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17in alloys, eight airbags, climate control, 7in screen, Bluetooth, USB and AUX, six-speaker stereo
176hp 2.0 petrol electric
Standard, F-Sport, Takumi
As Lexus's first - but late - foray into the booming compact SUV sector, the UX needs to bring something fresh. And from its April 2019 introduction, it arguably will, as the sole hybrid-only model on the market and, with so many exterior cuts, creases and details, its design can't help but stand out. Lexus certainly hopes so, as it aims to reach 7,000 sales in a full year, of which 45% are earmarked for fleet. It should quickly become the brand's UK bestseller too, as Ewan Shepherd, managing director at Lexus UK, told his dealers, "The UX is the most important car you'll ever launch."
Playing the long game
At 4,495mm, the model is longer than any premium rival, lower than all but the Infiniti QX30 and sits in the middle of the pack for width. All of which, when combined with a deliberately lower driving position, makes the UX feel more like a hatchback or crossover rather than a boxy and upright SUV. Despite those proportions, the UX will be sold alongside the ageing CT hatchback, contrary to rumours of the latter's demise. Inside, the UX's cabin is smart, more logical and less cluttered than its bigger brother, NX, and the materials used are excellent. They're also unusual in places; notably, the optional upper dashboard cover that resembles textured Japanese washi paper. Lexus is stressing its superior craftsmanship - called Takumi - and has named its top-line UX trim after it. Below that sits F-Sport, while the Standard entry level will be the UX's bestseller.
Space upfront feels generous; however, in the back, it's not great for taller passengers and material quality takes a noticeable dip. Boot space remains unconfirmed for now, but looks small. The remote touchpad for the infotainment screen - 7in is standard and 10.25in on F-Sport - is still fiddly. The too-fast cursor makes it easy to click the wrong item in menus, while the zoom in-and-out map function is too deep within the system to find quickly. Practice does help (a bit).
A la mode
Better news comes with the drive. The new 176hp 2.0-litre petrol-electric hybrid powertrain with CVT auto feels brisk under acceleration and can be enhanced through the F-Sport's driving mode selector - a knob situated on the side of the driver display cowl, which twists through Eco, Normal, Sport S and Sport S+ to alter engine, transmission, suspension and sound settings. On a brief city-plus-suburban test taking it easy, 65.7mpg was our real-world result, which is exactly the same as Lexus's correlated NEDC target (final figures have yet to be announced). Driving vigorously in Sport+ almost halved that good work though - a period of time in that mode recorded 34.4mpg. Normal or Eco are sufficient for most scenarios. The front-wheel drive hybrid version - set to account for almost all UK sales - handles well and, while the electric all-wheel drive version is a little more solid-feeling, Lexus doesn't really see the UX as any kind of major off-roader, pitching it instead to 'creative urban explorers', regardless of where they might actually live.
Packing it in
Standard spec remains unconfirmed, but given Lexus's history, it should be generous. Further packs bundled by safety, design, tech and luxury will be offered from circa £700-£3,000 on top of the expected £30,000-£35,000 price range. With estimated 96-103g/km CO2 figures (correlated NEDC for 17in and 18in-wheel FWD models) and their associated 20-21% BIK tax bands, the UX will outgun all its straight-petrol and diesel rivals, and should be much cheaper than the forthcoming Volvo XC40 T5 plug-in hybrid too. Overall, the UX doesn't handle better than a BMW X1 or look as smart as a Jaguar E-Pace, but for urban-focused fleet drivers seeking low-tax alternatives to diesel or straight petrol, who can't afford higher-priced PHEVs or EVs - and their current compromises - this capable and economic hybrid represents a compelling addition to choice lists.