On the Road Review: Lexus UX250h Hybrid

This is the smallest and least expensive crossover in Lexus’s lineup. In base front-drive trim, starting at $34,025, the subcompact UX200 uses a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. In tested UX250h hybrid form, starting at $36,225 with standard all-wheel drive, you gain 12 hp and over 20 percent greater fuel mileage. The extra cost and the improved driving verve provided by the electric motor/gas engine combo clearly offset each other — especially since our realized fuel economy surpassed the EPA estimates of 41 city, 38 mpg highway with 44 mpg in the driving that most of us perform daily.

Add AWD, and the UX model to buy in this market is the hybrid version.

The UX is 6 inches shorter than the compact NX hybrid, a Lexus crossover based on the Toyota RAV4, making the UX closely related to the new Toyota Corolla Cross hatchback. With driving dynamics that are agile and quick, like a car, the UX leans much closer to the auto side of the driving spectrum in all aspects of use.

The interior is nicely appointed with contrasting leather — red seating against black leather on many other surfaces, while the controls are (mostly) conventional and intuitive. The infamous console mousepad is retained here, as in most recent Lexus products, yet an additional control under the hand rest streamlines audio system functionality so that you aren’t trapped in tactile hades while searching for volume or to make another preset selection.

The side of the console is padded where a tall driver’s leg will rest, the leather texture on the steering wheel is very good, yet the cargo hold is not much larger than a trunk with the rear seatbacks upright. The rear seat is a little snug for adults, too. There is an underfloor cargo bin that helps in the rear, plus the liftgate is electric in featured F-Sport trim as shown. Driving aids abound plus the color Heads-Up display is excellent, and, uncommon at this price point.

There is some background mechanical hum as the CVT transmission helps the powertrain maximize efficiency on heavy throttle application, but most users shouldn’t find this objectionable — especially if they are light-footing the throttle for mileage.

Several viewers remarked positively about the UX’s styling and stance. Several more stated they didn’t want to plug in a hybrid, so they weren’t interested. This suggests that perhaps a brief overview of the current slate of engine/powertrains is warranted, as Toyota and many other automakers are going to roll out an expanded portfolio of advanced systems in the months and years ahead.

Currently the vast majority of American drivers are operating ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles that use gasoline or diesel fuel. Improvements in efficiency and power, with electronics, better transmissions and turbochargers, make many of these powertrains simple to live with. Plus, fuel is readily available.

Hybrid vehicles use a conventional ICE engine, plus an electric motor and small battery pack that is recharged by the engine. No plugging in is ever required. These are the Prius, Nissan Leaf and other hybrids that have been around for a long time, and are working very well at providing markedly better fuel economy as well as lower tailpipe emissions. Again, no range anxiety as you fuel up at your favorite gas station as necessary.

PHEV vehicles are plug-in hybrid vehicles that add a predetermined amount of electric-only operating range potential based on the vehicle’s design parameters. When this electric range is depleted, could be 18 miles or up to 50 miles, the vehicle runs on the conventional hybrid powertrain, just like above. If you forget to plug in, there is no range anxiety because you have a gas engine and an electric motor hybrid still providing power.

BEV vehicles are battery electric vehicles only; these require electric charging for all operation. Again, mileage range is determined by driving style, terrain, how long/how much the battery has been charged, temperature and speed. These vehicles generally have several apps and/or aids to help calculate range and to plan on using recharging infrastructure to meet your expected travel plans. Owning a BEV requires that owners know the types of electric chargers they might encounter where they travel as not all chargers are equal, or suitable, for the various BEVs currently in production.

Toyota and Lexus have the most hybrid-powered vehicles in the American market of any automaker. Each model sampled works smoothly, quietly and efficiently. Fuel economy frequently exceeds the EPA estimates, making these powertrains suitable for meeting better fuel economy expectations, plus the added power of an electric motor also aids in overall driving performance.

The UX250h is the first of what will be many alternative powered small crossovers. It’s a very good benchmark.

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.

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