Lexus calls its newest, littlest SUV “purpose built.” Meant for cities and younger owners with an active lifestyle, the 2019 UX is all-new for the 2019 model year and is the first Lexus built on the all-new compact global architecture (GA-C) platform.
Though this vehicle shares a strong family resemblance with its NX and RX brethren, it is not a “mini” version of anything the automaker has created before.
Here are five things you need to know about this compact crossover.
“UX” actually stands for something
I’ll never understand why automakers give vehicles inhuman names that consist of a series of meaningless letters and numbers mashed together. Audi, Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz are famous for this.
In a way, so is Lexus with its IS, ES, GS, LS, RC, LC, RX, NX, LX, GX nomenclature. While I understand that S = Sedan, C = Coupe and X = Crossover, the initial letters have heretofore been meaningless.
But the “U” in UX actually stands for something: Urban. I’m not sure if it was an accident or on purpose, but frankly, that makes it much easier to remember.
The 2.0L engines are new
Just as the UX is all new, so are the 2.0-liter engines that come with it.
The UX200 is equipped with the 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder engine that delivers 169 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. The UX250h basically utilizes the same engine, but adds two electric motors and combined output is 181 horsepower.
Lexus Safety System + 2.0 is standard
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has introduced some stringent requirements for its Top Safety Pick + (TSP+) awards, including things such as “Good” crash-test ratings, automatic emergency braking and intelligent headlights.
And while a lot of automakers include these as options to make the cut, people can buy a base version of a vehicle thinking it’s a TSP+, when it’s really only the high-level, optioned-out model that qualifies.
Rather than trick buyers into thinking their vehicle qualifies when it doesn’t, Lexus keeps it simple on the UX and makes its Safety System + 2.0 standard. Though IIHS hasn’t rated UX yet, when it does, there will be no confusion.
Every model includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane trace assist, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, road sign assist and intelligent automatic high-beam headlamps.
Android Auto is not available (yet)
Toyota Motor Sales was one of the last holdouts in the automotive world to avoid integrating external phone-mirroring technology. They said words like “no” and “never” when asked about Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
So, it was with much surprise when it announced at the beginning of 2018 that it would begin integrating Apple CarPlay into new vehicles. While the UX does in fact have CarPlay, it does not have Auto.
What’s new this time around, however: Lexus execs did not use words like “no” and “never.” Instead I heard a “yet.” Apparently the bulk of Lexus buyers are iPhone users, and it was more important to get this technology into its vehicles first.
There’s no word on when Auto will make an appearance, but it seems like it’s only a matter of time.
The UX200 is FWD; the UX250h is AWD
With its package strategy, Lexus offers a lot of customization for the UX, allowing owners to decide hybrid vs. gas, sport level and amenity additions. However, drivetrain isn’t one of those things you can mix and match.
If you want front-wheel-drive, you’ll have to get the gasoline model. If you want all-wheel-drive, you’ll have to get the hybrid model.
This is slightly out of sync with how Lexus has treated the NX and RX. Yes, the hybrids of those vehicles are AWD-only, but the gasoline models are available in front- and all-wheel drive.
The Bottom Line:
The UX is primed to attract a younger, tech-savvy buyer who lives in an urban environment. But with its standard safety technology, compact size and easy maneuverability, I could see it doing well with a wider variety of buyers.
I really liked the looks of this compact SUV as well as the ride and handling. It’s well-powered, well-mannered and really comfortable.
In short, I think this is a great new vehicle for Lexus that offers the size benefits of a sedan but the cargo flexibility of a utility vehicle.