Automotive, Test Drive

Lexus UX 200 Test Drive: Luxurious City Slicker

Lexus is known for its range of big premium SUVs and sedans, but if you’ve always wanted something a little more compact from the Japanese luxury carmaker for city driving, this is the SUV for you. Enter the Lexus UX, the company’s first-ever compact crossover.

With a starting price of RM243,888, the fully-imported UX is the most affordable offering in Lexus’ lineup. On top of that, it’s also packing a number of neat features, not to mention excellent driving experience. I managed to take the UX out for a quick drive around KL, and it certainly impresses in many areas.

First up, let’s get to the prices and trim levels of the Lexus UX first. Three variants are offered in Malaysia: Urban, Luxury (pictured here), and F Sport. The base Urban, as mentioned, goes for RM243,888, while the more well-equipped Luxury and F Sport models are priced at RM283,888 and RM299,888 respectively. These are steep price tags, but it’s par for the course with a luxury crossover like the UX.

Anyway, all three variants of the UX are equipped with the same 2.0L naturally aspirated Dynamic Force four-cylinder engine that produces 169hp and 205Nm of torque. This is paired to a Direct-Shift continuously variable transmission (CVT) with a 10-speed virtual ratio, which allows the car to sprint from 0 to 100kmph in 9.2 seconds with a top speed of 190kmph.

So why is it called a Direct-Shift CVT? Well, there’s actually an additional gearset for starting off from a stop, giving the UX better, quicker acceleration from standstill. I’ve tried flooring the pedal to see how this transmission behaves, and it really does feel like a conventional automatic gearbox without the usual “rubber band effect” of CVTs.

In fact, the UX’s Direct-Shift CVT actually feels very, very refined with silky smooth acceleration whenever I floor it. There’s zero sign of roughness, power delivery feels direct, and the car pulls quite a bit even when I’m doing 80 to 90kmph. This may not be the fastest luxury crossover in the market, but the engine and transmission do feel extremely refined.

In my brief time driving the UX – I tried out the Luxury trim – I was pretty darn impressed with the handling of the car. This crossover is built on Lexus’ Global Architecture – Compact (GA-C) platform; a premium version of the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA). This gives the UX a low centre of gravity and rigid chassis, which in turn improve the handling of the car.

While I wasn’t able to throw the UX into hard corners to see how well-composed it would be, it does feel agile with direct steering as I make my way across KL’s heavy traffic; I especially love how much feel and feedback I get from the steering wheel. Of course, it also helps that this is a rather compact car, so squeezing through tight spaces doesn’t feel particularly intimidating.

NVH of the UX, on the other hand, is befitting of the crossover’s premium positioning. The moment I closed the door, the outside world is filtered out, and even at high speeds the car remains quiet with minimal road noise. Tyre roar does get into the cabin a tad – the engine also makes itself heard in hard acceleration – but it is by no means unpleasant.

Given the premium appeal of the UX, you’d expect to be comfortable whenever you step into the cabin. Not surprisingly, this is a given with the UX, and I absolutely love the leather upholstery with “sashiko quilting” – a technique used on Japanese martial arts uniforms. It gives the leather seats a unique-feeling texture, and I can’t get enough of it.

Other aspects of the UX’s cabin are equally good too. Every button has a satisfying tactile feedback, the digital meter is bright and vibrant, and I really like the large 10.3-inch freestanding centre display. That being said, I’m not sure I like navigating through the infotainment system with the trackpad right beside the gear lever; a touchscreen would feel a lot more intuitive.

Overall, the Lexus UX feels like a premium, luxurious compact crossover through and through. Personally, I like the aggressive styling of the car too, especially the LED taillights that extend across the width of the car in a single line. It gives the car a very…”contemporary” appeal. This, paired with the car’s excellent driving experience and compact size, make it the perfect city car.

It’s also worth highlighting the car’s extensive safety features, courtesy of the Lexus Safety System+. This gives the car Pre-Collision System, Lane Tracing Assist (LTA), Lane Departure Alert (LDA), Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, and Adaptive High Beam System (AHS). There are also additional safety features like Panoramic View Monitor, Blind Spot Monitor, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert that are exclusive to the Luxury and F Sport trims.

The Lexus UX is now open for booking in Malaysia. All prices mentioned here are on-the-road without insurance, and it comes with a five-year unlimited mileage warranty as well. More information on the premium compact crossover can be found on Lexus’ official site.

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