Japanese luxury car maker Lexus have made their first small SUV, and it's the sort of car that we'll all be driving before too long: a petrol-electric hybrid that offers smooth power and great economy.
If things keep following their current trend lines, the world could end be a very, very different place in 20 years’ time. Everyone you know will be a vegan; the only jobs within the M25 will be in banking; Elon Musk will be selling holidays on the moon; and Britain’s relationship with Europe will have become so strained that we’ll have decided to float the entire island out into the mid-Atlantic (Boris Johnson will promise send the EU the bill).
On top of that, we’ll all be driving around this brave new world in some sort of electric-powered SUV crossover. And while those first three options don’t sound too good, this last element of life in 2039 sounds fairly decent, so long as the car in question is a Lexus UX.
As the high-end arm of the mighty Toyota corporation, Lexus have long prided themselves on making cars which are as sleek to look at as they are to pilot. In the case of the UX — a beautifully-made petrol-electric hybrid with creamily smooth power delivery — they’ve earned a huge pat on the back for a job well done. The electric motor and petrol engine combine to produce 181bhp delivered via a 10-speed CVT gearbox, and while many other cars could match that spec on paper, but the combination of electrical and petrol power makes this a joy.
The result is a machine that’s near-silent pottering about residential streets, pulls smoothly and quickly when you need it to (0-60mph takes a snappy 8.5 seconds) and cruises effortlessly and quietly while getting more than 50mpg. It is without doubt one of the nicest little cars I’ve driven in a long time. And I use the word ‘little’ advisedly.
Though it has the basic shape of many larger competitors, the UX is a fairly small car. The cabin is perfectly large enough and certainly plush — it took my family of four to Wales and back in splendid comfort — but it really isn’t spacious, and would be right on the limit of what you might call a family car.
The boot isn’t much bigger than the one you’d find in a VW Polo, though it’s extended slightly by the cubby hole beneath the floor, which the children excitedly dubbed our ‘secret compartment’. Sadly, even that has its limits: I can confirm that it’s not large enough to take a Playmobil pirate ship, even with all the masts and sails removed. You’ll get a few pairs of shoes or boots in there though.
While the UX isn’t enormously large, it is however enormously colourful. Our test car in F Sport trim was decked out with red-and-black leather seats of eye-poppingly, er, ‘confident’ design that looks like it was designed by Miss Whiplash’s tailor. No doubt by 2039 we’ll be used to such things, but in 2019 it took a bit of getting used to. There’s also a white option – the devil and the angel, if you like.
Given the futuristic looks of the car – inside and out – it’s no surprise to hear that there are plenty of gadgets, readouts and toys inside. Sadly, this brings us to one of the downsides: many of the functions have to be selected via a laptop-style trackpad built into the centre console between the front seats. In a left-hand drive car it might be one thing, but I found having to use my non-dominant left hand for fine motor control is tough while the car is stationary and near-impossible on the move. Basic functions — changing radio stations and so on – can be done with different buttons. But the usually-simple task of entering a postcode for the sat nav was excruciating.
The only other downside for us was the brakes, which while extremely good at stopping the car quickly were awkward when it came to stopping the car slowly and smoothly. Perhaps it’s something to do with the technology that regenerates battery power from the brakes, but it was all too easy for a light dab to produce an overly-sharp stop.
Such niggles really aren’t much to complain about in car that is so good to look at, comfortable to be in and lovely to drive. If you’re looking for a crossover SUV then the UX should absolutely be on your shortlist.
On The Road: Lexus UX 250h F Sport
Price: From £29,995; F Sport model from £33,905; model as driven (with ‘Premier Plus pack’ and metallic paint) £38,675
Acceleration: 0-60 in 8.5s
Top speed: 110mph
MPG: 49.5-53.2 according to the new WLTP standard, which offers something akin to a real-world figure that was confirmed by our test.
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