Len Ingrassia: Lexus UX joins compact luxury crossover field

The all new 2019 Lexus UX 200 joins more established rivals competing for the urban dweller looking for an entry level luxury crossover.Photo/Len Ingrassia)

It's a pint-size Lexus with much of the brands' finesse wrapped in and just a few things missing. Overall the new UX 200 is a five-passenger, four-door hatchback classified as an entry-level crossover.

From its side, the UX mimics its larger siblings — the RX and NX — with sculpted creases and stylish wheel moldings. And it shares the big snout grille that has become the Lexus hallmark. Upward-mounted taillights add a contemporary look when teamed with a full width light strip.

Pros:

• Lexus/Toyota build quality

• Stylish up against rivals

• Upscale interior

Cons:

• Noisy on the road

• Cramped rear seat

• Limited cargo space

We were perplexed whether to call this entry-luxury Lexus a hatchback or small crossover. The liftgate has the height of a hatchback and inside cargo with rear seats in the upright position is nearly 22 cubic feet — less than some rivals.

Front seats are comfortable though and retain the flexibility of its larger siblings with power adjust and lumbar support. High-grade materials drape the interior giving it an upscale feel with easy reach controls.

Its infotainment system suffers from the same fussy touch pad found in other Lexus models and is best adjusted while parked. A new set of radio control dials located at the front of the center armrest offers some relief from the fickle touchpad.

Base price for the UX is $32,000 with a good amount of standard equipment included. Our test car added a luxury F Sport package ($2,890) to its $34,000 sticker. Fully loaded, the price hovers around $40k and that may lead to some head scratching at checkout.

Rivals are priced nearby though including the Audi Q3, Volvo XC40, BMW X1 and substantially more expensive Mercedes-Benz GLA.

The UX and hybrid version UX250h were introduced at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show and are aimed at the urban commuter. The UX name stands for urban explorer.

Powered by a 169-horsepower naturally aspirated four cylinder, the UX is a front-wheel drive crossover mated with a 10-speed direct-shift CVT transmission. While most Lexus cars and SUVs are known for their whisper quiet ride, the UX is not among them.

With modest acceleration, we noticed a groaning sound from under the hood, although this could have originated from the F Sport's piped in cabin exhaust noise (Go figure). Our independent testing from zero to 60 miles per hour clocked in at 8.5 seconds, reportedly the same as the hybrid.

Combined EPA fuel economy is listed at 33 mpg although we were unable to achieve that result in extended highway travel.

On the road, the UX feels solid and handles well in turns with a stiff suspension. Braking is solid and the ride is mostly smooth although its shorter wheelbase makes for a choppier ride than its NX sibling.

The full Lexus safety package is included in the base price and makes the UX a better value than rivals' charging extra for the same equipment.

Len Ingrassia is an independent automotive columnist. Contact him at lenscarcorner@comcast.net

What was reviewed:

2019 Lexus UX 200 F Sport

Engine: 2.0-liter four cylinder, 169 horsepower

EPA rated mileage: 29 city, 37 highway, 33 combined.

Assembled: The Lexus UX 200 is assembled at Toyota Motor Manufacturing in Japan; Information on U.S./Canadian parts content, Major source of foreign parts, Country of origin, engine and transmission was not available.

Crash test ratings: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the Lexus UX 200 its highest rating of “Good” in moderate and small overlap frontal collision for driver and passenger side, side impact, rollover and whiplash protection from rear impact. The IIHS also awarded a "Superior" rating for the Lexus standard front crash safety system. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rated the UX200 five stars overall, its highest rating with five stars in side impact collisions and four stars in frontal crash and rollover protection.

Warranty: 4-year/50,000 mile basic; 6-year/70,000 mile powertrain; first and second scheduled maintenance