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May 16, 2021

Review: 2021 Lexus UX 200 F Sport

What’s in a label? On one hand, the overall shape and form of the Lexus UX says it is a hatchback, but the plastic cladding and (slightly) raised ride height says it is an SUV. Regardless of label though, Lexus perfectly understands that everyone wants crossovers these days, and they have decided to make their entry-level model exactly that. Whatever you use to describe the UX though—hatchback, SUV, or crossover—it is, without a doubt, a stunner. Note to others: this is how entry-level models should be done.

The Lexus UX is essentially a Toyota. Underpinned by the TNGA GA-C platform, it is closely related to the Toyota Corolla Cross. Yet, Lexus manages to weave its magic, giving it a form that is much more desirable. Instead of simply changing the “T” to an “L,” this one is wrapped in clothes filled with so many cuts and creases that it stands out. It is polarizing, but, and this is especially true in this Blazing Carnelian Contrast Layering color, unmistakably youthful as well. As they say in fashion, one must always add a pinch of daring.

Priced at P 3.108 million, this top-of-line UX 200 F Sport may be a tad expensive. However, its primary competitors—the BMW X1 (P 3.090 million), Jaguar E-Pace (P 4.19 million), Mercedes-Benz GLA (P 3.290 million), Volvo XC40 R Design (P 3.895 million)—all occupy the same price range. What’s more, despite being pitched as an entry-level Lexus, it does much better job at the luxury game than any of the other Euro alternatives.

The front of the UX’s cabin is where Lexus plays one of its trump cards. Not only does it look smart and less cluttered than its bigger brother, the NX, but the space is generous and welcoming. It is truly a nice place to be in with expensive-feeling plastics and soft synthetic leather (sorry, there’s no option for real cowhide). Plus, points too for visually connecting the hood creases to the speaker grille.

Unfortunately, the infotainment touchpad carries over from other Lexus models. The placement of the trackpad is much better than in other models, but to use it with precision is a lesson in patience, and ultimately, ends up, in frustration. The lack of smartphone connectivity such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is also a missed opportunity, especially with the generously-sized 10.3-inch screen.

Unique to the UX is the relocation of infotainment controls such as the volume and tuning knobs from the center stack to the center console. Little wheels and buttons are supposed to be easily flickable by fingers of a hand resting at the end of the arm rest. It seems logical, but the layout takes some getting used to, and in the end, is not better than having knobs on the dashboard.

As with any other small SUV or crossover, the rear packaging could use some improvement. As it is, fitting two adults is the absolute maximum, though it must be said that head room is surprisingly generous. Also noticeable is that material quality, especially around the door trims, takes a dive. This is not surprising as Lexus had to save money somewhere, and most other brands are guilty of this practice any how.

The small footprint is also a limiting factor when it comes to its cargo capacity. It is nowhere as capacious as its European rivals, but the small opening and tall lift-over height further reduces its flexibility. Oh, and the cargo cover is a flimsy piece of mesh fabric with strings; no different from a foldable windshield sunshade you get at a cheap auto accessory store.

Despite sharing its platform with what is essentially an unremarkable commuter car, the use of aluminum and composite panels further lowers its center of gravity—the lowest in its class says Lexus. Coupled with a seating position more akin to a hatchback than an SUV, it makes the Lexus UX a fun car to drive. Excellent visibility all around and quick-witted steering gives it great urban maneuverability. Beyond that, throw it around on a twisty road, and it dances with a surprising level of agility. This is further backed up by progressive feedback from the tiller, and a nicely tuned damping with the adaptive variable suspension ironing out road lumps and bumps very well. It is not as quiet as past Lexus models though, with the audible tire noise from the run-flat Bridgestone tires.

Fitting well with the Lexus UX’s agile nature is its normally-aspirated Dynamic Force engine. The 168 horsepower, 205 Nm of torque outputs are high for a 2.0-liter engine, and they give enough pep for all situations save for those that require hard acceleration. It cannot match a turbocharged engine in grunt, with a 0 to 100 km/h time of 8.9 seconds. However, it remains confidence-inspiring nonetheless. Likewise, the Direct Shift CVT does its job well, shifting and matching it ratios quickly to the engine. That said, squeezing the accelerator will result in a coarse soundtrack.

The UX also gets Drive Mode Select—a twistable knob on the right side of the instrument cluster cowl with five modes on the F Sport: Eco, Normal, Sport S, Sport S+, and Custom. The differences are not substantial, so keeping it to Normal is best suited for everyday driving. Separately, there’s Active Sound Control or ASC as well. ASC essentially pumps engine noises into the cabin for a “sportier experience”. This is great if it were the V8-powered Lexus LC, but certainly not the Lexus UX and its run-of-the-mill four banger.

The Lexus UX is meant to offer a great introduction to what the brand has to offer. As such, they’ve created a crossover that not only challenges design boundaries, but punctuate that with on-road manners that will tickle the taste buds of those who’re experiencing luxury for the very first time. Cynics will deride this as Lexus simply pandering to badge snobs, but the truth of the matter is: the Lexus UX does the premium product schtick very well. For all of its misses, Lexus has served up a very delectable appetizer, full of character in the UX. There’s no better way to introduce them to the Lexus main course filled with such choices as the RC, RX, LC, or LS.

2021 Lexus UX 200 F Sport

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Ownership 2021 Lexus UX 200 F Sport
Year Introduced 2018
Vehicle Classification Sub-Compact SUV
Warranty 3 years / 100,000 kilometers
The Basics
Body Type Sub-compact Luxury SUV
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/F
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 2.0
Aspiration Normally Aspirated
Fuel Delivery Direct Injection
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 168 @ 6,600
Nm @ rpm 205 @ 4,800
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 93~
Transmission CVT
Cruise Control Yes
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 10.63 km/L @ 22 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,495
Width (mm) 1,840
Height (mm) 1,520
Wheelbase (mm) 2,640
Curb Weight (kg) 1,540
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Independent, Multi-link
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Parking Brake Electric
Tires Bridgestone Turanza T005A RFT 225/50 R 18 V (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 10
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Front & Rear
Parking Camera Yes, Rear
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 3
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features Hill Start Assist
Tire Pressure Monitoring System
Exterior Features
Headlights LED w/ Cornering Lights
Fog Lamps Yes, Front & Rear (LED)
Auto Lights Yes
Rain-sensing Wipers Yes
Tailgate Electric
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic, Electric
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment (driver) Electric, 8-way
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Electric, 8-way
Seating Surface Synthetic Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40
Sunroof No
Trip Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, w/ Fold
Rear View Mirror Auto Dimming
Proximity Key Yes
Climate Control Auto, Dual w/ Rear Vents
Audio System Stereo
Smartphone Connectivity Miracast
# of Speakers 8
Steering Controls Yes

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