On the Road Review: Lexus UX250h



What is a UX250h? It is the smallest Lexus model available in two models: UX200 with 2.0-liter four-cylinder power and UX250h with hybrid power added. F-sport trim is also available.

How big (small) is it? Based on the front drive Toyota C-HR compact five-door, the UX has a higher hip point than most cars, yet isn’t as tall as a compact crossover. Each UX is a five-door hatchback. Measurements are 177 inches long, 72 inches wide, on a 104-inch wheelbase.

Why would you want one? The sampled UX250h hybrid is more luxurious and drives better than the top Prius model, while returning excellent drive dynamics and stellar fuel economy.

As a car company, Toyota is quite conservative; perhaps responsible and sensible are more apt descriptors. The largest risk taken was the rollout of the hybrid-powered Prius (gas engine, electric motor, plus small battery pack powertrain) in Japan in 1996. Since then, Toyota has sold millions of Prius hybrids all over the world, plus millions more of its other hybrid-ized offerings.

While other automakers have dipped their toe in the hybrid pool — Ford, Honda, Nissan, GM — no other automaker has been as committed to the hybrid technology. Twenty-plus years of hybrid experience has helped Toyota to build better, smarter hybrids — millions of vehicles that have both helped the environment (in some fashion) while also breaking the glass ceiling so-to-speak for other alternative power systems, like EVs.

Today, hybrids still outsell electric cars in America 2-to-1. Combined sales, however, are barely over 3 percent of the total new car market — a struggling niche that has not changed significantly despite years of EV boasting.

Why is this important? Consumers’ reservations about battery electric cars are still based on perceptions. Teslas are good but expensive. All others have questions about range, performance and battery life, which is not being helped by Nissan’s huge conundrum with the first-generation Leaf electric. Many of these batteries are suffering from huge energy drains — as much as half of their original range has been lost, and that’s in normal weather. Nissan can’t decide what to do; replace free for consumers, pro-rate new batteries or do nothing. Consumers and dealers are left to wonder about their car’s value while the market keeps changing. EV skeptics are ready to pounce.

Back to the Lexus UX, a sensible small car with Lexus style and panache in a city-friendly package. It doesn’t look like a Prius; it looks like a Lexus. It drives like a Lexus too; energetic, nimble with good road manners. Spirited, too, with ample electric motor torque and plenty of thrust for passing and highway travel.

But best of all, it handily beat the EPA estimates despite some ham-fisted driving to, you know, see what it would do. Two 300-mile fill-ups produced 42.1 mpg and 43.4 mpg against EPA projections of 41 city and 38 mpg highway. A more prudent driver could easily coax 48 mpg from this compact front driver.

Besides the ill-conceived mouse-on-a-console interface for your climate, audio, apps, navigation, etc. the only UX complaint was the lack of all-season AWD, like the electric part-time system that the Prius now offers as an option. Well, perhaps the F-sport trim is more visuals than performance, creature comfort features over power, speed, and extra handling, as paddle shifters and a “sport” mode knob (a very nice knurled knob atop the center dash) just seem out of place in a car using a hybrid powertrain. The hard fuel-efficient tires audibly protest when you ply the go-pedal excessively, too.

Likes: the dynamic cruise control screen pops out a highlight window when it senses slower traffic ahead, so you can react faster to maintain your chosen pace, and not waste energy slowing and accelerating. This is clever, and helpful like few systems are.

The power liftgate can be activated by swinging your leg; the rear seats fold from the cargo hold; and the slightly elevated seating position improves access. The info screen is huge.

Misses: the cabin has large roof pillars all around, limiting your view to many critical areas — thankfully parking sensors help. The console has few pockets or storage spaces, and the left side of the dash has a sharp angled edge that will greet long-legged drivers right in their knee. The UX is vastly more attractive than the Prius, however, it’s time that Lexus started using real car names. Who will celebrate bragging about their new UX?

Pricing starts at $32,000, several hundred less than the top Prius model. Our sampled 250h hybrid, starts at $36,000 before you start ladling on options and content like the Cadmium Orange paint, $595. All in, as shown, $42,710.

Easy to live with, fun to drive, handsome to look at, flexible cabin and it likes to race by gas stations. What’s not to like in a compact luxury car that the masses can enjoy?

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.
Tim Plouff

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