Review: Lexus UX200 Luxury – A Case For Upward Mobility

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Review: Lexus UX200 Luxury – A Case For Upward Mobility

As one of Lexus’ newest models in their line-up, the UX has a lot of hopes pinned to it in terms of revitalizing the brand’s image and appealing to a younger market. Does it live up to expectations?


The luxury car market is an undeniably competitive space – more so than you would imagine at the thicker end of consumer trends with mass-market econoboxes and compact crossovers. The luxury market is constantly growing and evolving, as customers are looking for the next big thing – something flashier, cooler, and smarter than what’s come before.

This is something that’s especially difficult to keep up with as technologies are constantly evolving and progressing. Twenty years ago the focus was purely on improving refinement and comfort. Just ten years ago was the shift towards developing smarter in-car entertainment systems and advanced driver assistance systems.

More recently the push has been towards connectivity and integration – both with smart devices and smart cities. When a company already has so much on their plate, how do they find the time, space, and budget to develop an all-new product? The Lexus UX is the car to answer that question for the Japanese brand.

Specifications:

  • Engine: 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine with direct injection
  • Power: 169 hp @ 6,600 rpm
  • Torque: 205 Nm @ 4,800 rpm
  • Transmission: 10-speed CVT-type automatic transmission
  • Safety: Lexus Safety System+ (Pre-Collision System, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Keeping System, Adaptive High Beam System), 8 airbags, VSC, TRC, ABS
  • Price: RM 274,998.50 (On The Road, without insurance)

What Do You Get For The Money?

If at first, this form factor seems a little familiar, you wouldn’t be wrong. Like a number of Lexus’ products, there is a relationship with a variant from parent company Toyota – and in this case, it’s the Toyota C-HR. This brings a number of benefits and drawbacks that we’ll get into shortly, but for the most part, these two cars share hard points much like the Toyota Prius and the now-defunct Lexus CT200h.

One of the major distinctions, however, is the powertrain. The Lexus UX200 comes with a 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated engine – one of the modern Dynamic Force Engine units that we don’t see in many other products locally. Through the use of direct injection, it bumps up outputs from preceding naturally aspirated 2.0-litre engines in the family to a decent 169 hp and 205 Nm of torque.

That engine is paired with a CVT-type automatic transmission that delivers drive exclusively to the front wheels. Yes, like most crossovers on the market, the Lexus UX doesn’t even attempt to split torque across two axles and most buyers would hardly know the difference, nor care that it’s omitted.

This particular test car surprised us as we expected it to be the F-SPORT variant given its digital instrument cluster – but in fact it was actually the Luxury variant, as all the UX variants get a digital cluster which changes mood and layout slightly depending on your drive mode and driver preferences. The F-SPORT variant goes further with a physical ring that moves for that ultra-canggih LFA homage.

In terms of interior trim and fittings, you get power-assisted and ventilated front seats wrapped in a reasonably hard-wearing leather, as well as Japanese Paper Grain and metallic ornament finishing for the touch surfaces on the dashboard and centre console, as well as a 10.3-inch infotainment unit sitting front and centre on the dashboard that can be navigated with a touchpad next to the gear lever.

But How Does It Really Feel?

The Lexus UX200 – regardless of variant – is not without its issues. From an ergonomic standpoint, it adopts many of the demons that were taken from the Toyota C-HR – and even introduces a couple of problems of its own. The most glaring problem is the fact that the boot floor height is incredibly high, with a large overhang from the loading area in the form of the rear bumper.

While this sounds like an issue that wouldn’t repeatedly prove problematic, it does take away a fair amount of the crossover or SUV experience. The high boot floor results in a loading area and space that leaves a little to be desired, and if you want to sit on the edge of the boot to enjoy a bit of fresh air you won’t find it particularly comfortable as you can’t put a lot of weight on the edge of the boot.

Beyond that, there isn’t a whole lot of space inside the cabin either – although this is an issue that the more compact Lexus models seem to have. Despite having the same wheelbase and relative room as its more mass-market sibling, the seats and bolstering are thicker which results in less legroom and knee room – fitting four tall adults inside can be a bit of a squeeze.

The navigation and infotainment system is leaps and bounds better than what preceded it, though it still has a long way to go if it intends to match what European models are offering in terms of ease of use and the overall user experience. Unfortunately without an extensive and comprehensive rework, it is unlikely that this will improve within the next generation of Lexus products.

Coupled with the not-insignificant price tag and you have a rather difficult proposition that puts the Lexus UX pretty far down on the list of options for people shopping in the entry-level luxury crossover space. Pricing is something that Lexus has been fighting for the better part of a decade, and is again something that works heavily against them in the luxury space.

There’s Always Something To Love

Even with all of these problems, one can learn to love the Lexus UX200. In this mid-spec trim, it still comes with many of the comfort features – ones you don’t really notice until you start to miss them. Keyless entry may be the norm these days, but remote boot releases are still a great help when it comes to loading and unloading your car.

The ventilated seats are still an item that is surprisingly rare given our climate, but an absolute joy to have on an extremely hot day when the air conditioning just isn’t cooling you down quickly enough. The heater element is also a pleasant feature to have, especially on colder or wetter nights when you need to warm up quickly.

As for the powertrain – there isn’t really anything particularly outstanding about the unit, but it operates quietly and in comfort, letting you get up to highway speeds relatively quickly. Beyond this it isn’t the most potent of engines, being relatively simple and old-tech among a field of turbocharged options. Despite being a CVT-type automatic, the transmission does have a relatively positive feel to it while driving, shifting quickly enough that you don’t feel as much of the “rubber band” effect so commonly associated with CVTs. Fuel efficiency varies greatly though you could probably return 13 to 15 kilometres per litre if you drive more sensibly.

And of course, it’s the intangibles that you don’t see on the specification sheet that really make the difference when it comes to a Lexus product. Granted this isn’t a ground-up Lexus product, but for the most part there has been care and effort taken in order to improve the NVH and insulation, with the only exception being a bizarre amount of tyre noise intruding into the cabin.

While the sound system the UX200 is packaged with is the Lexus Premium Audio and not the Mark Levinson unit, it does reproduce sounds with impressive clarity and sound staging is done impressively for such a tight space that the hallmark “blast music and have a conversation without needing to shout” is executed easily here.

Conclusion

The Lexus UX may not seem like the most obvious choice for those looking for a luxury car, but it still represents what Lexus does best – refinement and ride quality – at the lowest bar for entry to the Lexus family. In a world where upwards mobility is highly sought after, the Lexus UX gives people the opportunity to acclimatize themselves with Lexus. There are also plenty of finance plans (as at time of writing) to match one’s progression in life with multiple tier payment options over the course of a loan period.

The world is changing rapidly and as consumer expectations shift, it made sense that Lexus’ newest product would be a crossover-type SUV rather than a smaller, more compact sedan. Even if it isn’t quite as rugged as one would hope, it has the styling and features and functionality that are necessary to make it in this class.



Aswan

Aswan

Writer

Places more value in how fun a car is to drive than outright performance or luxury. He laments the direction that automotive development is headed in, but grudgingly accepts the logic behind it. Can be commonly found trying to fix yet another problem on his rusty project car.


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