The Lexus UX came as an upgraded replacement to the older CT 200 hybrid which was based on the Prius. Offering a similar drivetrain, the UX Hybrid is a bit taller and heavier, but also more aggressive looking to keep up with a highly competitive market.
So how does it stack up? Well that’s a long, confusing answer. The good news is, it does pretty well. The UX 250h has some great merits but it is not perfect (no vehicle is). Pros are Lexus build quality (which results in very little cabin noise and no noticeable rattles), great fuel efficiency (I averaged about 39-40 mpg), unique styling (whether you like it or not) and surprisingly quick steering.
Naturally, the upgraded sound system sounds great and is always a must-have for me. I personally found the seats to be much better than expected for a compact hybrid SUV. I received an F Sport model to review, so I would suggest sitting in an F Sport and Luxury/base trim model to see how the seats feel before picking a favorite. Visibility is excellent with a good seating position and a surprising amount of headroom for such a small vehicle. The rear seat headroom is excellent as well, allowing me to sit comfortably in the back at six feet tall, while leaving the front seat in a driving position comfortable for me to drive in at the same time.
Engine dynamics are lack luster, but that is intended here. The UX 250h uses hybrid technology for fuel efficiency, not performance. It is rated at 0-60 in 8.6 seconds. Driving around town in low speed/stop-and-go traffic is actually much better than expected. Toyota and Lexus have more experience with hybrid technology than any other brand and it shows. The regenerative braking system is seamless and almost unnoticeable, while the electric motor helps provide much needed low end torque to assist the gas engine. When you don’t ask for a lot of power, the drivetrain actually feels quite nice and capable. It’s only when you demand strong acceleration that you feel underwhelmed. If that’s an acceptable outcome for the stellar fuel economy, then you will be very happy with how it drives. The gasoline-powered engine is surprisingly quiet and smooth, with EV mode (electric only) occasionally operating at highway speeds which was a pleasant surprise.
Even though the engine isn’t too exciting (it’s not meant to be) the steering is excellent. Aside from the smooth drivetrain, the steering feel was actually my favorite thing about the UX. It has an extremely quick steering ratio, which means it takes less steering input to get the wheels to turn. The end result is the car being surprisingly eager to tackle corners as you dart from left to right. I cracked a smile on a back road when a quick flick of the wheel actually got the back end to step out a bit. It was an unexpected but hilariously awesome surprise.
Cargo space is one of the weaknesses of this vehicle. The aggressive styling with sloped rear window results in a small cargo space. The trunk opening and overall width is actually quite nice which makes it easy to get awkward items in and out of the trunk. If you have a large and tall box however, you will likely need to fold the rear seat down. Thankfully, the rear headrests fold down and allows the rear seats to fold completely flat. Once the seats are down, cargo space is quite good for such a small SUV.
Overall Lexus has a solid offering but it gets complicated when you factor in price. Once it passes 40k for the F-Sport or Luxury editions, there are many ways you can go. For 40k, you can get a loaded Toyota Highlander if you want Toyota reliability with a lot more space. If you need more fuel efficiency, 41k gets you a base Lexus ES 300h with 44 mpg average with more legroom and trunk space. If you want something higher off the ground that still gets good fuel economy with lots of Luxurious features and a quiet and comfortable ride, the UX 250h will certainly satisfy you.
There’s a lot of intangible benefits to having a luxury vehicle even if other vehicles may give you more “specs per dollar”. Quietness is one of them. Road noise takes more of a toll on long commutes than you think. Typically when you drive on the highway the road and wind noises force you to increase your stereo volume if you want to hear anything. Adding noise on top of noise is not a relaxing experience. Luxury cars also give you small convenience features like power seats with memory, which is great if you share your vehicle with anyone else. You typically get higher quality headlights, more comfortable seats, etc. I could go on but you get the idea.
In the end, I think if you know what you’re get into you’re getting into, you’ll really enjoy the UX 250h. Hybrids usually aren’t my cup of tea but by the end of my review I started appreciating it for what it is and the UX started to grow on me. Traffic didn’t matter as much. I was comfortable, and listening to some good sounding music why enjoying my commute. I think that speaks volumes as to how well Lexus managed to make this vehicle.