Back in the day, I knew all the alpha-numeric models at Lexus dealerships.
Names like the RX350, the LS400 and the ES350 bring to mind specific shapes and engines. But before this week, if you'd asked me to pick a Lexus UX out of a lineup, I'd have guessed based on family resemblance. Which isn't as hard as it sounds, given the hour-glass shaped schnoz on almost all modern Lexus models. (Lexus calls it the Spindle Grille.)
* Model: 2019 Lexus UX 250h F Sport
* Exterior color: Ultrasonic Blue Mica
* Interior color: Black
* Engine: 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, hybrid
* Horsepower: 181
* Transmission: CVT
* Fuel economy: 38 mpg highway, 41 mpg city
* Local Dealer: Lexus of Chattanooga
* Price (as tested): $43,525
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The UX is the brand's new small crossover, although the lines between a crossover and a hatch are beginning to blur. It comes in two varieties, a hybrid and non-hybrid. For this review, the manufacturer provided us a 2019 Lexus UX 250h hybrid, which gets 41 mpg city.
Designed to appeal to young, urban drivers with modest cargo needs but a taste for quality, the Lexus UX 250h represents a niche within a niche. It's meant to capture only a sliver of the Luxury crossover market, albeit a a profitable one.
Locally, Lexus of Chattanooga had four UX units in digital inventory late this week, including one 250h hybrid. Our tester comes with racy F Sport trim that includes moon-roof, heated and cooled front seats, driver seat memory and blind spot monitor. The F Sport package also gets you a host of badges and bling.
WHAT IS IT?
The Lexus UX 250h is a compact crossover hybrid with seating for four, although the rear seat is cramped for anyone besides small children. The UX 250h is powered by a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder gas engine augmented by three electric motors, boosting total horsepower to 181.
WHAT DOES IT COST?
Our option-heavy tester has an MSRP of $43,535. The base price is $36,000, but the F Sport and other packages substantially increased the bottom line. The non-hybrid UX 200 starts at $33,025, but packs just 169 horsepower without the electric boost.
WHAT WE LIKED:
Our Ultrasonic Blue Mica tester with the black-out F Sport grille has a menacing look for an otherwise gentle vehicle. The design is loud, but the operation of the UX 250h is delightfully quiet. Lexus took pains to make the cabin as isolated as possible. Acceleration, 8.1-seconds to 60 mph in the hybrid, is adequate if not brisk. The UX 250h also has the layers of luxury you'd expect in a Lexus, including plush leather seats (heated and cooled in the front), 18-inch sport wheels, and an 8-speaker premium sound system.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT:
It took us nearly five minutes to turn on and tune the radio. The Lexus Remote Touch Interface is hypersensitive. The computer mouse-like touch pad in the center stack was almost impossible for us to navigate, leading to a high level of frustration. We are willing to concede this might be a generational thing, but others have come to the same conclusion that the system is hard to use.
The UX 250h is actually a lot of fun to drive. It's quiet and punchy at the same time, sort of like a Tesla — emphasis on "sort of."
If you are a single executive living in an urban area, the UX 250h is an entertaining choice of transportation with tremendous fuel economy.
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