The UX 250h is Lexus’s first compact SUV, and while it may be playing catch-up with more established rivals that have been in the game much longer, it hopes to do enough to stand out from the current crop of crossover SUVs.
So as well as the styling that we’ll come to in a moment, the UX 250h brings something a little different to the table in the shape of a hybrid engine. This promises to deliver much better fuel economy than what we’ve come to expect from a compact SUV, but is it enough to justify choosing it over the likes of an Audi Q3, Range Rover Evoque or Volvo XC40?
Lexus UX 250h: Design
- Braver design than some rivals
- Not much taller than a typical hatchback
- Sits some 5-inches lower than a Range Rover Evoque
Engines: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder petrol hybrid
Power output: 181bhp
Max speed: 110mph
0-62mph: 8.5 seconds
Fuel economy: Up to 53.2mpg
According to Lexus, its designers wanted to create a design theme that conveys both strength and refinement, while also being stylish and functional. It's certainly striking, but to us, it just looks too busy. It’s as if the designers didn’t know when to stop, continually tweaking the design, with too many creases and swipes in the body.
Lexus justifies some of this fussiness, though. At the rear, for instance, there’s the UX 250h’s ‘aero stabilizing blade’ that is there to help guide airflow and reduce turbulence and lift, with the light cluster running across the width of the car. In some ways it’s commendable that Lexus has been braver with the design than rivals in an effort to stand out, but it’s just a bit too much.
While the UX 250h has been marketed as a compact SUV, it’s actually not much taller than a typical hatchback like a Volkswagen Golf and sits some 5-inches lower than a Range Rover Evoque.
Lexus UX 250h: Interior
- Overall interior quality is very good
- The 7-inch display is small be comparison to rivals
- Touchpad not great to use
The relatively low height means that if you’re expecting to enjoy a higher seating position and a more commanding view compared to a sedan, you’re going to be disappointed. You don’t sit much higher than in a sedan and significantly lower than you would in the likes of an Evoque or Volvo XC40.
The interior design has been inspired by what Lexus refers to as engawa, a traditional Japanese architecture concept that blurs the boundary between the inside and outside of a home. This has got lost in translation as once you step inside the UX 250h, it does tend to feel quite small and dark, especially in the rear with the high-backed driver and passenger seats making it feel even more hemmed in.
The overall quality though is very good, with some nice soft-touch materials used, while it feels sturdily made. That said, it’s a little disappointing to see some fairly cheap plastic finishes used on the bottom of the car.
For a Japanese manufacturer, you’d expect the UX 250h to have a class-leading infotainment system, but it’s far from the best available. The 7-inch display is small in comparison to rivals, while the optional 10.3-inch screen doesn’t deliver the same level of resolution and clarity as those found on the competition.
It’s not touch-sensitive either, and while this method can have its faults, we’d much prefer a touchscreen or rotary control than the clumsy touchpad nestled near the gear lever that’s used to navigate the UX 250h’s controls and settings. It feels disjointed and lacks precision.
As for space, there’s a decent amount at the front, but passengers in the rear will be cramped unless you’re going to be ferrying kids around. The limited space continues to the trunk. While it’s a practical square shape, the space available is very small at only 11.3 cubic feet. You’ll be doing well to fit even half as much luggage as rivals like the Audi Q3 and Volvo XC40.
The UX 250h does come with a good selection of safety tech as standard, though. Called the Lexus Safety System+, this tech suite is designed to support the driver and reduce the risk and severity of a range of potential accidents. It includes all-speed Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-Collision System (PCS) with pedestrian detection, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Alert and Steering Assist, Lane Trace Assist, Road Sign Assist (RSA), and Intelligent High-Beam headlamps/Automatic High Beam (AHB) or Adaptive High-beam System (AHS).
Lexus UX 250h: On the road
- 2.0-liter engine married to an electric motor
- Electric power only round town
- Handling is closer to that of a hatchback
Prices start at $24,150 / £29,905 for the standard model, followed by the F Sport at $36,160 / £33,905, before topping out at $39,350 for the Luxury model (this is known as the Takumi in Europe and is priced at £39,100). This pricing puts it up against some stiff competition from the likes of Audi and Land Rover, but the stunning fuel economy of the UX 250h can’t be matched by rivals.
The main driver, if you excuse the pun, for looking at the UX 250h is perhaps its hybrid engine technology.
The engine is a 2.0-liter petrol unit that’s married to an electric motor to produce a combined power output of 181bhp. This is connected to a CVT (continuously variable transmission) that is designed to deliver a stepless change from its single variable gear.
It’s relatively quick with a 0.62sec speed of 8.5 seconds, but more importantly has very impressive fuel economy thanks to that hybrid system. If you’re trundling around town then you can rely solely on the electric motor of the UX 250h to get you around in near silence, with the battery regenerating on longer journeys when the petrol engine kicks in. Lexus claims up to 53mpg, but we found we could still get a very good 44-48mpg of combined driving, which more traditional gasoline rivals would struggle to match.
The CVT gearbox is incredibly refined at low speeds or when the cars not under stress, but if you push the accelerator a little, it can force the engine revs to spike much more than a normal petrol power plant would. Because the UX 250h uses braking to help regenerate the battery, it does mean that there’s not quite the same progression as you may be used to, though it will stop promptly.
With the UX 250h not sitting quite as high as a typical compact SUV, the handling is closer to that of a hatchback, with body roll well controlled. It’s nice and refined on the highway, while around town the steering is smooth and light.
Lexus UX 250h: Verdict
The compact SUV market right now has lots of tempting options, so the Lexus UX 250h needs to standout from the crowd. It certainly does that thanks to its distinctive styling, though we can’t say that it’ll be to everyone’s taste.
The clever hybrid tech though means it offers something a little different from its rivals under the hood, with its fuel-saving credentials bound to appeal to some. This is especially true if you’re going to be using the UX 250h round the town or city. It’s let down by some practicality issues, especially if you’re planning to use it as a family car, while the infotainment system disappoints, making it hard to recommend over rivals like the Range Rover Evoque or Volvo XC40.