Pricing will be crucial when the baby Lexus UX lands in SA
As the littlest of the litter, the UX will appeal to those who might never have considered — or been able to afford — a Lexus before
Most consumers are lusting after compact crossovers and sport-utility vehicles as their next purchase. And car makers are pandering to this heady demand with a flood of appropriate wares.
The templates can be had in sizes across the board — from cutesy compact offerings to large and in-charge lumbering behemoths. At the smaller end of the premium niche, buyers can pick from products such as the Audi Q3, BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class, Volvo XC40 and Jaguar E-Pace.
Infiniti launched the QX30 in 2015 and that model was destined to arrive here, before the situation turned awry for the brand locally. But Japan will be represented in this arena when the Lexus UX lands in SA early next year.
We had a brief encounter with the model at its global launch in Stockholm, Sweden, a fortnight ago. Its position as the littlest of the litter will see the UX appeal to customers who might never have considered — or been able to afford — a Lexus before. Indeed, pricing will be crucial.
The UX shares a foundation with the Toyota CHR, which in range-topping specification costs R422,100. The next step on the rung of the Lexus range ladder is the NX, kicking off at R606,000. So, it would not be remiss to have expectations of it costing in the region of R500,000.
As with all products in the Lexus stable (dated CT200h aside perhaps); the UX is a striking thing. It boasts an aggressive angularity. There are sharp pleats in its physique and a rather disgruntled-looking face, which should assert itself sufficiently in the rear-view mirrors of drivers in the concrete jungle.
That characteristic spindle grille seems to grow more exaggerated in the midriff section each time Lexus tacks it onto a new model. Puts one in mind of an hourglass — or an Elizabethan-era corset.
Another standout feature can be found at the rear, with illumination spanning the entire width of the tailgate .
On the inside, the UX translates the edginess of its outer shell dutifully. Panels and surfaces are intricately sculpted, a case of form meeting function meeting art. Yes, all this poetry is juxtaposed with the odd bit lifted from the Toyota parts bin. But you can forgive them, since few motoring conglomerates in 2018 are exempt from such sharing across brands.
As mentioned, the UX employs the same underpinnings as the Toyota CHR — the company calls this its Global Architecture — Compact (GA-C) platform. The similarity in texture should not be thought of as a criticism, since the humbler cousin has been praised for its road manners and refinement. As expected, however, Lexus has invested additional engineering in most areas to give it a greater air of plushness.
The UX showed composure through the narrow, countryside roads of our jaunt, progressing in the relaxed fashion we associate with the brand. All well and good, though a wider spread of powertrain options would be welcomed.
The UX is served with a normally aspirated, 2.0-litre four cylinder. No turbocharging of any sort, even though there are options available in the group — like the 1.2-litre unit from the C-HR, or the boosted 2.0-litre from the IS200t sedan.
But this is a new mill and the car maker is proud, claiming that its outputs are on par with competitors’ engines that employ forced induction. The figures are 126kW and 205Nm in the UX200, and the UX200h hybrid version supplements that with an electric motor.
Both are mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT); albeit with a mechanical gearset for take-off. This aims to deliver a smoother pullaway.
In a segment with a plethora of options, the primary appeal of the UX will be its dazzling aesthetics and characterful persona that creates. This, supplemented by the long-standing Lexus virtues of quality and refinement, positions the model for success.