The MH Motoring Minute: Lexus UX 250h SE
Review: 1 day launch
Engine: 2.0litre, 4-cylinder petrol and battery-powered hybrid
Power: 135kW (total output), 180Nm
Price: R699 000 (R599 00 for EX, R726 200 for F Sport)
On a positive note, I’m technically considered a millennial. I just scrape into the early 80s birthdate definition, and even though I won’t be growing a man bun or ironic facial hair, it makes me feel a little younger. It also places me in the right target market for this stylish, youthful SUV – the Lexus UX, named for Urban Crossover. It’s a striking addition to the still-growing SUV market, and we were lucky to drive the high-tech model in the range — the 250h SE Hybrid — through the more scenic parts of Cape Town; and these views were a good fit for this origami-flavoured looker and its sharp-edged lines.
It’s a car which looks much better in the metal (especially the rear and its red light strip), and while we only had a day to drive the Hybrid, it was impressive, and we look forward to drive the other two petrol models in the range – the impressively-specced EX entry level model, and then the top-of-the-range F-Sport model.
However, the SUV market is very competitive, and there are a few excellent contenders – like the Volvo XC40 for one – but there are few unique factors that set the UX apart. The first one concerns the Hybrid drivetrain – we couldn’t find a similar type of SUV with this tech in this segment, and this electric motor assistance really came into its own in stop-and-start traffic. Our consumption stayed around 5litres for most of the trip, and even when we pushed it into Sport mode and used a heavier foot, it remained frugal.
The other USP in our opinion is the build quality – this is an exceptionally well-made car, and the quality shines in all the details and workmanship, and with the high-priced feel of the interior. Everything has been machined and crafted to a high standard. While we didn’t drive the entry-level EX, the amount of standard spec and features is surprisingly comprehensive – it’s stacked with features that the German peers would consider costly extras. The EX only loses out on a few features to the more expensive Hybrid and F Sport – and at R100 000 less than the other models, it’s definitely the best bargain and our pick. That’s the model we’d like to spend more time in.
Related: The MH Motoring Minute: BMW X5 M50d
Besides the build quality and striking looks, the UX excels in a few other areas, too. The centre of gravity is low; and the clever suspension, rigid frame and stance combine to make it feel planted and full of grip in the twists and turns. Although it’s not a light car (even with the lightweight aluminium engine bits, doors, fenders, and hood), the Hybrid felt agile and easy to manoeuvre, and the steering is perfectly weighted. Even though this uses a CVT gearbox, it’s one of the best we’ve ever experienced. It offers a decent amount of interior, rear legroom, and boot space; plus the rear seats can be folded down. Lexus has one helluva of sales mic drop: the best-in-class 7 year / 105 000km warranty and full maintenance plan.
To sum up, the Lexus UX is a strong SUV package with some unique selling points and characteristics, and very few weaknesses. The build quality and looks make it feel like it should be a more expensive car – especially the entry-level EX – it punches above its price tag. We’ll need more time to provide a more detailed road test, but for now, this is an impressive starting point into the Lexus brand.
PROS: Excellent build quality; Low consumption (especially the Hybrid); Striking looks; Great ride and handling; Luxurious interior; Fantastic warranty and service plan.
CONS: No turbo for the F Sport, Touchpad can be tricky to use.
WHAT WE LOVE: This UX is a brilliant addition to the small SUV market, offers a compelling combination of strengths and very few weaknesses.
COMPETITORS: Volvo XC40 (R635 500); Audi Q3 (R607 500), BMW X1 (From R538 400), Mercedes Benz GLA (From R532 321), Jaguar E-Pace (From 625 800)