by Michael Butler
The borders between luxury sedan, SUV and hatchback was long ago blurred into oblivion by a myriad of compact crossovers such as the BMW X1, Volvo XC40, and Mercedes-Benz's GLA, so we don't blame Lexus for jumping on the bandwagon with its mix-breed UX, which offers buyers a practical and competent package. It's luxurious enough to compete with the big names from Europe, but remains affordable enough to compete above and below its price range. We love the UX's ability to offer the practicality and space of a compact SUV while maintaining the road manners of a premium sedan or hatchback, as well as its impressive gas mileage figures, but there are some drawbacks - such as a weedy engine and unintuitive infotainment system. Stick to city limits, and you've got yourself an interesting and dynamically entertaining alternative to what the rest of the herd are driving.
The UX is still a relative newcomer to the Lexus range, having been introduced in 2019. Yet, despite this, Lexus has thought it good to add a few new standard infotainment and safety features that make this subcompact luxury crossover SUV that much more interesting. For 2020 the UX's infotainment system gains Android Auto and Google Assistant functionality while the subscription-based Enform connected service gets a revised trial period. On the safety side of things, the UX now includes rear cross-traffic alert in combination with its blind-spot monitoring system.
The NX shares its eccentric exterior design with the rest of the Lexus crossover SUV family, including the NX and RX. From the front, it is difficult to ignore the prominent hourglass grille and angular headlights, which makes the UX look like a pre-production prototype of sorts. We like it. The side profile reminds us of Toyota's equally modern looking C-HR, and the rear-end is neatly wrapped up with a single light bar stretching across the hatch lid. Standard exterior features found across the 2020 UX range include SmartAccess keyless entry, Bi-LED headlamps, LED taillamps and daytime running lights, heated outside mirrors, and a backup camera. Stepping up to the UX 200 Luxury will bag you a set of front aluminum door-sill scuff plates, auto-dimming power-folding outside mirrors with auto-reverse tilt-down functionality, acoustic front side glass, and a power liftgate with foot sensor. If you're looking for a bit more of an aggressive look, the UX 200 F Sport adds F Sport 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, unique front and rear F Sport bumpers, grille and badging, as well as LED fog lamps and cornering lamps. Optional exterior features include rain-sensing window wipers and a power tilt-and-slide sunroof.
The 2020 Lexus UX is averagely sized for the subcompact crossover SUV class, measuring 177 inches in length and 60.6 inches in height (including the antenna). The UX is 72.4 inches wide with mirrors folded and rides on a 103.9-inch wheelbase. This translates into a car with substantial overhangs, which in turn excludes the UX from any serious off-road action, not that anyone would attempt to conquer anything other than suburban speed bumps in the UX. A compact design means the UX tips the scales at a relatively low 3,307 lbs, which helps explain its agile handling and impressive fuel economy rating.
A body design as unique as the UX's deserves a few exotic color options, and Lexus hasn't disappointed: from your basic whites, silvers, and blacks, there are more than enough shades to choose from, but things get interesting as you head deeper into the palette. Unorthodox colors such as Autumn Shimmer, Nori Green Pearl and Cadmium Orange, the latter at an extra cost of $595, are all standout options that make the sharp lines of the UX pop with sci-fi flair, but in the same breath, timeless classics such as Silver Lining Metallic and Obsidian Black look just as good. Going for the F Sport trim opens up two extra colors, namely Ultra White and Lexus' version of signature colors like Ferrari Red - Ultrasonic Blue Mica, which screams fast Lexus. If you want to play it safe, the UX looks great in any shade of silver, but we are split between the rugged-looking Nori Green Pearl and the sporty Blue Mica.
Don't expect explosive performance and you won't be disappointed the first time you get inside the 2020 UX. The 2.0-liter naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine produces 169 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque, and the best way to describe the UX's acceleration under full throttle would be tepidly linear. With maximum torque only arriving high up in the rev range, you need to stomp on the go-faster pedal before any noticeable acceleration starts taking place, and the zero to sixty sprint time takes a lengthy 8.9 seconds - far slower than some lower-cost rivals. The UX is no slouch around town as long as you understand the engine's power delivery, but it's on the freeway where merging and overtaking can sometimes become frustrating, especially when the car is fully loaded with people and their things. Lexus would have done well to include a small-capacity turbocharged motor in the lineup.
The 2020 Lexus UX is powered by a naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas engine that employs technologies such as VVT-iE and advanced fuel injection and oil pump systems to deliver one of the lightest and most efficient power plants in its class. This powerplant delivers 169 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque. The engine is mated to Lexus' first-ever ten-speed direct-shift continuously variable transmission. The ten-speed transmission does a good job of keeping the low-output four-pot in the optimal gear for peak torque delivery, but there's no getting away from the fact that you need to keep the engine boiling at the top of its rev range to make any serious headway. This can get tedious when overtaking or merging onto the highway.
Don't let the edgy urban styling fool you into thinking that the UX is a corner-carving sports car; its front Independent MacPherson struts with coil springs and rear independent multilink with trailing arms have been tuned to provide a comfortable and refined ride, instead of a rock-hard performance orientated setup. The lack of outright power is forgiven thanks to the UX's beautiful ride quality, and we appreciated the excellent steering feedback, which is a rarity in a category of overly light and overly assisted steering systems. The Sport model gets a stiffer sport-tuned suspension, but it does little to improve cornering capability and undermines the excellent standard setup. Around town and at low speeds, the UX soaks up bumps and doesn't get unsettled easily, and at highway speeds, it feels stable and planted; exactly what you want to feel when you're behind the steering wheel.
The Lexus UX delivers impressive gas mileage, thanks to a light curb weight and advanced engine efficiency technology. The UX might not offer a turbo-backed punch, but most UX drivers will accept its performance limitations when they see the gas bill. Lexus quotes an EPA estimated 29/37/33 mpg city/highway/combined, which is a truly impressive number for a car of its size, weight, and displacement. The Lexus NX crossover SUV, which slots in above the UX, is propelled by a turbocharged four-pot and suffers in comparison; it will manage 22/28/25 mpg, dropping to 22/28/24 mpg in AWD configuration. The 2020 Lexus UX is fitted with a 12.4-gallon fuel tank, so you can expect a maximum fuel range of 409 miles.
The Lexus UX comes into its own once you step inside the cabin, and it's clear to see from the choice of materials and the beautifully executed layout that the UX isn't your ordinary mom 'n pop crossover; it's a decidedly luxurious place to sit in, and the clean and flowing dash feels German in its execution. The driver will appreciate the fact that all essential controls are angled towards the steering wheel, which not only makes interacting with the car's driving and infotainment systems easier, but adds a sense of focus and engagement. Standard interior features across the range include dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power-adjustable front seats with two-way driver lumbar support, and a leather steering wheel and shift knob. Luxury models gain standard LED-illuminated air-vent knobs, and F Sport cars include bolstered front seats, a perforated leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, and performance-inspired instrumentation with a sliding bezel. Available options such as a head-up display and ventilated front seats make the overall experience that much more luxurious.
Subcompact crossovers, such as the UX offer good front-seat space, but design limitations mean that backseat passengers' knees will build an intimate relationship with the front seats. Headroom in the UX suffers the same fate but is still enough for most. Legroom is measured at 42 inches in the front, and 33.1 inches in the rear, while headroom comes in at 37.2 inches in the front and 36.3 inches in the rear. These numbers drop down to 35.7 in the front when the UX is fitted with a sunroof. Shoulder room is a decent 55/52.9 inches front/rear, and hip room comes in at 53.8/52.3 inches front/rear.
Step inside the 2020 Lexus UX, and you'll be greeted by a sea of black and dark gray materials. There are lots of soft-touch plastics and high-quality hard plastics on display, and there's a subtle brushed aluminum look around the air vents, steering wheel controls and shift knob, which adds to the clean and premium feel of the interior. The base model is offered in a range of four seat and dash color options, and all seats in the range are covered in NuLuxe, a lightweight, durable synthetic leather that feels as good as the real thing. On offer is the handsome Glazed Caramel with a black dashboard, or you could go for the nautical Birch seat color with Lapis Blue dash. If you're planning on buying a Luxury model, then you'll be pleased to hear that the upholstery options now include standard Washi dash material, an optional extra on lower-trim cars.
Trunk space isn't one of the Lexus UX's strong points, which is a major oversight from Lexus, as most buyers in this segment regard trunk and cargo space as high on the priority list when shopping for cars in this segment. The UX offers 21.7 cubic feet of trunk space with the 60/40-split-folding rear seats in the upright position. You should be able to squeeze four average-sized suitcases in there, but the BMW X1 with its 27.1 cubic feet of space makes the UX's trunk space look petite. On the plus side, Lexus does include a hands-free power liftgate as standard on Luxury models, which makes loading things in the back a lot easier. Small items can be stored in the small front glovebox, the center armrest storage bin, or in the slim door pockets front and back. The front cupholders offer excellent support for anything ranging from a small McDonald's shake to a Coors Tallboy.
Judging by the list of standard features found on the UX, it is fair to say that the baby Lexus SUV deserves its luxury title. The UX 200, the base model of the range includes standard features such as keyless access with push-button start, Wi-Fi connectivity, selectable drive modes with sport, normal and eco settings, eight-way power-adjustable front seats with two-way lumbar adjustment, Bi-LED headlamps, LED taillamps and daytime running lights. Additionally, there is dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather steering wheel and shift knob, and driver assistance tech such as pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, lane tracing assistance, lane departure alert, and dynamic cruise control. UX F Sport models gain LED fog lamps and cornering lamps, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, a sport-tuned suspension setup, active sound control as well as bolstered sport seats, a perforated leather steering wheel and shift knob, and performance-inspired digital gauges. Luxury models gain LED illuminated air-vent knobs, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a power liftgate, as well as a power sunroof, auto-dimming side mirrors and more.
Unless specified, the 2020 Lexus UX comes fitted with a standard seven-inch multimedia display, and all the features and services you'd expect to see in a premium luxury car in the new decade. All cars feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, Amazon Alexa compatibility, a Lexus Enform remote system with Google Assistant integration, as well as 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity with a three-month trial included. Bluetooth streaming, HD radio, SiriusXM satellite radio, and dynamic voice command also come standard. Sound is channeled through a six-speaker sound system. Luxury models get a 10.3-inch display with integrated navigation, and optional infotainment extras include a wireless phone charging system, a head-up display, and a premium eight-speaker sound system with a rear-mounted subwoofer. Despite being backed with tech features, the infotainment system in the UX was difficult to operate, especially when using the touchpad controller.
Lexus is known for building cars that will happily sail past the one million mile mark with basic maintenance, and with a score of 84, the folks over at J.D. Power seem to think they're pretty reliable too. According to the NHTSA, there have been no recalls issued for the UX since its launch in 2019. Lexus backs the UX with a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, which includes a six-year/unlimited-mile corrosion warranty, a six-year/70,000-mile drivetrain warranty, a one-year/10,000-mile maintenance plan as well as four years of roadside assistance.
You'll struggle to find a safer car than the Lexus UX in the subcompact luxury crossover SUV class. After being put through its paces by both the IIHS as well as the NHTSA, it is safe to say that the Lexus UX will keep its occupants in one piece even in serious accidents. The NHTSA gave the UX a full five out of five stars, and the IIHS awarded it with their prestigious Top Safety Pick+ rating, which means it is safer than the BMW X1 and on par with the Audi Q3.
Auto manufacturers don't just stumble into an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award; they have to earn it by proving that their cars can keep occupants safe during some pretty serious accidents. The Lexus achieves this with flying colors by incorporating the latest driver assistance technologies with a sound overall safety plan, which includes ten standard airbags, a standard backup camera with dynamic guidelines, a rigid body structure with front and rear crumple zones, as well as advanced vehicle stability control. The UX's secret weapon is its standard Lexus Safety System 2.0, which is a comprehensive standard safety system found across the range. This system includes advanced features such as frontal collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, lane departure assistance, road sign recognition, adaptive radar cruise control as well as intelligent high beam assistance.
The 2020 Lexus UX occupies a very niche section of the crossover SUV market by offering German-levels of quality and comfort at lower prices, and will appeal to those looking for the practicality of a small SUV, but who still want the handling and driving dynamics of a compact sedan. We appreciate the modern exterior design, which features Bi-LED headlamps, LED taillamps, and daytime running lights, as well as the automatic power liftgate on higher models. The interior is beautifully designed and executed, too. Our biggest issue with the UX is its underwhelming power plant: the 2.0-liter inline-four engine moves the UX around with barely enough gusto, and competitors such as the BMW X1 with its 228 hp and 258 lb-ft 2.0-liter turbocharged four-pot is in a different league. The UX makes up for its lack of power by delivering a well-balanced driving experience that's not too soft or too hard, and with a competitive asking price and warranty, the 2020 Lexus UX is a worthy competitor in the luxury compact crossover market.
Compared to subcompact crossovers such as the Honda HR-V or Hyundai Kona, the UX asks a premium of well over $10,000, which is completely understandable considering the levels of refinement and features on offer, although the baby Lexus SUV is competitively priced with its peers from Germany. The base model, simply named the UX 200, starts off with an MSRP of $32,300 which excludes a delivery, processing and handling fee of $1,025. The UX 200 is followed by the UX 200 F Sport, which goes for $34,300. The range-topping UX200 Luxury starts off with an asking price of $37,500, but that price can reach as high as $41,000 when you select all the available options.
Lexus offers its subcompact crossover luxury SUV in three trim levels, namely UX 200, UX 200 F Sport and UX 200 Luxury.
The base model offers a number of impressive standard features, which gives it the edge over some of its competitors such as the BMW X1, which reserves the same features for the options list. Standard features on the UX 200 include a seven-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power-adjustable front seats with two-way lumbar support as well as Bi-LED headlights and driver assistance features such as pedestrian detection, traffic sign recognition, and lane-keep assistance. The base model shares its naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and ten-speed direct-shift continuously variable transmission with the rest of the range.
The UX 200 F Sport gets several appearance and performance upgrades that turn it into a more focussed driving machine. Over and above the features you get on the base model, the F Sport includes LED fog lamps and cornering lamps, F Sport bucket seats, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, a sport-tuned suspension setup, 18-inch five-spoke wheels, as well as active sound control and performance-inspired digital gauges.
The range-topping UX 200 Luxury earns its name by offering standard features such as an eight-inch infotainment display with integrated navigation, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a power sunroof, acoustic front, and side glass as well as a hands-free liftgate, heated and ventilated front seats and auto-dimming outside mirrors.
Starting with the base model, Lexus offers new owners a $1,675 Premium Package, which adds a premium Washi-trimmed interior, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a power tilt, and slide sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats, as well as blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. Premium triple-beam auto-levelling LED headlamps will set you back another $1,660. For $2,890, you can add the Luxury Package to your UX 200 F Sport. This package includes a hands-free power liftgate, heated and ventilated front seats, auto-dimming side mirrors, and more. If you're not happy with the standard infotainment display, you can upgrade to a 10.3-inch unit with integrated navigation for $2,200. Other options worth mentioning include the $565 intuitive parking assist system with rear cross-traffic braking, or the $25 genuine leather key glove.
With the UX sitting in such a niche spot in the market, it would only make sense to go for the base model, which starts at $32,300, and is cheaper than a BMW X1 or the larger Lexus NX, but still offers a lot of good features. The standard UX comes fitted with standard Bi-LED headlamps, LED taillamps and daytime running lights, Lexus Enform Wi-Fi integration, dual-zone automatic climate control, a seven-inch infotainment system with a six-speaker sound system, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration. Both the Sport and Luxury models use the same drivetrain configuration and add nice-to-haves, but not enough to justify starting prices bordering on, or overshooting, the price of a base model Lexus NX or BMW X1, both of which offer turbocharged power. We'd get an FWD base model and add the $565 intuitive parking assist system with rear-cross traffic assist, at the very least.
The Lexus NX slots in above the UX and is officially classified as a compact luxury crossover, which means its the bigger car of the two. Powering the 2020 Lexus NX is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 235 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, which allows it to sprint to sixty in 7.2 seconds and on to a top speed of 124 mph. The NX's increased curb weight and more powerful engine mean its fuel economy takes a serious hit: it will manage 22/28/25 mpg city/highway/combined, compared to the UX's 29/37/33 mpg. Inside the NX offers the same levels of refinement and luxury as we've come to appreciate from the UX, but there's clearly more passenger and cargo space, with the NX offering significantly more rear-seat legroom. The NX is an absolute dream to drive around town, and its potent 2.0T engine provides all the punch we so sorely missed in the UX. Starting at over $4,000 more than the UX, the NX is better to drive and offers more space.
The RX sits two steps above the UX and is considered a mid-size luxury SUV, so the major differences are rather obvious; the RX offers more passenger and cargo space. Unlike the NX, which enjoys turbocharged power, the RX sticks to a naturally-aspirated 3.5-liter V6 engine, which produces 295 hp and 268 lb-ft of torque. The RX will accelerate to sixty in 7.7 seconds and continue on to a top speed of 124 mph. The RX will manage 20/27/23 mpg city/highway/combined. The RX's total length of 192.5 inches dwarfs the UX's 177 inches, and that translates to the inside where the RX offers a superior 44.1 inches of legroom in the front and 38 in the rear. Out on the road, the RX keeps its composure, but the extra weight is noticeable, and it can't match the nimbleness of the UX. Both cars share the same basic safety system, refined interior quality, and infotainment interface, so the choice will boil down to personal needs and wallet size.