It also has some of the more unusual dimensions among premium compact SUVs, with proportions making it the most car-like of the lot. It’s longer than any rival, in the mid-range for width (the Audi Q3 is wider, the BMW X1 is narrower) and lower than almost everything in its segment. So low that it’s only 68mm taller than a Volkswagen Golf.
The UX is the first Lexus to be built on its new global architecture, GA-C. This is the brand’s equivalent of parent company Toyota’s TGNA platform on which the RAV4 sits. Lexus says it promises a “lightweight yet super-rigid structure, extremely low centre of gravity and refined suspension tuning endowing it with exemplary handling agility and ride comfort, and a distinctive driving character”. Let’s see…
We’re behind the wheel of an F-Sport model, the middle of three trims and the sportiest of them all. That’s thanks to Adaptive Variable Suspension, which is part of a £1800 ‘Tech and safety’ pack, only available on the F-Sport. AVS made its debut on the flagship LC Coupe and can vary damping through 650 levels, all of which is meant to improve ride comfort.
Indeed, on the smooth roads of Barcelona, it’s an option worth ticking, ironing out road lumps and bumps nicely. As we often comment, the system’s worth will be more telling when we get the UX on UK roads in the near future.
Another promising outcome of the adaptive suspension was minimal body roll through corners, which exceeded expectations for a comfortable, compact SUV not built for high performance. Don’t expect the poise going into corners that you get from a BMX X1 but, nonetheless, the UX handles with an effortless ‘I’m not trying that hard but cope fine anyway’ kind of charm.
Its surprising agility on twisty roads is no doubt helped by the UX’s car-like qualities, including that low centre of gravity, something that is improved further still by Active Corner Assist – a feature on all UXs – which monitors the driver’s line when turning and applies the necessary braking on the inside wheels to suppress understeer.
There are five drive modes on the F-Sport (and three on the other trims), which are controlled by an oddly placed knob on the side of the driver display. Steering feel is quickened in Sport mode, which marries nicely to the F-Sport, but even in normal mode, steering is relatively direct and light, perfectly suiting the laid-back characteristics of this car.
Those are helped from the offset by the 181bhp petrol-hybrid powertrain, which is gloriously quiet, whether in electric mode or when the 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol is running. It’s paired with a direct-shift continuously variable transmission (CVT) and is the best CVT we’ve yet driven. That’s not saying much given the CVTs of old, but it’s come a long way. All that said, the transmission isn’t as intuitive as it should be and the petrol engine becomes strained under hard acceleration. Despite this, the front-wheel-drive car has decent straight-line acceleration and achieves 0-62mph in 8.5sec.
Lexus reckons that its ‘self-charging hybrid’ can use electric power for an average of 55% of real-world city driving, depending on driving conditions. We can’t prove that here but, driving on a varied route, there were many times when the EV mode kicked in from gentle acceleration to coasting – which is now possible up to 71mph for short stretches.
What's the UX like inside the cabin?
Up against the likes of the XC40 and Q3, the stakes are high for premium compact SUV interiors. But Lexus’s efforts are admirable with quality leather and plastics and neatly designed controls.