DON’T TAKE IT FOR FACE VALUE
After attending the launch of the Lexus UX I had my doubts about whether it’s a worthy competitor for the likes of the BMW X2, which is widely considered the segment leader. Having spent a brief stint behind the wheel of the UX, it didn’t leave all that much of an impression on me. But now, after spending a week with it, I’ve come to realise a few things.
First off, however, there’s the price tag: the Lexus UX 200 F Sport, as tested, costs an eye-watering R726,200. When you consider that for considerably less money you can buy the priciest of the cousin Toyota Fortuner range that cannot only swallow the entire family, the family dog, a cooler box and all their luggage, but it can also go far off the beaten track, I wouldn’t call the UX a bargain.
WHAT YOU’RE GETTING
Then again, the smallest in the Lexus SUV portfolio isn’t meant to go bashing through the rough stuff. Instead, the luxury brand is targeting young, fashion-conscious buyers looking to rock up at the craft beer tasting in style.
On the stylistic front, there’s the Lexus 3D Spindle Grille that, according to Lexus, features a new block-shape mesh pattern that progressively changes throughout the entirety of the grille. And that’s stylish, especially when you consider that the entirety of the car’s basic form flows out from the grille – again, according to Lexus.
At the rear, too, it’s beautifully sculpted and origami-like with 120 LED lights apiece taking centre stage combining to create quite the interesting lighting signature. Furthermore, if we’re to quote more numbers, the body sculpting engineering that went into the UX was refined to a macro level of 0.01 millimetres of precision.
While all that is impressive, the F Sport derivative I tested aims to add some more jaw-drop drama with 18” aluminium wheels – supposedly adding more rigidity for better handling – a slightly altered Spindle Grille and front fog lamps.
On the inside, the F Sport comes with F-exclusive sports seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear selector, an 8″ TFT infotainment system and aluminium pedals, all working toward creating an overall more desirable package.
Mechanically, it features a sportier suspension tune-up with the addition of stabiliser bars and rear performance damping that works in unison with the Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) that adapts according to the driving conditions. For instance; during cornering, the damping stiffens, while it becomes more pliant during cruising conditions.
While I couldn’t exploit all the cornering prowess the AVS has to give on public roads, I can say with certainty that on the open stretches, the UX delivers an overall quiet and refined ride quality that’s, I think safe to say, on par with luxury vehicles that’s a tier or two pricier than our tester.
During cruising, there’s minimal engine noise intrusion into the cabin, with the 2.0-litre normally aspirated engine only making its artificial-sounding presence known when you plant your right foot into the carpet. And it’s not always a pleasant sound either as the CVT gearbox tends to scramble a bit in order to materialise the full 126 kW and 205 Nm of torque.
While the engine might not be all that awe-inspiring (the hybrid powertrain would be our choice of the lot), the overall interior feel is one of plush modernity paired with an air of ever-so-slight sporting aptitude – the seats do exactly what it says on the box. Then there’s the fact that you’re sitting relatively low, all the while encapsulated by the driver-oriented centre console that create an integral connection between car and driver.
My only gripe with the interior, though, and this is despite the fact that I consider this department of the Lexus to be the class-leader in its segment, is the limited rear legroom and the ever-so-complicated infotainment system.
This is also not helped by the fact that in a week’s time I still couldn’t grow used to the touch interface that controls the system, constantly selecting wrong items with all the double tapping and flicking.
And, speaking of shortcomings, there’s the small matter of boot space. On the local launch, I tested this and concluded that I can’t fit much more than two carry-on suitcases in there. And after a re-take, and careful packing, during my week of testing, it again fell short when I wanted to cart a variety of items around.
In my opinion, it’s just not cutting the mustard on this front, especially when you consider the market it’s aiming for.
The Lexus UX200 F Sport is by no stretch of the imagination an overall segment leader. For significantly less money you can, for instance, get any of the BMW X2 20i or 20d derivatives that also have sporty packages and have both considerably more boot space and power. Or, even the range-topping Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design, if you so desire.
Thing is, though, the UX makes you feel special in an unquantifiable sort of way. It’s quite the eventful driving experience, where you just want to drive for the sake of driving – without any Point B in mind. And, isn’t that special feeling what owning a Lexus is all about?
Report by DEON VAN DER WALT | Images © LEXUS SA