2021 Lexus UX 200 F Sport: Fun and refinement in a small package
I've had the opportunity to test the Lexus UX 200 three times now, and each time I've had the same reaction. I start out thinking a luxury subcompact crossover is a silly idea, and then end up liking the UX 200 because it is so much fun.
Let me start with the silliness. With a starting price of $32,900, the front-wheel-drive 2021 UX 200 is the least expensive Lexus crossover on the market, costing nearly $5,000 less than a new entry-level compact NX. At that price, the UX 200 includes everything that Lexus is famous for — bold styling, a sophisticated engine, a luxurious interior and a high level of standard tech.
On the other hand, it is a lot more expensive that several very good affordable larger compact crossovers on the market. For example, the 2021 RAV4, made by Lexus' parent company Toyota, starts at just $26,150. The UX 200 also costs over $4,000 more than the hybrid version of the RAV4, which comes standard with all-wheel-drive because the electric motor powers the rear wheels.
In fact, the base 2021 Lexus UX 200 cost nearly $500 more than an entry level new Toyota Venza, which is a midsize all-wheel-drive hybrid.
That said, after testing both the 2021 RAV4 and 2021 Venza in the past year, I can say the new UX 200 is more engaging to drive. That is largely because all of the versions that I've driven have been equipped with the F Sport package, which includes such performance-oriented upgrades a sport-tuned suspension, 18-inch wheels, more supportive sport buck seats, and exclusive interior and exterior trim.
As a result, every UX I've driven — including the 2021 version — has been nimble and responsive, making even short neighborhood errands fun. They are also sharply styled with the trademark Lexus oversized grill and sharp lines, making it stand out in the increasing crowded subcompact and compact crossover field. All interior materials are high end, and although the touchpad that helps control the infotainment system takes some practice, it is no worse than any other.
Some reviews have described the 2021 Lexus UX as slow, which puzzles me. The standard turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four produces 169 horsepower and 151 foot-pounds of torque, which is admitted not a lot. But it is more than enough to move the 3,300 pound vehicle briskly off the line, especially in Sport mode. Early British and Italian sports cars weren't particularly powerful, either, but they were fun to drive because they handled well, too.
On thing some buyers might not like is the exhaust, which is noticeable in the Normal mode and louder in the Sport mode. Unlike the Fiat Abarth, it does not snap and snarl but is more of a drone, which could get annoying during long trips. The sound is muted in the Eco mode, however.
Those wanting all-wheel-drive have the option of UX 250h, which is the hybrid version with an electric motor that drives the rear wheels. It has 12 more horsepower than the non-hybrid version and is also available with the F Sport package.
All luxury subcompacts — including cars — need to justify their existence by offering advantages over larger affordable vehicles. The Lexus UX 200 F Sport proves its worth with superior handling and refinement that is hard to match at any price.
2021 Lexus UX 200 F Sport
Base price: $34,900
Price as tested: $41,905
Type: Subcompact crossover
Engine: 2.0-liter inline 4 (169 hp, 151 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 10-speed Direct Shift Continuously Variable Transmission
EPA estimated mileage: 29/37
Overall length: 177 inches
Curb weight: 3,300 pounds
Final assembly: Miyawaka, Fukuoka, Japan
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