2020 Lexus UX 250h: A fun to drive hybrid
The first time I refilled the 2022 Lexus UX 250h, I was surprised to realize the tank only held around 10 gallons of gas. But when I got back inside, I was pleased to see the estimated range was around 390 miles, more than twice what I need to complete my drive back from Olympia, Washington to Portland, Oregon.
I hadn't driven a conventional hybrid like the UX 250h for long time and forget how economical they can be. Instead, I'd been testing an increasing number of all-electric and plug-in hybrids because they are the emerging technologies. Both have a lot to offer, especially with gas prices increasing.
But they also have limitations. Most importantly, owners need regular access to a secure recharging location, even if it is only an electrical outlet near a driveway. Otherwise constantly searching for unoccupied public charging stations can be overwhelming. And owners of plug-in hybrids will probably not recharge them regularly, forgoing the additional all-electric range even though traditional hybrids cost less.
In a week of test driving in different modes that included two long freeway trips, the 2022 Lexus UX 250h averaged around 36 miles per gallon. And that it with all-wheel-drive because a second electric motor drives the rear wheels. Although some hybrids get more, most aren't nearly as enjoyable.
The Toyota Prius compact sedan, the first mass-produced hybrid, got great mileage but looked dorky and was boring to drive. Lexus, Toyota's luxury brand, borrowed much of the hybrid technology for the 250h, but wrapped it up in a sharp looking subcompact crossover SUV that drives well, especially when equipped with the option F Sport suspension package.
Although the non-hybrid base Lexus UX 200 only produces 169 horsepower, the 250h generates 181 — not a lot by today's standard, but enough to make it feel genuinely sporty because it is so light. This is especially true in the Sport mode, which feels much faster than the Normal mode, although I didn't time them. Those who want to maximize mileage can choose the Eco mode, which is slower but I believe will average closer to 40 miles per gallon.
Beyond the additional horsepower, not much else has changed since the last year. On the plus side, that means the UX 250h retains its angular styling and upscale interior, which features high grade materials and practically every available automotive technology. On the down side, that means it still has the touched control for the infotainment system that some reviewers have found difficult to use, although I've gotten used to it by now. Rear cargo space is also comprised by the battery pack because the UX 200 is a traditional gas-powered vehicle. But no one buying a subcompact should expect to haul much in it very often.
This is the first UX I've tested that did not include the F Sport handling package. It was still fun to drive, although not as crisp as the ones with the upgraded suspensions. I recommend adding it.
It's easy to see why all-electric and plug-in hybrids are attracting so much attention these days. I was in Olympia for Mudfest 2002, the annual competition between outdoor activity vehicles organized by the Northwest Automotive Press Association. There were more all-electric vehicles in the parking lot than before, proof that their ranges are improving. And the overall winner was the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4Xe, an off-road capable plug-in hybrid SUV that can go up to 25 miles on electricity alone. The all-electric power can even be held in reserve until the vehicle reaches the wilderness to minimize disruptions of wildlife.
But everyone thinking of buying a new vehicle and concerned about rising gas prices should research hybrids, especially if recharging is inconvenient. There are more models today that every before, ranging from compact cars to three-row crossover SUVs. Some average more than 50 miles per gallon.
And if driving enjoyment is a priority, the 2022 Lexus UX 250h should be at the top of your shopping list.
2020 Lexus UX 250h Luxury
Base price: $35,350
Price as tested: $44,365
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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