Class: Premium Subcompact Crossover
Miles Driven: 628
Fuel Used: 19.6
Real-world fuel economy: 32.0
|CG Report Card|
|Room and Comfort||B|
|Power and Performance||C|
|Fit and Finish||B+|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.|
|Engine Specs||169-hp, 2.0L|
Driving mix: 35% city, 65% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 29/37/33 (city/highway/combined)
Fuel type: Regular gasoline
Base price: $34,000 (not including $1025 destination charge)
Options on test car: Blind-spot monitor ($500), Wireless charger ($75), windshield de-icer ($100), head-up display ($500), navigation system with premium audio ($2200), parking assist/rear cross traffic alert with automatic braking ($565), hands-free power liftgate ($600), premium paint ($595), F Sport Premium Package ($975), heated S Sport steering wheel with paddle shifters ($150)
Price as tested: $41,285
The great: Relatively low cost for features offered
The good: Powertrain performance, fuel economy
The not so good: Control layout, cargo space, passenger room
Small crossovers have recently become big business, and many manufacturers are testing the waters to see if even smaller crossovers can also mean big business. And one of the smallest and least expensive of the premium ones wears a Lexus nameplate.
As we published a descriptive First Spin of the 2019 Lexus UX when it was introduced last fall, this Test Drive will focus on a test UX 200 F Sport front-drive “gas” version (there’s also a UX 250h all-wheel-drive hybrid) driven around our Chicagoland offices.
With prices that start at about $33,000 including destination (the NX 250h is $2000 more), the UX stands as the least-expensive Lexus, undercutting the larger NX crossover by more than $4000, the IS sedan by $6000. And of course, it features the cargo-carrying benefits of a crossover, so it also benefits from that.
But as a subcompact crossover – and one with rather low, swoopy styling at that – “utility” is not exactly the UX’s calling card.
As might be expected from its size and shape, cargo space is limited, though it’s better in the UX 200 than in its hybrid sibling (which has a raised cargo floor, likely to clear the hybrid battery). Nevertheless, the cargo opening is rather high, as is the step-up to the folded rear seat back, both complicating loading larger items. (Certainly the UX 200 would benefit from the two-tier load floor found in some vehicles, with the higher setting leaving the floor level with both the opening and the folded seat backs.) But on the plus side, there’s a useful amount of “hidden” storage beneath the cargo floor in small, segmented compartments.
Passenger room is likewise limited. While there’s sufficient space for four average-size adults, things can get tight for taller folks; putting a front seat all the way back negates legroom behind it. Visibility is good to the front corners but not to the sides or rear, and while a rearview camera is standard, it only displays about a 7-inch image on a dashboard screen that seems as though it could show something much larger.
And that brings us to the control layout.
We’ve heard several explanations from companies that don’t use touchscreens as to why they don’t, but we’ve never heard one that really made sense. That string continues unbroken.
We’ve criticized Lexus’s interface ever since the company moved to a console-mounted control system (and we’re certainly not alone), and though attempts have been made to improve it, there’s still a certain “disconnect” between what you want to do and how you have to do it. In its latest iteration, there’s a touchpad on the console (with actions being displayed on the non-touch dash screen) and a separate pod with four audio controls: Tune, Radio, On/Volume, and Media. Once you get your stations selected and get used to the layout, it’s probably a bit better than the old design, but anything requiring use of the touchpad still annoys.
Far less annoying – and even nice, really — is the powertrain. One might think a 169-horsepower 2.0-liter four to be “small” for a premium crossover, but in combination with its CVT automatic transmission, the UX 200 moves out quite well and gets impressive fuel economy. Floor the throttle from a stop and you get a fairly strong jump off the line; do it from speed, and the transmission kicks down quickly for good – if not quite strong – response. We averaged just under 8.2 seconds in the 0-60 dash and about 33.0 mpg in mostly highway driving. (By contrast, the UX 250h hybrid was just a tad slower – 8.4 seconds to 60 – and somewhat thriftier at 38.6 mpg.)
Although our First Spin test route was on fairly smooth roads, that’s not the case around our Chicagoland offices. While the UX absorbs smaller bumps fairly well, larger ones can pound through – which is the opposite of what often happens on vehicles with low-profile run-flat tires such as the 225/50RF-18s fitted to our test vehicle, which are standard. On the positive side, the UX’s turning radius is commendably tight, something that’s often valued in city driving.
Speaking of standard equipment, the UX 200 comes with quite a bit of it, including most expected high-tech safety features and a host of comfort/convenience ones. (See our First Spin for a more complete list.) The $2000 F Sport package fitted to our tester contains mostly cosmetic items, but also sport front seats and steering wheel with shift paddles. Among the $6000 of options added were blind-spot monitor, wireless cell-phone charger, head-up display, navigation system with premium audio, Park Assist with rear cross traffic alert and automatic braking, power liftgate with hands-free opening, sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, and heated front seats and steering wheel.
As premium-subcompact crossovers go, the Lexus UX models come off as value-priced entries that — as is their stated goal — seem well-suited to city driving. Just don’t expect them to haul scads of stuff home from the local U-Fix-It store.
2019 Lexus UX 200