Driven: 2020 Lexus UX
  • Car Review

Driven: 2020 Lexus UX

By Chris Teague | October 24, 2019

Autolist rating: 4/5
But would we buy it? Yep!
Price range: $32,300-$39,350, before destination and options

Key takeaways

  • The UX was an all-new model for 2019.
  • It’s smaller than the long-running Lexus RX crossover and newer NX.
  • Comes with either a gas or hybrid powertrain, though all-wheel drive is only offered for hybrid models.
  • An athletic F Sport package is available, and it adds larger wheels and minor upgrades to the interior.
  • The UX has limited cargo space and tight back seat room.


What is it?

The UX is a new crossover from Lexus for the 2019 model year. It slots into the lineup below the NX and RX crossovers as the smallest and most affordable crossover the brand makes. It’s aimed at new car buyers that want a compact premium SUV at a reasonable price, and it’s offered in both a gas and a hybrid model.

Each model is available in three trims: base, F Sport, and the range-topping Luxury trim. Just like everywhere else in the crossover world, the compact luxury segment has become ultra-competitive over the past few years; the UX’s main competitors are the Volvo XC40, BMW X2, Mercedes GLA, Infiniti QX30, and the Audi Q3.

The UX F Sport, like other Lexus “F” models, comes with sport seats, sportier suspension, and other design touches that make it more aggressive than the other models. The powertrain remains untouched, though, as the F Sport trim is an appearance-only upgrade.

Gas-powered models all have a 2.0-liter inline-four cylinder that makes 169 horsepower, routed to the front wheels via a CVT gearbox that mimics a 10-speed automatic transmission.

UX Hybrid models come with a 2.0-liter engine with a hybrid system that makes 181 total system horsepower. All-wheel-drive is standard for hybrid UX models, and like its gas brethren, this hybrid uses a CVT gearbox.


What’s good?

TLDR: Solid fuel economy, an upscale interior, and a luxury-quality ride all rolled up in a compact package.

Ride: The UX’s size and stance might lead you to believe that it’s a sporty and athletic crossover, but the ride is subdued and luxurious. There are very few bumps and bangs that the UX’s suspension can’t handle, and it’s quite serene on long trips.

Fuel Economy: A small crossover is expected to deliver decent fuel economy, and UX hits the mark here. The gas-powered model is rated by the EPA at 29/37/33 MPG city/highway/combined, while the hybrid models reach 41/38/39 mpg with all-wheel drive. Those numbers aren’t just competitive for crossovers; they’re reaching into compact sedan territory.

Interior: Though there’s cloth in the most basic models, the two-tone interiors found in upgraded trims is comfortable and feels like it’s meant for a more expensive vehicle. The leatherette upholstery feels premium and remains comfy on long haul drives. The F Sport trim has heavily bolstered sport seats that may be too tight for larger people, but are otherwise very comfortable.


What’s bad?

TLDR: Underpowered, wonky infotainment system.

Terrible Infotainment: The UX is one of the first Lexus or Toyota vehicles to get Apple CarPlay, and it also has a great deal of standard tech and safety features. Even so, basic operation of the infotainment system is infuriating and confusing. There are a variety of menus to sift through, and the touchpad system is more than burdensome, especially when the vehicle is on the move. It’s too distracting to use in almost any situation and draws attention away from the road.


Underwhelming power: It’s clear that the UX was designed with fuel economy in mind, as it often feels like there’s not enough power on tap. The standard four-cylinder engine doesn’t move off the line very quickly but is competent at highway speeds once it gets there. The hybrid delivers 181 horsepower, which sounds like more but still won’t inspire many giggles with the pedal to the floor.

5 stars of execution:

Safety Features? YES

  • Lexus was generous with the advanced safety tech for the new UX. There’s automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, and lane-keep assist
  • The UX earned a Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHs and five stars from the NHTSA.

Value? YES

  • Even as the cheapest Lexus SUV -- starting at $32,000 -- you get a lot for your money.
  • Options packages are a steal. The $1,175 Premium Package adds blind-spot monitors, a moonroof, rain-sensing wipers, and heated/ventilated seats. The larger infotainment screen and navigation costs $1,025.
  • The UX’s MSRP beats all of its competitors’ pricing, handily in some cases, as the BMW X1 starts around $35,000, and the Volvo XC40 starts at around $34,000.

Efficiency? YES

  • Without the hybrid, the UX hits an EPA-estimated 29/37/33 mpg city/highway/combined, and hybrid models are rated at 43/41/42 mpg
  • Those numbers beat the BMW X1 and Audi Q3, and compete with several sedans and economy cars


Driving experience? NO

  • As we mentioned, the UX is underpowered, no matter how you cut it. Even the hybrid could use a few more horses. That said, power delivery does even out after a bit, and passing once at highway speed presents no challenges.
  • The UX feels larger than it is, thanks to suspension tuned for comfort instead of performance, which isn’t a terrible thing. The handling is confidence-inspiring, however, especially with the hybrid models’ AWD on board.
  • The UX uses a CVT that has trick tech to make it feel and act like a 10-speed automatic. It’s a clever transmission that performs much better than other continuously-variable gearboxes, but the driving experience would be much better with a normal automatic.

Execution? YES

  • The packaging and pricing for the UX are spot-on and make the UX a solid entry point to the Lexus lineup
  • The interior is quality and truly feels more expensive than it is. Head and legroom are adequate, even for such a small vehicle, and there’s not a bad seat in the house from a comfort perspective
  • Lexus’ stellar reliability and entry-level luxury come at a reasonable price

Total Rating: 4 stars

What’s it gonna cost me?

The base Lexus UX 200 has a base price of $32,300 before destination, and comes with front-wheel drive, push-button start/stop, selectable drive modes, a 7-inch infotainment screen, a six-speaker premium stereo, a WiFi hotspot, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto capability, four USB ports, Bluetooth, voice controls, dual-zone climate controls, synthetic leather upholstery, folding rear seats, LED headlights, and Lexus advanced safety systems that add forward-collision warnings, and other features like pedestrian detection.

The UX 250h adds all-wheel drive and the aforementioned hybrid powertrain, and it has the same features as the base gas model, with a starting price of $34,350 before destination.


The UX F Sport has a starting price of $34,300 before destination, and adds 18-inch split-spoke wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, LED foglamps, sport seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, paddle shifters, and digital gauges.

The UX 250h F Sport has the same features and a starting price of $36,350.

The UX Luxury has a starting price of $37,500 before destination and adds a 10.3-inch infotainment screen with navigation, memory seats, a power liftgate with foot sensors, heated and ventilated front seats, blind-spot monitors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a power moonroof, and acoustic glass.

The Lexus UX 250h Luxury carries the same features and has a starting price of $39,350.

If it were our money, we’d buy the UX 250h F Sport, as it comes with a fuel-sipping hybrid drivetrain, all-wheel drive, a sporty interior, and an excellent hybrid powertrain.


Also consider:

The Audi Q3 was redesigned for 2019, and while it’s more expensive, it comes loaded up with great features and a sporty ride. It’s got all of the great stuff that its larger siblings have at a much lower price.

The BMW X1 has a solid powertrain, plenty of cargo space, and a decent price tag. It gets expensive quick with options, so the entry-level models are best.

The Infiniti QX30 has attractive styling, great handling, an upscale interior, and a good price. That said, it gets expensive with options, easily topping $40,000. The QX30 rides on the same underpinnings as the Mercedes-Benz GLA, which is similarly priced. Either could easily be confused with a slightly larger hatchback car.

We would pass on the subcompact Buick Encore, MINI Countryman, and most anything over $40,000 in this segment – looking at the Porsche Macan. At this price point, several midsize to large sedans could be considered as well, like the Lexus ES, BMW 3-Series, or Audi A4.