The Lexus UX is a five-door compact crossover SUV that’s packed with creature comforts and oozes elegance and sophistication. It’s the company’s baby of the SUV line-up but still packs a mighty punch with its powerful hybrid technology and low centre of gravity driving dynamics. Now available as an all-electric model too.
The goodDesign, handling and economy
The badCluttered interior with clunky touchpad
Lexus UX 300e EV with Premium Plus Pack – First Drive (2021)
Lexus and Toyota have long been pioneers in developing hybrid vehicles building a reputation that is renowned the world over and now Lexus has unleashed its first fully-electric car.
It’s called the UX 300e and is a dynamically-styled five-door compact SUV that is packed with high-end kit as standard, boasts a decent driving range and offers a practically-sized boot.
The car is powered by a 54kWh battery that is located beneath the cabin floor and, with an output of 201bhp, the UX 300e can sprint to 62mph from a standing start in 7.5 seconds and maxes out at 100mph. The driving range, under strict WLTP testing, is 96 miles between charges depending on wheel size.
From a design point of view, the electrified model shares much of its DNA with the standard UX car, including the signature spindle grille, arrowhead daytime running lights, coupe-like roofline and a choice of 17- or 18-inch alloy wheels.
Moving inside, the cabin is beautifully-crafted and inspired by traditional Japanese architecture with a very driver-focused layout. The instrument display has been revised to offer all the electric-related data such as driving range, battery charge levels and there is a smart digital speedo readout.
Replacing the conventional gear lever is a shift-by-wire drive selector with drive, neutral and reverse options, but otherwise the cabin is clutter-free, modern and very premium with the finest upholstery and materials throughout.
The level of on-board technology impresses too and our car was fitted with a Premium Plus Pack included in the standard £44,400 price-tag. There is a seven-inch media display screen with six-speaker sound system, full smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a wireless smartphone charging tray, heated and ventilated front seats with eight-way power adjustment, a reversing camera and parking sensors.
Out on the open road, the UX 300e is an absolute delight to drive cruising effortlessly at 70mph on motorways and it is dynamic through twisting B roads and country lanes with plenty of acceleration and grip. There is a small amount of body sway if tight bends are attacked too eagerly, but generally the car is well balanced and many uneven surfaces are smoothed out along the way by the highly-effective suspension system.
You can switch through drive modes called Sport, Normal and Eco that alter the mannerisms of the vehicle and by choosing ‘B’ on the gear selector, it maximises the energy recouped during braking or cruising.
The UX 300e is a comfy car to fizz around town in with good all-round visibility and I can confirm the range is pretty accurate too. The vehicle was showing a driving range of 185 miles and I completed a 161-mile journey, arriving home with 11 miles to spare!
With the lithium-ion battery stored beneath the rear seats, the boot size is actually larger than the conventional UX with 367 litres of space – an increase of 47 litres. However, like most compact SUVs, back seat occupants do not fare quite so well and adults will find it all a little cramped, especially if the front seats are pushed well back.
There are lots of convenient cubby spaces to store away bits and pieces, such as a glovebox, a central bin beneath the armrest, door pockets, front and rear cup holders, pockets in the front seatbacks and some handy trays.
And when it comes to charging the UX 300e, there is an AC port located on the right-hand rear wing of the car and a DC port for rapid charging is found on the left side of the car, where the battery can be boosted from zero to 80 per cent in 50 minutes. Obviously, using the AC system with home charging takes much longer, but is ideal for overnight plug-ins.
Safety specifications are comprehensive and include vehicle stability control, hill assist control, electronic brakeforce distribution with brake assist, along with the Lexus Safety System+ features that introduce pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, lane trace assist, road sign assist and a high beam system.
To date, the Lexus UX is the company’s best-selling car in Europe and, after a week behind the wheel of the electrified 300e version, this new model is guaranteed to be a very popular addition to the line-up.
Lexus UX 250h F Sport
Lexus has an enviable reputation for developing hybrid-powered SUVs to high acclaim and now the already-established NX and RX models have a baby sibling joining the ranks in the form of the all-new UX.
It’s a five-door compact crossover and it simply oozes Lexus character and DNA through and through with a distinctive design that features the manufacturer’s over-sized F Sport grille with an eye-catching mesh pattern created by individual L-shaped pieces. There are 18-inch sports wheels, jet-black trim on the front and rear mouldings, sweeping light clusters with LED daytime running lights, a rising waist line plus lots of crisp lines and creases.
Buyers can choose from three well-equipped trim levels called UX, F-Sport and Takumi with the option of adding 4×4 capability to each version.
Powering the UX is a four-cylinder 2.0-litre petrol engine along with an electric motor that together deliver a total output of 181bhp. It is the Japanese company’s fourth-generation self-charging hybrid engine and, like its predecessors, is mated to a CVT gearbox.
Our mid-trim F Sport model was priced at £33,905 (£38,675 with options). It was the front-wheel-drive version and could reach 62mph from a standing start in a very respectable 8.5 seconds, maxing out at 110mph while delivering a combined 49.5-53.2mpg (WLTP) along the way with carbon emissions of 97g/km.
The interior of the car is feature-rich and the layout is very driver-orientated with all controls, dials and switches well positioned for ease of use. The deep red leather upholstered seats look fabulously sophisticated and can be heated, along with the steering wheel, to keep the winter chills at bay.
On board technology includes a 10.3-inch screen with Lexus navigation (complete with European mapping), a DAB radio, reversing camera with guidelines, parking sensors, a GPS clock, front and rear USB ports, dual-zone climate control with humidity sensor, plus plenty more besides. Noticeable by its absence though, is the lack of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto for full smartphone connection.
Many of the on-board systems are accessed via a touchpad with haptic responses – this takes a while to get to grips with and can be quite clunky on the move. Thankfully, there are some quick keys with shortcuts to simplify certain actions, but sometimes less really is more and this is one of those occasions.
All the instrumentation is clear and precise and the F Sport has a moveable meter ring in the tft display behind the steering wheel. This originated in the LFA supercar and allows the driver to change the content and data on show.
When it comes to performance, the UX certainly doesn’t disappoint. It’s the first Lexus vehicle to be built on the company’s GA-C platform (it stands for Global Architecture – Compact). This rigid, yet lightweight structure has enabled designers and engineers to produce a car with an exceptionally low centre of gravity and that translates into great all-round capability with excellent balance, poise and handling.
In addition, the CVT transmission is both smooth and responsive. Like many similar systems it reacts well to a more gentle approach to avoid any screeching or over-revving.
Out on the open road, the UX feels composed and agile as it sweeps through bends without any sign of body sway or loss of traction into bends. It’s not as aggressive as some rival compact crossovers but the all-round performance is impressive. Also worth noting is the clever Active Cornering Assist that helps prevent any understeer.
There are various drive modes that alter the way the car reacts. For example, an EV mode comes into force when cruising or driving gently whereby the front electric motor drives the car without using any petrol. Then in Normal mode, there is a balance between fuel economy and performance. Eco mode maximises fuel efficiency and finally, Sport mode delivers faster acceleration responses for a more dynamic driving experience.
Although the UX is in theory an SUV, it is relatively compact in size and that means passenger space in the back of the car is fairly limited for taller adults. It also feels quite claustrophobic as the dynamic design of the car, complete with its rising waistline, results in small rear windows. But it is fine for children.
When it comes to storage, the UX boot can swallow 320 litres of kit, a capacity that increases further with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat and there’s a number of handy compartments throughout the car to hide away bits and bobs.
As one would expect from a premium car maker, the level of safety kit on the UX is plentiful with the likes Lexus Safety System+ which includes dynamic radar cruise control, pre-collision system, road sign recognition, automatic high beam, lane departure alert and lane tracing assist.
All in all, the Lexus UX is quite the impressive all-rounder. It oozes class and elegance, is packed with technology and performs beautifully. It may not be the ultimate thrill-seeker’s car, but it is very refined and upmarket in its design and handling.