As luck would have it, when it was my time to get behind the wheel of the Lexus UX 200 Luxury, the compact crossover’s tyre had sprung a leak. There are no visual telltales from the outside though, the UX Luxury is fitted with run-flat tyres. If not for the warning on the UX’s Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, I would have driven it blissfully ignorant.
Nevertheless, I am happy to report that the run-flat tyres worked as it should. It held its shape despite the plummeting pressure with no change to the driving dynamics whatsoever. Although to be honest, there's only so much 'dynamic driving' I could do in the three-kilometre drive to lunch.
The premature end to my time with the UX Luxury clocked the start of a few hours behind the UX Urban. Apart from the 17-inch wheels wrapped in conventional tyres, there are no other noticeable differences on the exterior nor the engine; more on the latter later. The variations are more evident on the inside.
What’s immediately noticeable, is the lack of perforations of the front seats in the UX Urban, proof that this version has no seat ventilation. The embossing on the soft leather is another sign that I am getting into a different UX.
More differences started to pop up as I settle in. The seven-inch display screen looks too small in its housing on the centre console, and below that, the wireless charging is absent.
Even though the UX Urban doesn’t have navigation, its connectivity with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will remedy that very quickly. The infotainment system is hooked up to six speakers that sounds good enough not to tell the difference between this and the Luxury-spec’s eight speakers.
It’s all squared up when it comes to the engine. No matter which UX you end up with, the crossover draws power from a 2.0-litre VVT-i engine that produces 169hp and 205Nm. Completing the drivetrain is a very curious 10-speed CVT. It is unusual because it employs a mechanical ‘first’ gear to launch the crossover before handing the reins over to the CVT.
The changeover from the mechanical to the CVT felt seamless and allows the crossover to gain speed quickly under hard acceleration. The crossover will do 9.2 seconds from zero to 100kph and up to a top speed of 190kph — figures are respectable.
There is one thing that the UX does brilliantly is its ride. The combination of MacPherson front struts and multi-link rears, machined to the rigid Lexus GA-C platform, soaks up most of what the road dishes out. More impressive is it how the UX maintains composure and grip when running over roads that are damaged, bumpy and uneven.
The UX handles well, too. The eager and precise steering matches nicely with excellent body dynamics. Put the UX through a quick slalom, and you won’t feel the tyres suffering the loss of grip, nor does the crossover becomes a moving tripod. Or the feeling that you're a salad leaf tossed around in the cabin.
The Lexus UX 200 Urban is one of the better premium crossovers and SUVs that you can buy. The competition might have a head over the UX in terms of power and space, but the UX has agility, vehicle dynamics and sleek styling secured in its pocket.
(Note: We were there when the Lexus UX was launched. For more information, here’s the report.)
Specification: Lexus UX 200 Urban
Engine 1,987cc, inline-4, DOHC, VVT-iE (intake), VVT-i (exhaust) | Transmission 10-speed Direct Shift CVT, front-wheel drive | Power & Torque 169hp @ 6,600rpm / 205Nm @ 4,800rpm | Performance 0-100kph in 9,2s, 0-160kph in 12.8s, max speed 190kph, 6.2l/100km combined | Price RM243,888.00 | Score 8/10