The Lexus UX is the Japanese brand’s attempt at capturing the wallets of younger buyers hoping that they will graduate to the mid-sized NX and full-sized RX in later years. It will be challenging to achieve as the segment they want to break into has an ongoing contest between Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo. Can the UX bring something new to the table?
Perhaps, in a bid to stand out from the traditional, Lexus proposes that its SUV does not look like one. In fact, the UX resembles more of a heightened five-door hatchback with a rugged body kit slapped on. The long bonnet and raked windscreen lend a sleek appearance to the front. As for the rear, Lexus saw fit to give winglets to its taillights. While it may look odd at first, it doesn’t take long before it grows on you.
There is an aerodynamic purpose to the UX’s design. It starts from the wheel arch mouldings to channel air through the shoulder and straight through the rear’s winglets. Lexus claims that this reduces turbulence and lift, which adds to the vehicle’s stability in corners and through crosswinds.
While the outside is provocative, the UX’s interior is anything but. The simplicity in its design speaks volumes on how considered the designers were in building into the interior. And there’s more to uncover when you drill down to the details.
The front seats’ leather upholstery features a 1,200 years old stitching technique called ‘sashiko’ that places up to 10 stitched per inch — the same used in judo and kendo uniforms for its strength. If that isn’t enough, math is employed on the perforations to form perfectly aligned curves and gradations for maximum OCD-eye pleasure. It also optimises the cold air from the ventilated seats, a blessing on sweltering days.
Usually, vehicles like this are swathed in leather, high-grade plastics and aluminium trim. The UX layers the dashboard with a Japanese paper-inspired trim called washi. You can find the same used on sliding doors of Japanese homes.
The UX’s interior strikes a balance between being in a cavern and in a box. The rear passengers will certainly not feel boxed in and have legroom that no one will complain about. Having said that, it will be a challenge to fit three adults, primarily when there’s raised transmission tunnel intruding legroom.
The boot space isn’t the largest also, offering just enough room for the week’s grocery run or luggage for a short getaway. The 228-litre area can be expanded to 271 litres by folding down the 60:40 backrests. Waving one’s foot underneath the boot floor will open the lid automatically.
Although the interior is pleasing to the eye, the user experience could be better despite the driver-facing centre stack. Only the physical buttons here are those for the air conditioning. Controls for the media system is slotted underneath the armrest with dials and buttons placed too close for large hands.
The touchpad remains a contentious point even though it now offers feedback when the cursor is on a feature. As often with these human-machine interface systems, simplicity is key, but the UX’s user experience, unfortunately, isn’t the most intuitive. However, this does not take away anything from how the UX drives.
A 2.0-litre Dual VVT-i engine, producing 169hp and 203Nm, powers the UX. The engine is mated to a 10-speed CVT, which does not scream fast and is powerful. However, the UX’s strong acceleration is surprising, thanks to the mechanical ‘first’ gear. While it only manages a 0-100kph time of 9.2 seconds, the UX breaks from standstill won’t have anyone complaining. Subsequent ‘gears’ are handed over to the standard pulley system deemed more efficient, noticeable in the decent fuel consumption.
There’s nothing to complain about the SUV’s ride and handling. The Global Architecture-Compact platform, Lexus’ rebadging of the TNGA, underpins the UX. The ride is supple yet firm, and it doesn’t thrash about when going over bumpier roads. Handling the UX is a joy with the steering trained to be quick, accurate and provide adequate feedback from the road.
Knowing all that, you’d probably get the Lexus UX because of how it looks. Its design does make the Lexus stand out in a sea of vehicles, and the interior’s luxurious ambience it offers is a step above the competition. Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and even Volvo may have badge snobbery, but the Lexus UX is charming in its own unique way.
Specification: Lexus UX 200 Luxury
Engine 1,987cc, inline-4, 16-valves, VVT-iE (intake), VVT-i (exhaust) | Transmission 10-speed Direct Shift CVT, front-wheel drive | Power & Torque 169hp @ 6,600rpm / 205Nm @ 4,800 | Performance 0-100kph in 9.2s, max speed 190kph, 6.2l/100km, 145g/km CO2 | Price RM274,998.50