It’s one of the country’s smallest and most exclusive classes. So small and so exclusive it comprises just a quartet of vehicles from four premium builders.
We’re talking subcompact luxury crossovers, a class that includes the 2020 Lexus NX200.
Its prime competitors? BMW’s X1 is here, as is the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz GLA.
A decade ago, this lineup would have seemed inconceivable. The appetite for so much luxury in such small packages was unforeseen.
But here we are.
Segment’s only hybrid
The UX is the segment’s value play. Its $32,300 base price undercuts its German peers by a fair margin.
The UX comes out of the box well-equipped. Many standard features — especially of the safety and driver-assist variety — tend to be pricey options elsewhere.
And it’s the only luxury subcompact with a hybrid option. Hybrid pricing starts at $34,500.
The UX is a little car, but not a bashful one. Exterior styling is a bold medley of creases, character lines and prominent fenders.
The controversial family spindle grille reins upfront in all its angulate glory.
Small by any standard
Even among a pack of mini-CUVs, the UX is small. The snug cabin comfortably accommodates a pair of adults, but the back seat is not a place anyone will want to spend much time.
Just as well; at 18 cubic feet, the cargo area is small enough that you’ll want to leave the rear seatbacks folded just to handle the weekly grocery run.
The conventional UX 200 is powered by a 169-horsepower four-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable transmission. The 250h hybrid employs a small gas engine and two electric motors to make 179 hp.
The 200 can be had only with front-wheel-drive. Because one of its electric motors powers the rear wheels when needed, the 250h is AWD-only. It’s a limited system; AWD is active only to 45 mph.
Neither UX is quick. Zero-to-60 is less a sprint, more an 8-seconds-plus stroll.
Efficiency is the priority. Here, the UX crushes the competition. The 200 earns an EPA-estimated 33 mpg combined; the 250h, 39 mpg.
The 2020 UX 200/UX 200h are available in three trims — Base ($32,300/$34,500), F Sport ($34,300/$36,500) and Luxury ($37,500/$39,700).
Standard equipment includes LED headlights with automatic high-beam controls, dual-zone automatic climate control, simulated leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats, Apple CarPlay and, for the first time, Android Auto compatibility.
The Lexus Safety System+ suite of driver-assist features is included.
The standard LED headlights are very bright and white. They light up dark country roads with intense luminescence. The automatic high-beam feature works as advertised, dimming the headlights in the face of oncoming traffic and then quickly returning them to full strength.
Lexus to the bone
Its tiny footprint aside, the UX is Lexus to the bone. Its well-crafted cabin is finished in premium materials and high-quality switchgear. The faux-leather seating surfaces are soft, supple and inviting.
The UX inherits the latest iteration of Lexus’s Remote Touch infotainment interface. Its touchpad controller is awkward, but easier to use than the old joystick device.
A 7-inch display sits atop the dash; upper trims get a 10.3-inch screen.
Lexus isolates the climate controls from the infotainment system, using buttons and knobs instead of the touchpad. It’s a good solution, though the tight quarters force some compromises, including cupholders that, when in use, block access to the switches that activate the heated seats and steering wheel.
The little CUV’s aggressive styling suggests a performance-first ride-and-handling package. But the mild-mannered UX prioritizes comfort. Compliant suspension settings soften the impact of potholes, but rough surfaces taken at speed can cause a case of the jitters.
The steering system feels solid on-center and the UX tracks true in its lane. Steering is precise and responsive, but communicates little information from the road surface.
Suspension compliance contributes to body lean, limiting the UX’s cornering speeds. The F Sport has a retuned suspension that boosts cornering power.
We always appreciate more cornering power, but the UX is complete without it. It’s a solid little performer with more to offer than blasting down country two-lanes.
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2020 Lexus UX 200 Luxury
Vehicle base price: $32,300
Trim level base price: $37,500
As tested: $42,765 (includes destination and handling)
Options: wireless charger; head-up display; triple-beam LED headlights with auto-leveling, washers, LED fog lamps and cornering lamps; rear cross-traffic alert w/braking; heated steering wheel; door edge guards; mudguards; cargo mat, wheel locks; key glove; all-weather floor liners; roof rack crossbars
EPA rating: 33 combined/29 city/37 highway
Regular unleaded gasoline specified