Lexus UX 2019, a pure pleasure to drive

Lexus, Toyota's luxury vehicle brand, now offers a small utility called UX that has everything to attract the attention of motorists, who are considering the purchase of a BMW X1, Volvo XC40 or other such models.

Utilities, large and small, are multiplying at a staggering rate. Fortunately, some of them stand out from the crowd. This is the case of the small Lexus UX, a novelty that, while not a panacea, proves to be pleasant to drive.

The UX is now the smallest registered utility in the Lexus catalogue. It has excellent bucket seats, which make long hikes enjoyable. It also has precise steering at the reduced turning radius (10.4 m), an undeniable advantage in a congested city centre. Its braking is easily modulated and it offers the desired bite for an urban vocation. Finally, its independent suspension is firm at will ensures predictable road behaviour.

Of course, when approaching a bumpy backcountry road, the suspension settings remind us of the difference between stiffness and comfort. So, to have a softer ride, we will opt for a Lexus NX or an RX ... if we have the means and the need.

Since its arrival at the brand's dealerships last January, the UX has taken second place in its class. At the end of the first quarter, it trailed the BMW X1, first in the sales charts, and was well ahead of its main rivals: (in order) the Mercedes-Benz GLA, the Volvo XC40, the Mini Countryman and the BMW X2.

Compact disguised as utility

Like the latter, the UX may have muscular features and bulging wings lined with synthetic material, all to evoke a certain robustness, this vehicle nevertheless exists to replace small cars, starting with the compact hatchback CT 200h that Lexus offered from 2011 to 2017. Built on the GA-C platform (C for compact) also used by the Toyota Corolla Hatchack, Prius and C-HR, this small utility adopts a slightly higher ground clearance, 160 mm (compared to 145 mm for the CT 200h). This provides a more pleasant driving position, without giving the UX the off-road skills of a Subaru Crosstrek, whose body is 220 mm from the ground.

In any case, the UX does not target the same clientele. Toyota's marketing gurus call its buyer an "urban explorer." That says it all. Far from the hard-core, one imagines this motorist facing the menacing wildlife of rush hour or the crowded parking lot of a shopping mall.

Moreover, all-wheel drive is not a universal attribute for this utility. The entry-level UX 200 version is content with two front-wheel drive. Its 2.0-l.-1.0-speed Dynamic Atmospheric Force 4-cylinder, which produces 169 hp, is paired with a frankly efficient, flexible continuously variable automatic transmission with a convenient manual mode. This engine allows acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h that approaches 9 s. Forget the SUV S. On the other hand, this engine can be limited to 7.2 L/100 km, according to Natural Resources Canada; a realistic rating that we almost matched by an average of 7.7 L/100 km in a recent test.

The other version in the catalogue, the UX 250h, has a richer endowment. It also has the exclusivity of a hybrid engine (petrol/electric) even less greedy (6.0 L/100 km, at least in the best conditions) and an all-wheel drive with electronic control. Its 2.0-l.-1 engine, an Atkinson cycle variant of the UX 200 Dynamic Force, is paired with two electric motors. Together, they drive the front wheels. A third electric motor in the rear differential animates the rear wheels. Together, they provide a net power of 181 hp, enough to cut almost a second off the acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h, compared to the other UX. This hybrid model is not a lightning rod for war either. However, it is bright enough to have to pay regular attention to the speedometer, at the risk of exceeding the limits!

As for all-wheel drive, this reactive system is governed by the stability control system. The latter distributes the driving force between the front and rear trains according to the needs of the moment, during accelerations, in curves or on slippery roads. This system never transmits more than 60 to 80% of the driving force to the rear wheels. In addition, it only operates at speeds of less than 70 km/h. 

Beyond that, the UX 250h behaves like a pull.
The nickel-metal hydride battery (NiMH) of this powertrain and its cooling system are housed under the rear seat. This did not reduce the useful volume of the trunk too much. Compared to the UX 200, it is still 20% smaller (486 L versus 615). Fortunately, the cargo surface of the trunk that is discovered by lifting the ultralight tailgate, made of aluminum and polymers, can be modulated thanks to the 60/40 backseat backrests, which fold in a flash.
Silhouette you notice
From an aesthetic point of view, the UX is invariably a Lexus product. The now familiar features of nX and RX utilities can be recognized in the sculpted shapes of its body and in its imposing hourglass grille (made up of small, criss-crossed "L"s for F Sport versions). We like it or we don't like it. At the very least, this quirky style leaves no one indifferent, which luxury vehicle buyers appreciate.

The same goes for the interior. With its leaky lines, the dashboard has a design that is decidedly questionable as it is unique. On the other hand, the quality of the finish is undeniable. And in this vehicle, unlike its Germanic rivals, we do not see small light lights light up for no apparent reason at any point of field ... On the other hand, the Remote Touch touchpad is not without reproach. Located to the right of the gear lever on the console, this gadget controls the multiple functions displayed on the center screen of the dashboard. However, despite the haptic vibrations it produces, it requires too much manual dexterity, especially on a bumpy road, and distracts the driver.

I would prefer that only onlookers we meet on the road are distracted by the UX, especially when driving a garishly colored vehicle, such as Orange cadmium, Red Line or Ultrasonic Blue. It is then impossible to go unnoticed, especially if the interior of the vehicle is aneed to these lovely synthetic leather seats NuLuxe Red circuit or caramel satin. With a vehicle that's fun to drive, what could be better?

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