Automotive Minute: 2019 Lexus UX is your mom’s new grocery getterOct 29th, 2018
Lexus has a plan. Their marketing team is focusing the ad buys and messaging surrounding its new 2019 Lexus UX on xennials, the attractive microgeneration born between 1977 and 1983. They’re career-driven professionals who have put off families as housing costs and ambition rise.
There’s only one problem. I don’t think the UX will appeal to xennials (or millennials). Who it appeals to is a far less sexy of a buying demographic when it comes to advertising and marketing meetings. It’s the Baby Boomers and empty nesters. For them, the Lexus UX is the subcompact crossover they’ve been waiting for.
Sized like the Honda HR-V and Toyota CH-R, the Lexus UX is a step up from mass market crossovers but sits in the Lexus lineup as its smallest crossover/SUV offering. In theory, it doesn’t deviate much from the Lexus playbook in body design or interior aesthetics. In reality, it gives obvious hints about what to expect from SUV updates down the road and targets customers who want the finer things in life without the price tag.
The UX closely competes with the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and X2, Volvo XC40, Infiniti QX30, and Mercedes-Benz GLA. It’s also competing with the more refined mass market subcompact crossovers like the Hyundai Kona, Nissan Kicks, and Buick Encore. It slates below the NX is the Lexus lineup.
The exterior of the UX is led by the company’s signature grille, which some have criticized as giving the Lexus fleet the face of a dust buster. Kudos to Lexus for sticking to their guns and keeping the aesthetic. In smaller form, on the UX and 2019 Lexus ES, the design works better than it does on the 2018 Lexus RX.
Say goodbye to the eyebrow. Headlights and daytime running lights are fully integrated into one housing on the UX. From there, familiar side panel styling and a posterior similar to the styling on the Lexus LF-1 Limitless concept SUV that was shown at the North American International Auto Show last year.
The UX comes in two flavors: UX 200 and UX 250h. The UX 200 is powered by a 161-horspeower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that achieves 151 pound-feet of torque. The power plant is paired with a 10-speed direct-shift continuously variable transmission (CVT) that isn’t always smooth, struggling to find the right amount of torque when going uphill. The UX 200 achieves 27 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway.
Like the 2019 Corolla Hatchback, the UX has a fixed first gear, allowing for less of the rubber-banding effect typically associated with CVTs. It works as advertised.
Its hybrid sister, the UX 250h, gets power from the same engine paired with two electric motors, generating a total of 181 horsepower. The UX 250h has a 180-cell, 24 kWh nickel-hydride battery, which helps it get off the line with ease. You won’t find any of the sluggishness of the UX 200 with the UX 250h. The UX 250h gets 41 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway.
The UX comes with front-wheel drive standard and all-wheel drive is available. However, all-wheel drive is only active up to 43 mph, when it converts to front-wheel drive.
Neither powertrain is particularly powerful, but for the urban environment like Seattle where it was road tested, it’s plenty proficient. The UX 250h performs worlds better than the gasoline-only UX 200.
The interior of the UX isn’t as nicely appointed as the Lexus LC it steals many design cues from, but it is at least as nice, if not better, than the spaces presented by its competition. Interior styling is simple yet sophisticated. In the UX, Lexus designers thankfully seem to have left the frivolity of the Lexus LS interior behind.
Its front row is surprisingly spacious but adults who want to sit in the second row will have to choose a side wisely to optimize legroom. The UX has excellent headroom for the driver and front passenger.
One of the UX’s few falter points comes at the rear where a high load floor means that you’ll have to lift grocery bags from their natural carrying position to get them in the area. However, that same high floor means that ingress and egress are easy.
The worst part of the UX is its infotainment interface. Lexus has added new hand controls below the touch pad on the center console that allow for quick tuning of the radio, increasing/decreasing volume, and switch between audio sources. The controls are intuitive and easy to use, however, you still must use the touch pad (which is as awful to use as the Acura RDX’s is delightful).
Still, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give the UX a test drive. With a starting price of just $32,000 for the 2019 Lexus UX 200 and $34,000 for the 2019 Lexus UX 250h, the UX makes a compelling argument for changing from your RX to a subcompact crossover or getting mom out of her generation-old ES or Camry. Xennials are more likely to gravitate to the fun-to-drive Volvo XC40, which combines funky looks with zippy acceleration.