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Lexus Unveils New UX Compact Crossover in Geneva to Attract 'Gateway' Buyers

Consumer Reports logo Consumer Reports 2018-03-07 Keith Barry
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Lexus introduced a new compact crossover at the Geneva Motor Show, the UX, which takes aim at the increasingly popular compact luxury SUV segment.

Lexus said the new model would serve as the "gateway to the brand," and that it's designed to appeal to car shoppers in their 30s. 

Pricing information wasn't available yet, but the model is designed to compete with the BMW X1 and X2Infiniti QX30Mercedes-Benz GLA, and Volvo XC40. Those all start in the $30,000-$35,000 price range, but can cost more than $50,000 when loaded up with options.

The five-passenger UX is available with all-wheel drive and a hybrid drivetrain. It's based on the same platform that underpins the Toyota Prius and C-HR, but it adds Lexus-specific powertrain choices and designs. That’s a good thing because our testers had many complaints about the C-HR.

A new 168-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is standard on the base UX200, as is a new continuously variable transmission (CVT). Lexus says the Direct Shift-CVT offers smoother acceleration from a stop thanks to a new approach that’s supposed to make the transmission feel more like a conventional automatic.

The UX 250h hybrid adds an electric motor and nickel metal-hydride batteries that create 176 horsepower. It will be the smallest hybrid Lexus that sells in the U.S. now that the CT200h hybrid hatchback has been dropped here.

All-wheel drive will only be available as an option on the hybrid. That’s because Lexus’ E-Four system adds an additional electric motor to the rear axle, eliminating the need for a drive shaft. It can provide power to the rear wheels if the front wheels slip. By comparison, neither the C-HR nor the Prius offer all-wheel drive in the U.S.

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The UX debuts three pieces of software designed to improve fuel economy. Predictive Efficient Drive analyzes driving habits to optimize hybrid battery use, Predictive Deceleration Support remembers where drivers have slowed down or braked in the past and increases regenerative braking accordingly, and Predictive State of Charge uses the car’s on-board navigation system to predict when the battery should charge.

Both the UX200 and UX250h will be available in Lexus’ performance-oriented F Sport trim, which adds unique interior and exterior trim and a firmer suspension. An adaptive suspension—which adjusts in firmness depending on how a car is being driven—is optional on the F Sport.

From a distance, the UX is immediately recognizable as a Lexus. The brand’s signature “spindle” grille takes up the bulk of the front end, and flared fenders recall the larger Lexus NX. Overall, the silhouette is similar to the C-HR—including a thick C-pillar at the rear of the car that creates a significant blind spot.

Inside, Lexus says the optional quilted leather seats and textured interior trims are inspired by historical Japanese designs.

Forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking are standard as part of the Lexus Safety System + package, while lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control are optional.

The Lexus UX goes on sale in the U.S. in December. Pricing and fuel economy numbers have not been released. 

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