First Drive: Lexus UX – from RM243,888

By thoriq, 04 March 2020

Oh no, another compact crossover thingy?

Yes, but it’s not as bad as it seems. Lexus brings to the table a fresh new option against the likes of the recently refreshed BMW X1, the outgoing Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class, not forgetting the Audi Q2 and Volvo XC40 too.

The latest acronyms from the Japanese L-marque are UX, of which there are three variants. It starts with the UX 200 Urban base variant pictured, followed by the up-specced UX 200 Luxury and a sporty-flavoured UX 200 F-Sport range-topper.


We’ve had a go behind the wheel of both the Urban and Luxury variants back-to-back for a full-day’s drive this week, and we’re certain those not keen on the aforementioned European rivals have something to look forward too.


What’s special about it?

Plenty. The first and most obvious thing here is the UX’s styling. The combination of Lexus’s trademark Spindle Grille, distinct LED DRLs and a long taillight strip running across the UX’s tailgate make for a rather striking looking thing.

On board, it’s typically Lexus as there’s leather seats – even in the base UX 200 Urban – and a host of toys, with the latter’s list growing longer in the higher two variants. Notable bits include a sizable 8- (Urban) and 9-inch (Luxury and F-Sport) digital instrument display panel, ventilated front seats, power tailgate, and a 360-degree parking camera.

Notably, this Lexus is the only one in segment powered by a simple naturally aspirated 2.0-litre 4cyl petrol heart with 169bhp and 205Nm. It’s also the only one in segment with a 10-speed CVT automatic box to manage said outputs to its front wheels exclusively.


CVT? Seriously?

Yes, we know, this perhaps isn’t the most cutting edge of drivetrains, especially in the company of rivals packing both turbocharged mills and slick dual-clutch automatics. However, the news isn’t all that bad once we got the UX going and spanked it a little.

We’ll offer you some relief in pointing out that a ‘Sport’ drive mode is present alongside Eco and Normal. Opt for the higher variants and there’s the enhanced ‘Sport S’ and ‘Sport S+’ modes plus a user-customisable ‘Custom’ mode to sate your err… dynamic driving needs?

Nevertheless, even in its basic UX 200 Urban form, there’s enough pep for the usual daily routines. Truthfully, the UX’s CVT-driven performances may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s a silver lining to this, and it’s in the way the UX drives.


Tell us then, how does it drive?

In the case of the UX 200 Urban, which rolls on smaller 17-inch alloy wheels, its on-road manners are respectably good. Key to this is the adoption of MacPherson Struts up front and Trailing Wishbone rear suspension setup.

The result sees the UX sit better and noticeably more taut than some of its rivals, especially against ones brimmed with torsion beam rear suspension assemblies – this compact crossover won’t lose its composure much when thrown rounds bends quickly.

Don’t get us wrong, the new and now front-wheel-drive (FWD) BMW X1 still stands as the benchmark for driving dynamics in this segment. However, this Lexus isn’t too far off the benchmark set by the Bimmer, which is admirable.

Impressive too is how the UX the closes the gap to the Volvo XC40 in terms of safety and driver assist tech. Key to this is the presence of the Lexus Safety System+ (LSS+) suite that’s standard across all variants.


LSS+? What’s that?

LSS+ primes the UX with front pre-collision, radar cruise control with Stop & Go function, Lane-Tracing Assist and Lane-Departure Warning (LTA & LDW), as well as Active Cornering Assist (ACA).

Opt for the Luxury and F-Sport the LSS+ package is beefed up further with blind-spot monitor (BSM) and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (RCTA) features, the latter sweetening the 360-degree parking camera that’s also exclusively to these higher two variants.

In other words, yes, this is another one of those cars that can almost – ALMOST – drive itself, which is neat.


Is it comfortable to be in?

In typical Lexus fashion, the seemingly luxurious cabin also boasts respectable noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) suppression levels.

What is a deal-breaker though is the tiny cabin real estate, especially in the back seat where headroom and legroom is a tad scarce, especially for tall and lanky folks. There’s also the tiny 320-litre standard boot space impeding daily practicality slightly.

Fortunately, the news isn’t bad if you’re either driving or riding up front, especially in the higher-spec Luxury and F-Sport variants as both sport novel ventilated seats.

And despite lacking the cooler seats and a few other plush amenities, the base UX 200 Urban does boast a noticeably comfortable ride too thanks to its smaller 17-inch wheels – you get larger 18-inch ones in the Luxury and F-Sport instead.


Is this a good package then?

Though many will argue about the UX’s princely price tags, which by the way reads at RM243,888 for the Urban, RM283,888 for the Luxury and RM299,888 for the F-Sport; the fact that it’s a fresh new alternative to choose from adds to its desirability for now.

In the long term, we’re certain that things like the LSS+ features, ventilated seats and perhaps the quality of Lexus Malaysia’s after-sales services will be key factors in convincing potential suitors.

We’ll know more as soon as we conduct a thorough road test later on.