus, when you slot it over to the left into shift-mode (It’s a CVT, you ain’t foolin me) it makes a loud thud. If my right leg was next to the transmission tunnel, I could feel it impact. It represents one of the few times that it lost the upscale feeling. Toss in a cheap piece of insulation or rubber to dull the impact.
I’m kinda done with the Lexus touchpad. It generally works, but I have a had time getting it to highlight what I wanted to select. Also, my iPhone cord kept landing on it and it would move the cursor and make a noise. I get that you want me to keep my hands down towards the wheel (and shifter I guess?) but there has to be a better way.
After driving the big GX for a week, the UX was a refreshing change. It’s basically a small hatchback, but it’s slightly lifted look and chunky wheel arches make it a “subcompact luxury crossover SUV”. Alrighty.
I’m almost never a fan of the dramatic rear slope design. I know we are trying to keep people from thinking it’s a wagon, God forbid we think that, but it dramatically decreases cargo capacity. Not that I expect people to be hauling large furniture in a UX, but if it’s your only vehicle you just might need that extra space.
The front is pretty solid, the big Lexus grill looks surprisingly at home on the small crossover. I’ll admit, when it was dropped off, I didn’t peg it for a C-HR relative. So Lexus has done an admirable job making a good looking small luxury crossover.
Also, the F-Sport package, a $2,890 option, is always money well spent at Lexus. It adds just the right touch of black trim and improves the look, inside and out!
The most interesting design cue is probably the tail light fins. Channeling it’s inner Cadillac, they stick up a bit in the back giving a pretty unique look. I dig it.
Like almost all cars these days “sport mode” does not seem to do anything at all other than just bump up the revs a bit. However it feels quite nimble because of its small size. At 3,605 pounds, it’s fairly light for a modern car, a fact that I cringe at as I type it out. Back in my day (the 90s) there were cars that weighed under 3,000 pounds, and a car that weighed over 3,600 would be considered heavy. I know, we added a lot of safety, blah, blah.
Overall, the UX isn’t fast, but it should satisfy most buyer’s needs from an acceleration and handling perspective.
So, back to our friend Dublin. I daily drive a 2017 Jeep Wrangler, and even though it’s suspension is unmodified, it’s still a bit bumpy. I had to drive an hour to Maryland to pick Dubby up from his appointment to get fixed.
It was an overnight stay at the vet, and I knew he wasn’t going to be happy with me. I also figured he would be pretty uncomfortable in the Jeep. So it was great that the UX was dropped off the day I had to pick him up. It meant that he got a nice, fairly cushy ride back home. He sat there briefly staring at me, as if I had double-crossed him (which I had), but eventually curled up on the UX’s passenger seat and slept off his procedure on the way home.
The UX was a noble chariot for young Dublin, and I’m glad it exists. The $30,000 cars that I pined for just out of college were cars like the Lexus IS, Audi A4, and BMW 3-series. All of those cars start at $40,000, or just below, for 2020. So I’m glad that we are seeing these smaller, more affordable options arriving in showrooms.
The UX is a great small luxury car, and delivers a lot for the price. Go check it out.