Lexus has expanded its lineup with the introduction of the 2019 UX hatchback. Two models are available: the front-drive UX 200 and the all-wheel drive UX 250h hybrid. The UX replaces the CT200h hatchback that was the previously the most affordable model. Pricing for the 2019 UX starts at $32,300 for the base UX 200 and $34,350 for the UX 250h. Other models include the UX 200 F Sport ($34,300), UX 200 Luxury ($37,500) and UX 250h Luxury ($39,550).
We tested a 2019 UX 200 F Sport equipped with a sunroof, navigation, and head-up display options. Both UX 200 and 250h can be ordered with the F Sport package. Notable standard equipment includes a 10.25-in. color infotainment display, heated front seats, 6-speaker audio system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, power front seats, rearview camera, and LED headlights. The F Sport model also adds 18-in. dia. alloy wheels, LED foglamps, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, paddle shifters, and digital gauges. The total estimated MSRP added up to $39,500 including the $1,025 delivery fee. Note that Lexus has changed options and package combinations for 2020, and our estimated MSRP is based on 2020 pricing.
An all-aluminum 2.0L inline-4 powers the UX 200. Rated at 169-hp @ 6,600 RPM and 151 lb.-ft @ 4,800 RPM, the port and direct fuel-injected M20-FKS dual overhead-cam four has intake and exhaust variable valve-timing (VVT-iE and VVT-i). A CVT (continuously variable transmission) that simulates a 10-speed automatic drives the front wheels. Unlike other designs, this CVT has a direct drive first gear for faster acceleration from a stop. The overall CVT pulley range is 2.236-0.447:1 coupled to 4.014:1 final drive ratio. Lexus claims the 0-60 MPH run in 8.9 seconds and a governed top speed of 118 MPH. The EPA estimated fuel consumption is 29/37 MPG (city/hwy.). We averaged 29-32 MPG in mixed highway and city driving.
The UX suspension consists of MacPherson struts and stabilizer bar in front, and a multi-link rear setup with coil springs, dampers, and stabilizer bar. Opting for the F Sport package adds specially tuned springs and stabilizer bars for a firmer ride. Brakes are all-disc: 12.0 in. dia. front rotors and 11.1 in. dia. rear rotors. All UX models get 18-in. dia. alloy wheels, but the F Sport has an exclusive split 5-spoke wheel design. Either 225/50RF18 Bridgestone or Dunlop all-season run-flat tires are fitted. Our test vehicle had Bridgestone Turanza EL450 tires. Steering is via an electrically-assisted rack-and-pinion system with 2.8 turns lock-to-lock. ABS, traction control and stability control (VSC) are standard. Curb weight is 3,307 lbs.
Although the UX 200 is related to the Corolla, its interior design is completely different. Premium materials and superb build quality elevate the Lexus from the lesser Toyota. Brushed aluminum trim on steering wheel, dash vents and center console contrast with the dark gray interior panels. The configurable LCD instrument panel has a simulated analog tachometer with an inset digital speedometer. Bar graph fuel level and coolant temperature gauges flank the tachometer. A head-up display projects speed, engine RPM and other vehicle information on the windshield. A rotary knob behind the steering wheel selects from three powertrain drive modes: Normal, Sport and Eco. Changing the drive mode to Sport switches the tachometer surround color from white to red. The leather-wrapped F Sport steering wheel has integrated controls for audio, cruise, phone, and vehicle systems monitor. Paddles behind the steering wheel command manual CVT shifts on demand. The widescreen infotainment display is not a touchscreen, but is controlled via touchpad and buttons on the center console next to the shift lever. The touchpad is usable and more convenient than a touchscreen, but does take some time to adapt to the interface. Dedicated buttons for the dual zone climate control system are intuitive and simple to use. Seat and steering wheel heater buttons are located below the climate controls. Portable electronics can be charged via 2 USB ports or a Qi wireless pad. An analog audio line-in and a 12V power outlet are next to the dual cup holders. Interior storage includes a center console bin and door pockets.
The F Sport package adds special perforated leather seats with excellent lateral and torso support; overall comfort is exceptional. Both front seats have 8-way power adjustments, plus lumbar support for the driver. Front headroom is acceptable for occupants up to 5'-10" with the sunroof. Rear headroom is also limited to passengers up to 5-10" tall, although rear legroom is acceptable. The UX 200 will accommodate three people in the back seats, but only for short trips; the center position is uncomfortable due to the hard seatback.
Lexus engineers tuned the suspension for a nearly ideal balance of ride comfort and handling. Impacts from patched pavement are absorbed by the compliant spring and damper settings. Frost heaves in pavement are more jarring, but not unexpected considering the stiff tire sidewalls of run-flat tires. Mild understeer and good steering turn-in response aids the UX 200 around curves. The Bridgestones provided decent grip at near freezing temperatures during the evaluation period, although we had no snow to test traction in typical winter weather. Lexus specified the same diameter brake rotors as the midsize ES 350 sedan. In the lighter UX the brakes provide impressive stopping power from highway speeds; progressive pedal actuation ensures smooth stops.
Although the 2.0L four cranks out respectable power and torque numbers, the extra 300 lbs. in the UX 200 vs. the Corolla dulls acceleration from a standstill. We had to dig deep into the throttle to maintain pace in urban and highway traffic. The CVT has a Sport mode that shifts at higher RPM and maintains a higher cruising RPM for faster passing acceleration on the highway. Above 2,000 RPM the inline-4 offers decent torque, but we still preferred driving in Sport mode for maximum throttle response. Tugging on the paddle shifters results in nearly instant response from the CVT; the selected "gear" is displayed within the tachometer. At full throttle, engine RPM hovers near the torque peak for maximum acceleration. Lexus effectively isolated the passenger compartment from most of the buzz and vibration from the inline four. Highway cruising in the UX 200 is pleasantly relaxed due to the minimal wind, engine and tire noise. This Lexus is among the few compact cars we would recommend for rolling through hundreds of miles a day.
As its most affordable model, the UX fulfills its mission as the entry point into the Lexus lineup. For urban customers, the compact exterior dimensions and hatchback practicality of the UX are certain to be appreciated. In its base configuration, the UX is a decent value, although more power under the hood would enhance its appeal. Loading up the options pushes the UX to nearly $40K, where it runs into competition from BMW and Audi compact hatchbacks. Our recommendation for potential customers would be to consider the base UX 200 as the sweet spot in the model range.