The Lexus UX models were launched in South Africa earlier this week. We attend the local ride and drive event and sampled the UX250h.
Click here to read our review of another Lexus hybrid model.
South African car buyers are notoriously brand loyal. If you don’t believe me, just look back at the buying history of your family to see if you can spot any trends. Considering the loyalty factor, it is odd to think that Luxury Toyota, by and large, still isn’t a mainstream premium player in the same vein as, say, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Well, Lexus South Africa is planning to make the capital “L” badge more prominent with the launch of the UX range. One of the fastest growing market segments is the small SUV and Lexus SA is keen to capitalise on the trend. Lexus SA figures that the UX (for Urban + X-over crossover) will bring many new buyers to the brand, younger buyers who are looking for a distinctive offering with a premium look and feel.
The UX is a new nameplate for the marque worldwide. While it is all-new, it is also distinctly Lexus in demeanour. It may not seem like it in these images, but the car is far smaller than one suspects. From the front grille to the headlamps and crease lines on the flanks, this can’t be mistaken for a model from any other brand.
Five spoke 18-inch alloy wheels are standard across the range, differing only in design across the derivatives. Thankfully these wheels are fitted with rubber of a forgiving profile. Incidentally, the alloys have been designed to reduce wind resistance while also increasing the airflow to cool the brake discs.
There are three trim levels available in the UX range. The opening salvo is an EX derivative and the range-topper is an F Sport variant. Both versions are fitted with a 2,0-litre naturally aspirated engine. Power is rated as 126 kW with peak torque of 205 N.m.
In between these two models is the UX250h SE, which features a hybrid powertrain. Maximum power from this version is 135 kW, with 180 N.m available from the petrol engine alone. All UX models sold locally are front-wheel driven, with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) being the sole option.
You can expect a high level of standard specification on all Lexus UX models. All the mod-cons are in place from dual-zone climate control to leather upholstery, a multi-speaker high-end hi-fi system to satellite navigation among several others. A TFT LCD instrumentation screen and a widescreen infotainment display are both standard.
On the road
The local ride and drive event took place in and around Cape Town. We drove a mix of urban and open roads between the airport and sunny Camps Bay. From the captain’s chair the UX doesn’t feel quite like an SUV, rather more like a raised hatchback. During the drive the UX250h really impressed me with its polished ride. The MacPherson strut front suspension and multilink rear do a fine job of ironing out bumps. There’s a real sense of polish to the suspension engineering and set-up.
Even more notable, is the extremely quiet cabin. Lexus engineers have managed to isolate occupants from external noise to a great degree and I, for one, really enjoy that trait.
Under power, the hybrid system and CVT work well in unison to provide a decent level of oomph. When coasting along or traveling downhill, the petrol engine shuts off completely for near silent motoring. At the end of our first leg of the launch drive the car’s on-board computer registered 4,9 L/100 km, a fraction over the 4,5 Lexus quotes for this engine. We weren’t trying to be frugal either, just minding speed limits and keeping up with traffic.
Look below and you will see the pricing of the UX range. An entry point of nearly six hundred thousand rand is not pocket change; however, cars, in general, are expensive these days. While Lexus SA is aiming this model at millennials, I suspect that we will see more than a fair deal of older UX drivers. Empty-nesters have the kind of money needed to buy such a model, and if they are going for an SUV most don’t require something as large as the mid- or large-size SUVs on offer from Lexus.
The UX is an excellent proposition in that it offers comprehensive standard specification for the price, and there really is no competitor for the UX250h. If you are looking for a small SUV, as almost one-third of the market is these days, and your budget stretches to this region, then add the Lexus UX to your shopping list, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Lexus UX200 EX R599 000
Lexus UX250h SE R699 000
Lexus UX200 F Sport R726 200
All prices include a 7-year/105 000 km warranty and full maintenance plan.