What’s a luxury brand to do? The freshest entry-level vehicle for Lexus is the 2019 Lexus UX in its gasoline-engine 200 guise, along with its hybrid alter ego the UX 250h. The whole idea behind such a crossover is to be accessible (affordable) to younger, first-time luxury buyers; yet, to be, well, luxurious. As we have observed over the years, you can throw a few luxury appointments into an otherwise inexpensive car, and claim a degree of luxury; but there are still all of the other facets of the experience to consider like performance, quiet and ride quality. You simply can’t fake those.
This brings us to the Lexus UX (a word play on "Urban" and "Crossover," or "X-over"). To wind up with an affordable subcompact starter vehicle, Lexus began with the Toyota New Global Architecture platform serving as a base for the Toyota C-HR (and a bevy of other new or redesigned Toyota and Lexus models), which also contributes many of the UX underpinnings. Like the C-HR, the UX exterior is uniquely styled. Weird, some might call it. Smaller than the NX, it’s difficult not to think "hatchback" rather than "crossover" when viewing UX from the curb.
Given UX’s rather humble beginnings, it does an adequate job of convincing us it deserves to wear the Lexus L. Despite its cabin’s subcompact dimensions, the quality of the materials is higher end, and the craftsmanship is the top-notch work we’ve come to expect from Lexus. Yes, there’s a bit more plastic than we are used to in a Lexus, but you must look for it to spot it.
Nearly every luxury brand has a pipsqueak starter vehicle that doesn’t quite seem to belong. With the UX, Lexus has done a better job than most in walking that fine line between luxury and ludicrous. UX does more to live up to its brand’s standards than some other subcompact, entry-level luxury crossovers. And that’s saying a lot.
What’s New for 2019?
The 2019 Lexus UX is an all-new model. See the 2019 Lexus UX models for sale near you
What We Like
- Affordable base price
- The hybrid model is just $2,000 more
- Lexus Multimedia System with Apple CarPlay is standard
- F-Sport grade available
What We Don’t
- Lackluster gasoline engine
- Limited cargo space
- No Android Auto
- No leather seating option
Powering 200 models is a 169-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine generating 151 lb-ft of peak torque. Both propulsion sources work alongside a 10-speed continuously variable transmission (CVT), powering the front wheels. Standard is Drive Mode Select with Sport, Normal and Eco drive modes. Government estimates put the fuel economy at 29 miles per gallon in the city, 37 mpg on the highway and 33 mpg in combined driving.
A 2.0-liter 4-cylinder Atkinson-cycle engine works with two electric motor/generators to deliver a combined 181 hp for the 250h. Every 250h has an all-wheel drive (AWD) system powered by a third electric motor on the rear axle. Not only does this hybrid system make the UX quicker, it delivers better estimated fuel economy with 41 mpg city/38 mpg highway/39 mpg combined.
Standard Features and Options
The only thing separating the 200 and 250h is how they are powered; otherwise, they are the same. They share the same three trim levels with identical content: base, F-Sport and Luxury. Prices include the $1,025 factory delivery charge.
The UX 200 ($33,025) and 250h ($35,025) come with 18-in alloy wheels, Bi-LED headlamps, LED taillights and running lights, Drive Mode Select with three driving modes, keyless access, a push-button start, dual-zone automatic climate control, synthetic-leather seating, 8-way power adjustable front seats, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel/shift knob, heated outboard mirrors, a backup camera, 10 airbags, Lexus Safety System+ 2.0, Bluetooth connectivity with voice command and a Lexus Multimedia System with a 7-in touchscreen, a 6-speaker audio system, four USB ports, Apple CarPlay, Enform Remote APP, 4G Wi-Fi and Amazon Alexa compatibility (1-year free service).
The 200 F-Sport ($35,025) and 250h F-Sport ($37,025) add to the 200/250h’s standard gear with a sport-tuned suspension, unique 18-in wheels, a mesh-patterned grille, unique exterior and interior appearance appointments, sport front seats, a unique steering wheel and a shift knob with perforated-leather and aluminum pedals.
The 200 Luxury ($38,225) and 250h Luxury ($40,225) build on the 200/250h standard features with a 10.3-in touchscreen, a navigation system, heated/ventilated front seats, a power moonroof, rain-sensing wipers, memory for driver’s seat/outboard mirrors/steering wheel, auto-dimming outboard mirrors, acoustic front side glass, a power lift gate with a kick sensor and blind spot monitor. There are no option packages available for the Luxury grade.
There are options and packages to further trick out your 200 or 250h. The Premium Package with heated/ventilated front seats, a power moonroof, rain-sensing wipers and the Lexus Washi paper-like-surface trim is available for the 200/250h. The F-Sport luxury package includes most of the Luxury grade’s standard features.
Every UX model comes standard with 10 airbags, including dual front-knee, as well as front-side airbags. Also standard is the usual array of passive safety features like traction control and stability control, as well as a backup camera with grid lines. Found on every UX is the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 with a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, bike detection and brake assist, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning with steering assist, lane-keeping assist that helps keep the UX centered in its lane, road sign assist and automatic high beams. Parking assist and blind spot monitoring are available.
The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave its highest score of Good to the UX in all of its crash and strength tests. It scored the UX headlights no better than Acceptable. In government crash testing, the UX received the highest score of five stars for its Overall Rating, but within that rating it received four stars in the Frontal Crash and Rollover tests.
Behind the Wheel
The inside size of the UX only comes into play for rear-seat passengers and cargo. Both areas are on the skimpy side. Up front, though, there is plenty of space. The well-thought-out cabin is nicely designed and quite comfortable. Despite Lexus doing a great job insulating the cabin from outside noise, we found the engine noise level to be a bit much with the 2.0-liter gasoline engine. We also think that engine probably isn’t up to the task of hauling around several passengers and their gear. It was a little sluggish with just the front seats occupied.
Our latest foray into the UX was in a 250h F-Sport. We found it energetic, athletic and quieter than its gasoline-only sibling. Ideally bred for city slogging, the 250h delivers notably better fuel economy than the gasoline-only version. That it’s only two grand more convinces us it’s a solid value.
There are other small, entry-level luxury crossovers out there, but we think Lexus has done a good job providing one that comes closer to keeping with the brand than the Europeans have.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 Volvo XC40 — Priced in the neighborhood of the UX, this Volvo is an ideal size for crowded city streets. Its styling is sleek, it makes the most of its limited cargo space with some neat arrangements and it has lots of standard features.
For just $2,000 more, our go-to UX would be the 250h. Better fuel economy, quieter interior and quicker off the line, all conspired to win us over. You don’t really need anything in the F-Sport Package, but, if we had the cash, we’d opt for it because of the appearance upgrades and sport-tuned suspension. Find a Lexus UX for sale