Like it or not, crossovers are becoming the de facto choice for many buyers and automakers are responding. There is now a wide variety of crossovers available: From large three-row models to small, compact vehicles perfect for urban environments. The latter is what we’ll be focusing on this review with the latest entrant into subcompact luxury crossover class, the 2020 Lexus UX 200 F-Sport. It’s a late arrival to the class, but as I found out with the Volvo XC40 last year, that isn’t a bad thing. So how does the most affordable Lexus model stack up to the competition?
Crossover or Hatchback on Stilts?
It feels odd to think of the UX being more of a hatchback with a taller ride height than a crossover, but allow me to make my case. To start, the overall shape reminds me more of the Toyota Corolla Hatchback than the NX and RX crossovers. The roofline is a perfect example as the shape is similar to Corolla than any Lexus crossover. Second is when you get inside the UX. You may think that you step up to get inside, but it’s the opposite. The lower position might cause you to think that you lose out on the visibility gain with a higher ride height, but that isn’t the case as you have excellent visibility around most of the vehicle. The rear is difficult to see out of due to the thick pillar and it is recommended to order the optional backup camera.
The UX 200 does make its presence known to everyone due to some bold design choices. Upfront lies the latest iteration of Lexus’ spindle grille along with some deep cuts in the bumper to give the model an aggressive attitude. The side profile features unique sculpting on the doors and the roof steeply raked towards the back. A vibrant color palette such as this orange on my tester only adds to the bold ideal.
A Small, Premium Interior
Lexus has mostly nailed the UX’s interior appointments with soft-touch materials featuring stitching on the dash, metal-like buttons for the climate control system, and contrasting stitching for the seats. The only part which slightly ruins this luxury feeling is the cheap-feeling door panels. Leatherette upholstery is used on the seats and it feels quite nice when sitting on them. F-Sport models get heavily bolster front seats which may make some larger people uncomfortable. Power adjustments for the front come standard on all UX models and allows both driver and passenger to find a comfortable position.
The rear seat is quite snug for two people, while three is severely pushing it. Legroom can range from ok to non-existent if a tall person happens to be sitting upfront. Headroom is decent for most people, even with the optional sunroof. Cargo space is about average for the class with 21.7 cubic feet with the rear seats up. A tall lift-over height does make it a pain to load heavy items into the vehicle.
Infotainment System is Better, But Still Frustrating
The base infotainment system is a 7-inch screen, while a larger 10.25-inch screen is available as an option. Controlling each screen is Lexus’ Remote Touch system. The touchpad controller is unwieldy because you need to pay attention to the screen while making a selection. Otherwise, you’ll end up selecting a different function or setting than what you had originally aimed for. Lexus has added a touchscreen to the recently refreshed RX for 2020 and I can only hope this appears on other Lexus models down the road.
One change that will be a welcome relief to Android users is that Lexus has added Android Auto compatibility to the system, bringing Lexus in line with most competitors with offering this and Apple CarPlay.
Mediocre Performance Except In Fuel Economy
Under the hood of the UX 200 is a 2.0L inline-four producing 169 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with CVT and front-wheel drive. If you want AWD, then your only option is the UX 250h which pairs the 2.0L with a hybrid system. The 2.0 really struggles at high speeds as evidenced by a 0-60 time of 8.9 seconds. Competitors in the class are at least are a second or two quicker. The engine also has a noticeable drone that appears when you are accelerating hard. But around town, the 2.0 feels quite punchy with excellent get-up and minimal fuss.
Where the UX does well is in fuel economy. EPA figures are 29 City/37 Highway/33 Combined for the UX 200. My average for the week landed around 31 on a 60/40 mix of highway and city driving.
I’m wondering if the UX could fit the 2.5L four-cylinder from the Toyota Camry. It would improve overall performance with a slight hit to fuel economy.
Surprising Handling Characteristics
Going for the F-Sport version like my test vehicle will net you a revised suspension setup. Going around bends, the UX shows little body roll and quick reactions. The only item that falters is the steering which feels very rubbery and doesn’t encourage enthusiastic driving. For normal driving duties, the UX’s ride quality is on the complaint side with a few bumps making their way inside. I do wish Lexus had done more to keep tire noise from coming inside, especially at highway speeds
The Price Is Right
With a starting price tag of $32,300 for the base UX 200, this makes it the most affordable model in the class. It also happens to be very good value as it comes with the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 as standard. This suite of active safety features includes forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams. The UX 200 F-Sport seen here comes with an as-tested price of $41,285 and that’s with the optional navigation system, windshield deicer, heads-up display, and power tailgate. To get something similar on the competition, you’ll need to spend a few extra thousand dollars.
The 2020 UX 200 makes a very compelling case for itself in the subcompact luxury crossover class. This is due in part to its low price and a long list of standard equipment. A competent handling package in the F-Sport and decent fuel economy figures help bolster the model further. But there are areas Lexus needs to address, primarily the engine and infotainment system. The good news is that Lexus has the necessary solutions to both these issues in the form of the infotainment system from the RX and borrowing the 2.5L four-cylinder from the Camry. It would move the UX from being somewhere in the competent class to one that can compete for class honors.
Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the UX 200, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Trim: 200 F-Sport
Engine: 2.0L 16-Valve DOHC VVT-i Four-Cylinder
Driveline: CVT, Front-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 169 @ 6,600
Torque @ RPM: 151 @ 4,800
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 29/37/33
Curb Weight: 3,307 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Miyawaka, Fukuoka, Japan
Base Price: $40,260
As Tested Price: $41,285 (Includes $1,025.00 Destination Charge)
Navigation System with 10.3-in Color Multimedia Display - $2,200.00
F-Sport Premium Package - $975.00
Power Rear Door w/Kick Sensor - $600.00
Premium Paint - $595.00
Parking Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert w/Braking - $565.00
Blind Spot Monitor - $500.00
Head Up Display (HUD) - $500.00
Heated F Sport Steering Wheel w/Paddle Shifters - $150.00
Windshield Deicer - $100.00
Wireless Charger - $75.00