FIRST DRIVE | The 2019 Lexus UX is looking to hook younger buyers

Bruce Fraser experiences the youthful new Lexus UX range

21 February 2019 - 13:28 By Bruce Fraser
The handsome new Lexus UX 250h
The handsome new Lexus UX 250h
Image: Supplied

Its 3.30 on a Tuesday afternoon and traffic has come to a standstill along De Waal Drive in Cape Town — thanks to load-shedding. Anyone who has been to the Mother City will know how congested the roads have become. Courtesy of Eskom, today our progress is as slow as service at Home Affairs, and to pass the time we chill to the sounds of Brian McKnight. Mind you, I guess the one consolation is I got to spend a little extra time in the all-new Lexus UX. Lexus is no stranger to the SUV segment, already offering the LX, RX and NX range, but the UX fits in to the small SUV category — a division that continues to show growth.

The model lineup is pretty straightforward — the entry-level 200 EX, the 250h SE hybrid and 200 F-Sport — and all built on the new GA-C global architecture platform. In years gone by many perceived the Lexus brand to be aimed at an older generation whose idea of a fun day out would be a game of bowls or an evening spent watching Noot vir Noot. How things have changed.

Today the Lexus brand, when you consider they have vehicles like the LFA supercar in their model line-up, is more cutting edge than many of its competitors. And it’s not just about the striking silhouettes that come off the design table. It’s under the bonnet and in the cabin. First showcased at the Paris motor show back in 2016, the UX is being launched with a new customer in mind, a younger generation looking for a lifestyle vehicle.

The cabin is well appointed and superbly made
The cabin is well appointed and superbly made
Image: Supplied

The design of the vehicle has that edgy look we have come to expect from the modern-day Lexus. The front view is dominated by the brand’s trademark spindle grille, but with the UX there is a slight change in that there is a new block-shaped mesh pattern that creates a three-dimensional appearance that changes with the viewing angle. Another interesting take from the front is the striking L-shaped headlamp design and deep recess leading down to the fog lamps. The rear will also receive a fair amount of comment thanks to the full-width rear lights made up of 120 LEDs which taper towards the centre.

As is the case with many cars originating from the Land of the Rising Sun, they are packed to the rafters with features. Let’s just say even the EX model comes comprehensively equipped and the F-Sport gets some fancy enhancements. In this particular case, expect sports seats, aluminium pedals and footrests, leather covered F-Sport steering wheel, adaptive variable suspension (also found in the LC and LS coupe and sedan) plus a choice of five different driving modes including Sport S+.

Other additions include an exclusive grille and changes to the front bumper and includes black trim. And if you do opt for the F-Sport, you must definitely buck the trend and go for the Flare Red seats. All models come standard with 18-inch alloy wheels. Both the EX model and F-Sport have under the bonnet a naturally aspirated 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine that produces 126kW and 205Nm and is paired with a CVT gearbox.

Lexus hopes the UX appeals to younger buyers
Lexus hopes the UX appeals to younger buyers
Image: Supplied

An interesting aspect to this box is the inclusion of a mechanical first gear that is used to start from standstill and accelerate before handing over to the CVT pulley system. The result is a fairly linear supply of power. Both vehicles have a sprint time of 9.2 seconds and a top speed of 190km/h. Fuel economy is a claimed 6.1l/ 100km.

The hybrid 250h, on the other hand, employs the same 2.0-litre engine but in this instance it is coupled with two electric motor-generators to produce a combined total system output of 135kW. Again a CVT gearbox is employed, but one engineered specifically for this platform. The sprint time in this model is a claimed 8.5 seconds with a top end of 177km/h (governed) while one can expect slightly fewer trips to the petrol station thanks to a measly 4.5l/ 100km.

Boot space is fairly generous
Boot space is fairly generous
Image: Supplied

But for me, where Lexus truly shines, is when it comes to the interiors and the UX doesn’t let the name down. Lovely materials, clutter-free, buttons logically laid out and close at hand. The remote touch interface, though, is quite finicky but maybe with familiarity it becomes simpler to use.

When I wasn’t stuck in grid-locked traffic the UX performs as well as it looks. In fact, at one stage, my colleague from Business Day Motor News spiced things up quite nicely when he managed to get the tyres smoking, and my stomach churning, as he demonstrated the agility of the vehicle around corners. Coming in to the small SUV segment, the UX finds itself lining up against the likes of heavy-hitters the Mercedes-Benz GLA, BMW 1-Series and Audi Q3. A difficult challenge but one I feel the Lexus is up for.

2019 Lexus UX Pricing:

Lexus UX 200 EX — R599 000

Hybrid 250h SE — R699 000

UX 200 F-Sport — R726 200

The UX range comes with a best-in-class seven-year/105,000km warranty and full maintenance plan.

X