I wasn't fooled the first time I drove a Lexus hybrid. It was essentially an upscale Prius, the first gas-electric vehicle produced by parent company Toyota. As a genuine luxury car, the Lexus looked much better (meaning it had real style), handled better, and had a much nicer interior, but the performance was not a whole lot better than a much less expensive Prius — slow and unexciting.
Forget all that. The 2020 Lexus UX 250h F Sport is a genuinely fun to drive upscale subcompact crossover. It not only looks sporty (like all Lexus models these days), it is a blast to drive — quick and precise, with the added benefit of standard all-wheel-drive.
Part of the fun is undoubtedly the result of the F Sport handling package, which Lexus offers on a number of its vehicles. But we suspect most drivers would be more than satisfied by the hybrid version of the UX 250h without that option.
And as a hybrid, it also gets remarkable mileage. The EPA estimates it will get 41 miles per gallon in town and 38 on the freeway. That may be less than some other hybrids, but the fun-to-mileage trade off is well worth it.
Most subcompact and compact crossovers feature small turbocharged engines these days. They provide decent acceleration and mileage, but can be noisy and feel overworked when pushed. Adding an electric motor instead of a turbocharger may cost more, but, at least in the case of the UX 250h, the result is a quieter and stronger powerplant that gets even better mileage.
The exterior styling of just about every Lexus is polarizing these days. They almost all feature huge spindle grills, bulging fenders and sharp creases to create looks that can best be described as exciting. I personally like the designs and think it really sets the UX apart from all other subcompact crossovers, but I can understand if others don't agree.
Most of the interiors are not as wild, although the UX dash employs a lot of unconvnetional lines to cram the optional 10.3-inch display screen, gauges, air conditioning outlets and controls into such a small space. In addition to the unconventional touch screen, it include two opposing knobs above the center pod for setting the drive modes and other functions. Worked for me.
Some reviewers have criticized the infortainment system, which is control by a touch pad on the center console directly in front of a hand rest that includes buttons and dials for switching modes, controlling the volume of the stereo and the like. I admit it sounds and looks complicated, but I got used to it in just a couple of days and even learned to like it by the end of the test drive. It may be different, but it worked well for me.
As an aside, I'll confess that I'm not completely sold on the concept of subcompact anythings these days. Once upon a time, I thought everyone should buy the smallest vehicle that met their basic needs. Not only do they cost less and get better mileage, they are also more fun to drive, I thought.
But nowadays, many larger models don't cost all that much more, while providing more interior room, offering surprisingly good milege, and actually being relatively entertaining to drive. So I've reluctantly come to the conclusion that a subcompact needs to be special for me to recommend it. The 2020 Lexus UX 250h F Sport easily surpasses my revised expectations.
2020 Lexus UX 250h F Sport
Base price: $36,350
Price as tested: $44,450
Type: Subcompact crossover
Engine: 2.0-liter inline 4 and hybrid system (181 hp)
Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission
EPA estimated mileage: 41/38
Overall length: 177 inches
Curb weight: 3,300 pounds
Final assembly: Miyawaka, Fukuoka, Japan
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