The Lexus UX is an interesting and welcome alternative to the compact SUVs currently available to order through the Motability Scheme. The level of standard specification is high, with an impressive array of connectivity options, safety features and an economical self-charging full-Hybrid powertrain.
The Lexus UX 250h 'F-Sport Design' trim can now be ordered with £3995 Advance Payment, up from £2999 last quarter (section updated October 2023).
The UX competes directly against cars like the Volvo XC40, the Jaguar E-PACE, the Audi Q3, the BMW X1 and the Mercedes GLA. The angular Lexus NX, which previously represented the company against rivals such as these, has been repositioned a little further up-market as an alternative to slightly larger medium-sized models (think Audi Q5s and BMW X3s).
So, does the UX stand a chance against such an army of fiercely talented competitors? Well the looks are certainly a little different to what's on offer elsewhere in this sector - and so is the core powertrain, a non-Plug-in petrol/electric hybrid. There's also an alternative UX 300e battery full-electric version, but at the time of writing that's not available to lease through the Motability Scheme.
A few engineering changes have enhanced the handling of this revised UX. Steering feel has been improved with a redesigned rigid joint between the top of the steering gearbox mount and the suspension member, plus shock absorber damping force has been re-tuned. The 'F Sport' model now gets standard Adaptive Variable Suspension too. Otherwise, things are as before, which means that all models get 250h badging and use the same 2.0-litre self-charging full-Hybrid petrol engine, with fourth generation Lexus Hybrid technology and 181bhp on tap. So you can't plug it in but you will get exemplary fuel returns, even though this unit has to be had mated to electronic continuously variable transmission CVT auto transmission. It's available both with front-wheel drive and with Lexus's E-Four AWD system. Performance is good enough to take the car to 62mph in about 8.5s en route to 110mph.
Lexus says that particular efforts have been made to reduce any "rubber band" effect in the operation of the hybrid system and transmission, by optimising the level of electric motor assistance and engine rpm to generate a sense of linear acceleration without the engine running at high revs. You'll still feel this issue a little though if you stab your right foot down. Handling's better than you might expect thanks to the impressively stiff GA-C global architecture platform. This model's surprisingly light for a Hybrid too, thanks to weight-saving measures in the body construction, including the use of lightweight aluminium for the side doors, wings and bonnet, as well as a resin material for the back door.
Does this look like an SUV to you? For us, it's more of a family hatch than it is any kind of crossover - but maybe that's just the point. Lexus is trying to blur the boundaries here to make movement into this car from, say, a BMW 1 Series or an Audi A3 that much easier. From a stylistic point of view, the Japanese brand says that its aim with the UX wasn't to conform to the established, solid crossover look, but to achieve a strong and stylish silhouette that was more distinctive and dynamic. This design approach can be seen in the way the front and rear wings flare strongly outwards in relation to the car's basic form, which flows out from the lines of the spindle grille to envelop the cabin. At the front, the arrangement of the headlights and the spindle grille are incorporated into a deep, strong shape created by the hood and bumper to try and generate a sense of security. At the rear, a condensed styling treatment contrasts sharply with the flared wings to try and emphasise the UX's crossover qualifications.
The UX measures 4,495mm long, 1,520mm high and 1,840mm wide and has a 2,640mm wheelbase. An 870mm couple distance ensures ample space for rear seat passengers in the surprisingly roomy cabin. The instrument panel has a low, unobtrusive design and the slim A-pillar mouldings have been shaped to improve visibility and give the kind of commanding outward view that is expected of a crossover. The key change made to this revised model lies with the adoption of Lexus' latest multimedia systems, which dispense with the previous much-criticised trackpad for control, using a touchscreen format instead; 8 or 12-inch monitors are fitted, size depending on chosen trim. All have sharper graphics, 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Adroid Auto' connectivity and "Hey Lexus" voice recognition, plus the larger display has built-in navigation.
There's not a massive amount of rear seat room, but a couple of adults will be OK. Out back, the load area isn't huge - it's 791mm long - which means the front-driven version can take up to 320-litres loaded up to the tonneau cover; it's 283-litres with the E-FOUR variant and 367-litres with the UX 300e.
Prices for the UX start at around £33,500 for the base model. A new 'F Sport Design' grade has just been added to the line-up, and as before, 'F-Sport' and top 'Takumi' variants complete the line-up. The base UX grade features a navigation system, dual-zone air conditioning, full-LED headlights, 'Apple CarPlay'/'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring and 17-inch alloys. All UX models get an improved Lexus Safety System+ package of camera-driven kit, which gains 'Intersection Turning Assist' and 'Curve Speed Reduction' as part of a wide range of features.
The 'F Sport Design' trim gets a sportier look, synthetic leather seat upholstery, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic air conditioning with Lexus’ Nanoe-X air quality system, reversing camera, automatic wipers, chrome roof rails, black wheel arch mouldings and Lexus “F” badging.
You might be approaching this UX wanting diesel-style returns from petrol power - and that's pretty much what you get. Let's look at the WLTP figures. Mated to front wheel drive, the Hybrid engine with the front-driven model delivers up to 53.3mpg on the combined cycle and up to 120g/km of CO2. As you'd expect, to get the full benefit of the potential efficiency of this Lexus, you've got to do your part as a driver - and that means proactive use of the various modes and systems provided. You'll need to keep a very careful eye on the Hybrid system gauge that replaces the usual rev counter on the dash, making sure that the needle stays as often as possible in either of the blue 'Eco' or 'Charge' zones.
Those in a frugal frame of mind will also want to keep an eye on the various graphical screens provided by the fascia's centre-dash colour monitor. Go to the 'Trip Information' part of its 'Vehicle' section and you'll find under 'Past Record' a screen that graphically shows your success - or otherwise - in terms of recently achieved frugality. Another option on this screen is the useful 'Energy Monitor', there to show at a glance at any time what's charging or being driven by what. The graphics for this are provided in simpler form as one of the selectable settings provided by the central instrument binnacle display screen.
You might wonder whether the market really needs another posh little SUV like the Lexus UX, but we would contend that this segment wasn't really complete until this premium Japanese brand entered it. The fact that it offers self-charging full-Hybrid power may well be enough to tempt plenty of drivers who want an alternative to diesel.
Overall, it's good to drive, very economical and should be pretty easy to live with, too.
People with a disability and carers who choose a new Lexus UX through Motability will receive a brand new car, delivered by a Motability Specialist at a local Lexus dealership, complete with insurance, servicing and maintenance, full breakdown assistance, replacement tyre cover, windscreen repair or replacement cover plus a mileage allowance of 60,000 miles over three years.
This month, these Lexus Ux models can be ordered through the Motability Scheme: