It’s extremely exciting having the opportunity to test-drive hybrid vehicles. While overseas markets are saturated with electric options, South African consumers have been a little slower to adopt eco-friendly vehicles. So, we were delighted to have had the new Lexus UX 250h arrive on our doorstep.
Lexus is the luxury division of Toyota, a favoured brand in South Africa, and has earned a reputation for combining reliability with luxury. The UX is the smallest crossover in their line-up and its crowning jewel. Throw in the electrically assisted powertrain and you have yourself a superb deal. Let’s have a look at all the UX has to offer.
At a glance
A newcomer to the market, the UX bears all the markings of a contemporary crossover. Dimensions and proportions are in line with the compact crossover segment. The UX has the signature spindle grille up front that identifies it as a Lexus, flanked by matching air inlets and topped with angular headlights. All models have LED headlights with daytime running lights and LED front fog lamps. The flowing lines trace powerful haunches and culminate in a shapely rear with a single, slim light bar across the tailgate. The latter is power-operated and hands-free operation is standard for all trims.
Our test unit arrived in a striking Terrane Khaki colour paint, which looks incredibly elegant and radiant in the sunlight. While we had the regular UX to play around with, F Sport variants in the line-up seek to add a little athletic flair to the look and feel of the crossover. These have unique bumpers in the front and rear, a bespoke grille, as well as model-specific wheels. Regardless of trim, there are 18-inch wheels under the arches.
Lexus interiors are generally a cut above the rest. The brand just knows how to put together a cabin, and you won’t be left missing anything in the UX. High-quality materials are abundant, with premium faux leather on the base model that feels supple and looks great. Top-spec models get the real deal, and you can choose from elegant shades like black, brown, cream, or white on most trims, while the F Sport can be optioned in a combination of black and Flare Red leather.
The dash is so much more than a lump of plastic housing buttons and dials. It is magnificently upholstered in synthetic leather with contrast stitching. A large, smoothly integrated 10,3-inch display screen is mounted high up on the dashboard for ease of use. It’s compatible with Apple and Android smartphones, and functions can be managed via the steering wheel or the touchpad on the centre console. We aren’t really fans of the touchpad as it’s a little distracting, but there are easier options for managing the system.
Naturally, the hybrid’s engine is rather quiet, so you’ll be able to hear every detail of your favourite soundtrack thanks to a 13-speaker Mark Levinson system in the upper trims, or a fabulous 8-speaker audio setup in the base model.
Under the bonnet
Hybrids are still a bit of a party trick in this country, so it’s a pleasure for us to note that the 2,0-litre 4-cylinder under the hood comes with electric assistance. The hybrid powertrain makes a total of 135 kW of power and 180 Nm of torque and is paired to an electronic continuously variable transmission for seamless gear progression. The F Sport models also get paddle shifters to simulate gear shifts for a more hands-on feel.
You also get the option of changing up the way the UX drives, with the drive mode selector allowing you to choose between Eco, Normal and Sport. This changes engine responses for a more sedate, economical experience or a bit more enthusiasm when you hit the throttle.
The benefit of hybrid power is efficiency, and with that in mind Lexus claims a fuel economy figure of 4,5 litres per 100 km. In all likelihood this is quite optimistic, but if you manage to use the hybrid style of driving (taking regenerative braking and maximising hybrid power at lower speed into account), this is very frugal for the segment.
Lexus does an admirable job of making soft-driving cars that are smooth and comfortable, soaking up bumps and abrasions without batting a headlight. The UX is no different, and the F Sport model even has adaptive suspension to tighten things up a bit more.
So, what’s the scoop?
Safety features are bountiful, too. The UX is equipped with 8 airbags as standard, front and rear intelligent sonar-based park distance control, brake assist, cruise control, and a reverse camera with guidelines on the entry-level trim. If you opt for the F Sport or SE models, you get pre-collision safety systems, lane-trace assist with steering control, adaptive cruise control and a panoramic-view monitor extra. Features available to all models in the range include dual-zone climate control, standard navigation, heating for both the front seats, and wireless charging.
As for the overall driving experience, we were pleasantly surprised at the adroit handling and responsive steering the hybrid crossover provides. It keeps you enveloped in luxury and is pleasing to pilot, ensuring you don’t feel like you’re driving an appliance. And how on earth could you consider something this stunningly beautiful to be an appliance anyway?!