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  • William Maley
    William Maley

    Review: 2020 Lexus UX 200 F-Sport

      When is a crossover, not a crossover?

    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

    Year: 2020
    Make: Lexus
    Model: UX
    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)

    Options:
    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

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    32 minutes ago, dfelt said:

    Great write up. Thank you @William Maley I also find this very much a weird body style that is more hatchback than CUV tradition.

    If one did not want an Asian CUV, which would you best compare this to from America and German?

    Possibly the BMW X2 is the closest competitor since it shares that coupe-like shape of the UX. Upside is more powerful engines and better driving dynamics from what I read. Downsides are its slightly questionable looks and how expensive it can get.

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    3 minutes ago, balthazar said:

    Don’t forget “$42K base for a FWD / CVT generic appliance crossover?!?”

    He mentions its 32k base price. $32,300 per their website. 

    You can actually get the AWD, hybrid, top trim package, "Luxury", for under 40k. 

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    7 minutes ago, smk4565 said:

    Yes and $2k extra for TRD Pro stickers.  

    I actually think this vehicle is one of the biggest rip offs on the market right now.

    Chevrolet Bolt is probably faster too than this auto. :P 

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    14 minutes ago, riviera74 said:

    One question: Why would anybody buy the UX200 when the XT4 is most certainly a better value if not a better CUV?  Why pay the Lexus tax?

    X1, X2, GLA, GLB, Q3 are all better than this thing.  There are 5 better options right there.  Really the XT4 would be an NX competitor.  But Cadillac could easily put out an XT3 at $33k and easily undercut the UX.

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    31 minutes ago, riviera74 said:

    One question: Why would anybody buy the UX200 when the XT4 is most certainly a better value if not a better CUV?  Why pay the Lexus tax?

    XT4 is definitely a better SUV : 9-spd transmission and 70 more HP!

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    That leaves room for an XT3 to compete with UX.   Wouldn't surprise me  Given how GM is adding a lot of new CUVs, it wouldn't surprise me if Cadillac doesn't get it's own version of the Encore GX.  Cadillac only has 3 CUVs, compared to Chevy with 6, Buick w/ 4, and GMC with 2...

    Edited by Robert Hall
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    Cadillac has a popular, well-executed 181" XT4, why on Earth would they spend a billion dollars to bring out one that's 3-4 inches shorter??
    Duplicity run amok.

    Lexus should've put all their development dollars into 1 CUV then maybe they could've given it a competitive powertrain. Or combine the 2 in the next re-do and call it the NUX.

    Unless you just can't get ENOUGH of 169 HP CVT FWD generic/ugly appliances...

    Edited by balthazar
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      Despite the coupe-inspired roofline, the Sonata's interior space is quite spacious. Most no one will have any complaints sitting in the back as there is ample head and legroom. Taller passengers should be aware that the optional panoramic sunroof for the Sonata will take away some headroom. The Sonata Hybrid doesn't worry about that as it doesn't offer the sunroof.
      Tech Galore!
      Both of the Sonatas on test came in the Limited trim which means a bountiful selection of technology. It begins with a 10.2-inch TFT display for the instrument cluster which provides all of the key information needed at a glance. A clever trick is when you engage the turn signal, the respective 'dial' brings up a camera mounted underneath the side view mirrors to provide a blind-spot view. I found this system to be helpful as it gave me an extra set of eyes whenever I needed to change lanes.

      Next up is another 10.25-inch screen housing Hyundai's latest infotainment system. I like the three-window layout on the home screen that you can customize to your needs. Navigating around the system is a breeze with a response touchscreen and capacitive touch buttons sitting on either side. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.
      The next two tech features are exclusive to the standard Sonata. First is what Hyundai calls a digital key. Using the BlueLink application on a compatible smartphone, you can use this instead of the key to start the car and drive away. At the time of this writing, this is only available on Android phones. Hyundai did provide a loner Samsung Note smartphone for the week to try this out. I did not have the best experience with this feature at first because I found you need to be pretty close to the vehicle to make a connection. Trying to connect from my room upstairs, just above where the vehicle was parked, the application would throw up a connection error. I found that if I moved to the living room or just outside the front door, the phone was able to make the connection. This sours some of the appeal of this feature. 
      At least using the phone as the vehicle's key does work a bit better. It only takes a few seconds for the phone to make the connection to the vehicle and you can start it up. Although, I found myself wondering wouldn't it be easier and faster to have the key. The only feature that makes any sense to me is the ability to share the key with other people, but lock down certain aspects.
      Second is Smart Park (or smart parkh as made famous by the Super Bowl commercial from last year). Using the key, you can have the Sonata move forward or back out of the parking spot to allow for easier access to get into the vehicle. It's simple to operate, just hold down one of two buttons for a few seconds; the Sonata starts up and goes into the correct gear to move in the desired direction. I can see the appeal in urban areas where space is limited. But in the current pandemic times all of us find ourselves in, this seems to be more of a gimmick.
      Power Selection
      Hyundai offers two engines for the regular Sonata; a naturally aspirated 2.5L four-cylinder or a turbocharged 1.6L four. A more potent turbocharged 2.5L four-cylinder is available on the upcoming Sonata N Line. My tester featured the turbo 1.6 which produces 180 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. That puts it in line with some of the base engines found in the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.
      I wouldn't call this engine quick, but it handles most driving situations with aplomb. This comes down to most of the torque being situated at the lower end of the rpm band. The only area where you might be wishing for more power is merging onto a freeway or keeping up traffic. The eight-speed automatic does an excellent job of maximizing the engine's output.
      Under the Sonata Hybrid's hood is a system comprised of a 2.0L four-cylinder and electric motor to provide a total output of 192 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. The Sonata Hybrid feels just as fast as the standard Sonata around town and on country roads. It does struggle slightly on the highway due to the smaller torque figure. The six-speed automatic doesn't stumble when the change over from electric-only to hybrid mode like I have experienced on other Hyundai/Kia hybrid models.

      Opting for Limited on the Sonata Hybrid brings a solar panel for the roof which acts as a trickle charger for both the 12-volt car battery and 1.6-kWh lithium-ion pack for the hybrid system. Hyundai says that the panel can add an extra two miles of range with adequate sunlight. I can't attest to this claim, but will say the solar panel did add an extra bit of charge to the battery, even on an overcast day.
      Fuel economy for both models are as followed,
      Sonata 1.6T: 27 City/36 Highway/31 Combined Sonata Hybrid: 45 City/51 Highway/47 Combined My week saw an average of 29 mpg in the Sonata and 39 mpg for the Sonata Hybrid.
      Calm and Collected
      Hyundai has done some work on the Sonata's chassis and suspension to make it more rewarding to drive. It shows on a winding road as both versions show little body roll and feel more agile than the outgoing model. Steering feels direct and has a decent amount of weight. I will say the Mazda6 is still the one to beat if driving pleasure is your key goal.
      But the Sonata has an ace up its sleeve. It is also one of the most comfortable cars in the class. Driving over some of the roughest roads in Metro Detroit, the Sonata's suspension soaks up most bumps and imperfections to provide a serene ride. The minimal amount of road and wind noise that comes inside also helps.
      Rising To The Top

      The previous generations of the Sonata were always so close to being at the top of the class. But there always something that held it back whether it was the design, handling, or powertrains. But this new model shows how much Hyundai has put in. There is a nice balance between ride and handling; powertrains are very competent, and the interior is best in the class. Plus, the Sonata still retains Hyundai's trademark of offering a lot for not much money.
      Where most people will stumble on the Sonata is the exterior. It is very much a love or hate it affair. Plus, some of the tech features feel more like a party trick to show to friends than something you'll use. 
      Nevertheless, I think Sonata moves up to the top of the midsize sedan pecking order. 
      But there is one more question to answer. Between the regular and hybrid versions, which one I would drive away with. The answer which surprised me is the hybrid. I found it to be a little bit more well-rounded and deliver some excellent fuel economy figures during my time.
      Alternative:
      Kia K5: Like the idea of the Hyundai Sonata, but not to sure on the design? Then the Kia K5 may be the answer. Based on the same bones as the Sonata, the K5 takes a more evolutionary approach to the design. The basic shape may remind you of the previous-generation Optima, but its the little details such as a new grille and revised rear deck lid that help it stand out. From reviews, the K5 proves to be a bit sportier. We hope to get our hands on this challenger in the near future. Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Sonatas, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2020
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Sonata
      Trim: Limited 1.6T
      Engine: Turbocharged 1.6L GDI DOHC 16-Valve Inline-Four
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 180 @ 5,500
      Torque @ RPM: 195 @ 1,500-4,500
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 27/36/31
      Curb Weight: 3,336 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Montgomery, AL
      Base Price: $33,300
      As Tested Price: $34,365 (Includes $930.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Carpeted Floor Mats - $135.00
      Year: 2020
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Sonata Hybrid
      Trim: Limited
      Engine: 2.0L GDI DOHC 16-Valve Inline-Four, Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 150 @ 6,000 (gas); 51 @ 1,800 - 2,300 (electric motor); 192 (total output)
      Torque @ RPM: 139 @ 5,000 (gas); 151 @ 0 - 1,800 (electric motor)
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 45/51/47
      Curb Weight: 3,530 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Asan, South Korea
      Base Price: $35,300
      As Tested Price: $36,430 (Includes $975.00 Destination Charge)
      Options: 
      Carpeted Floor Mats - $135.00

      View full article
  • Posts

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