Review: Lexus UX for the city dweller

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Image: Charlen Raymond

Just how much the SUV market has boomed the last decade can’t be stressed enough. Niche segments are being carved out on the regular and niche segments within niche segments are following in close pursuit. It’s wonderful and scary at the same time, but fact remains that automakers are not letting this ship sail them by.

Lexus is one manufacturer who’s focus the last couple of years shifted to having a wholly, encapsulating barrage of SUVs in its model line-up. No less than four ranges make up Lexus’ SUV stable; each one catering to a specific audience. The LX sees to the needs of the über rich, while the NX caters to the those wanting an entry-point to the premium SUVs Lexus has to offer.

Well, that was the case until the UX arrived. Marketed as an SUV for the modern day city dweller, the UX is no doubt a perfect fit for individuals wanting to stand out from the crowd. Its slumping profile, the SUV genes hidden in a package that reminds of a hatchback, and an overall brilliant design all speak to said audience. It’s a recipe that undoubtedly makes the right noises and will attract attention.

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Image: Charlen Raymond

F-Sport package

Made to wow, this UX200 F-Sport is the top model in the three-model range. The other two being the UX200 EX and UX250h SE; the latter is a hybrid model. On the drivetrain front the F-Sport shares the same naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre engine and continuously variable transmission (CVT) as the EX model, but the differentiating factors come in the form design cues.

For starters, ‘F-Sport’ badging has been brought onto the front fenders, a chrome strip on the grille and rear spoiler, and a set of really nice 18-wheels. Surely the most special place to be in this Lexus has to be the cabin. Adorned in red leather, the seats create a welcoming aura that draws you in. The red also creates a nice contrast to the green hue the plucky SUV is painted in. The contrast continues on the inside where the red and black meet in a number of places.

A nice touch to the interior would have been a sunroof, either panoramic or a standard one. It would increase both the cabin’s ambient tenfold and the UX200 F-Sport’s credentials as the range leader.

Moving seats are great, but…

Sticking with the interior for a while longer, a few aspects came to light that need addressing. The front seats have a real nice feature of moving backwards to ease exit and then back into the last seating position on start-up. But it’s when it moves back that rear passengers might feel claustrophobia set in. Rear legroom is also on the limited side and taller passengers, especially, might feel the pinch when the seat starts moving. You can halt the movement by adjusting the seats yourself.

Given that the UX is not Lexus’ biggest SUV, you can forgive the SUV for having a respectable luggage bay of 440L. Small families and couples will not have too much issue with the storage area on a weekend-away trip, but the boot cover – a piece of cloth tied with rope – might face serious wear and tear if objects press up against it. The boot floor further hides an extra compartment where emergency tools are hidden. From a practical point of view, one can’t help but wonder why Lexus did not fix these tools on the sides of the boot and use the extra compartment for additional storage space. That would have gifted the entire UX range with a near unassailable amount of storage space; undoubtedly class-leading figures.

Even so, the UX200 F-Sport does boast with heated and ventilated front seats, memory seat adjustment for the driver, adaptive cruise control, run flat tyres, satellite navigation, blind spot alert, lane departure warning, voice control, and eight airbags. These are only a few of the SUVs extensive list of standard features.

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Image: Charlen Raymond

No turbo?

The UX200 F-Sport makes due without any form of forced induction and are power outputs generated the old fashioned way: through air being sucked into the engine. A total of 126kW and 205Nm are generated by the engine and all of it are sent to the front wheels. Performance on this SUV is not amazingly fast, but you sure do pick up speed quite quickly. Planting the throttle and watching the speedometer climb gives you that feeling that you’re sitting in something sporty; especially when the driving mode’s been set to either Sport or Sport+. Then the dials completely change colour to spur that inner driver on.

Interestingly, the CVT has ten ‘gears’, but in either of the two aforementioned modes it stops at eight. Eco and Normal has the advantage of all ten gears, which does help to keep fuel consumption under control. Speaking off, Lexus says that, theoretically, you should see a range of 771km on its 47L fuel tank at 6.1 L/100km. But after covering just under 470km with a VERY light foot the tank had to be refuelled. It’s fair to say that the fuel run was over and that the UX200 F-Sport was then exposed to real-world driving conditions.

It was as if the car came alive. The typically exemplary ride quality Lexus’ vehicles are endowed with came to the fore and the SUV excelled in every possible condition. It was smooth, cleared undulations without effort, and delivered on the believe that Lexus knows how to build a car.

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Image: Charlen Raymond

Summary

Coming in at R729 200, the UX200 F-Sport carries quite the tag price tag. It’s not devoid of faults and there are things that will make you frown, but the overall package is one that will leave you nodding your head in agreement. Its target audience will appreciate every moment they drive it and bystanders will look in awe at that Lexus. 

The UX is beautiful and is a fit for the city.