2019 Lexus UX is roomy enough for taller drivers
With the arrival of the UX200 and UX250 hybrid, Lexus has run the gamut of luxury and near-luxury sport-utility vehicles, omitting only the off-road category. The UX (“urban explorer”) line, Lexus' first foray into the subcompact-SUV market, marks an intriguing departure from the norm.
Frankly, most of the subcompact SUVs we've driven have disappointed us. For example, the 2019 UX250 hybrid is just the third subcompact SUV we've driven that has enough leg room to satisfy tall drivers. (The others are the Buick Encore and Jeep Renegade.) In general, the value, utility and comfort of SUVs seem to diminish exponentially in smaller sizes.
The UX250h is a different animal. For one thing, its front-seat accommodations are comparable with those of much larger SUVs, though some drivers will find storage for small items inadequate. The UX250h rides and handles like a Lexus - quietly and comfortably, while lacking in the agility that some smaller SUVs, such as those built by Mazda, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, exhibit.
Also different is the UX250h's fuel-economy rating of 41 mpg city, 38 highway, on regular unleaded gasoline. That's a whopping 15 mpg better than the real-world numbers achieved by our family car, a 2015 Renegade. But the UX250h doesn't “feel” unusually fuel-efficient. For one thing, it's quicker off the line than many gas-guzzling SUVs, thanks to its high-torque electric assist. For another, its fuel tank is tiny - just 10.6 gallons. Trying to drive 400 miles on a tankful is risky. Of course, at today's prices, the cost of filling a nearly empty tank might not exceed $23. The UX200, with no hybrid batteries taking up space beneath the passenger compartment, has a 12.4-gallon tank.
Weak spots in the UX250h are common to subcompact SUVs: the luggage compartment's capacity is just 17.1 cubic feet, and knee room in the back seat is tight to nonexistent. The UX250h also has little off-road capability. These deficiencies may help to explain why the compact NX and midsize RX models are outselling the UX by wide margins.
The UX200 and 250h are entry-level near-luxury SUVs, starting at $33,325 for a 2020 UX200. Our UX250h with all-wheel drive had a sticker price of $41,975, including almost $8,000 in options that bumped it up to full-luxury status. Among them were a blind-spot monitor ($500); parking assist and rear cross-traffic alert with braking ($565); power rear door with kick sensor ($600); and moonroof, and rain-sensing windshield wipers and heated and ventilated seats ($1,175).
2019 Lexus UX250h AWD
Engine: 2.0-liter inline Four, gasoline-electric hybrid, combined 181 horsepower
Transmission: continuously variable automatic
Weight: 3,605 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 18-in. aluminum
Tires: P225/50RF18, all-season, run-flat
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 17.1 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 10.6 gallons
Fuel economy: 41 mpg city, 38 mpg highway
Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline
While we didn't fall in love with the UX250h's infotainment technology, we'll withhold judgment on it; after all, we eventually came to appreciate BMW's iDrive system and Mazda's Commander control after initially struggling with them. Lexus uses a touch-pad called the Remote Touch Interface. Like the iDrive, it's mounted on the center console, requiring the driver to take his right hand off the steering wheel to change settings. However, Lexus provides some redundancy, placing ordinary push-button controls on the steering hub.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has rated the UX at Top Safety Pick Plus.
Steven Macoy (email@example.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.