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2019 Lexus UX Hybrid Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 7.1

The 2019 Lexus UX Hybrid gets better gas mileage ratings than virtually every class rival, and it delivers fantastic ride quality and composed handling. However, it's not that fun to drive, thanks in part to its underpowered powertrain.

  • Whichever powertrain you pick, my experience at the UX's Stockholm, Sweden global launch reveals that this Lexus drives just fine, a judgment that may sound like faint praise. … The hybrid is quiet and slick off the line when it's operating on electrical power, but its engine can both sound and feel strained when asked for more acceleration." -- CNET
  • "… city driving is what the UX feels made to do. It's ideal for navigating narrow streets shared with innumerable cyclists and dotted with stamp-size parking spaces. And the 34-foot turning circle comes in handy for the tight left-handers and U-turns that accompany regular travels." -- Edmunds
  • "What the UX 200 never feels is fast. And apparently no UX is, whether it's wearing F Sport regalia or not. Toyota estimates that the most strident 0-to-60 mph run in the slightly more powerful hybrid will take no less than 8.6 seconds, with front-drive non-hybrids taking even longer at 8.9 seconds. These figures make the UX twins among … the slowest vehicles on the market today, regardless of price." -- New York Daily News

Acceleration and Power

The UX Hybrid features a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and two electric motors that combine to produce 175 horsepower (181 horsepower in F Sport models). It comes with an automatic transmission. Though it's a bit quicker than its nonhybrid counterpart, the UX 250h still feels slow compared to many rivals.

The UX 250h is the first Lexus to feature Predictive Eco Drive Control, which learns the driver's habits and combines them with knowledge of the upcoming roadway (obtained via the navigation system) to optimize the use and charging of the hybrid battery.

In practice, it works like this: You can't recharge the hybrid battery past 100 percent, right? So if you have a long recharge opportunity, like a lengthy downhill, then the charging opportunity presented by that stretch would go to waste if the battery is already at full charge. Predictive Eco Drive Control can detect the upcoming downhill stretch and direct the UX Hybrid to rely on battery-only driving ahead of it. This will save you gas leading up to that downhill and make room in the battery for the energy that will be captured and used to recharge the battery once you start down the grade.

According to Lexus estimates, the UX Hybrid earns 39 mpg city/highway combined, making it one of the most fuel-efficient models in the class.

  • "The UX250h's hybrid drivetrain … [is] quieter than the base engine but still doesn't feel as if it belongs in a luxury car." -- Car and Driver
  • "The all-wheel-drive hybrid UX 250h achieves a claimed best-in-class 38-mpg EPA combined. However, the UX accelerates with the enthusiasm of a Prius, too, as horsepower levels fall well short of the turbocharged 2.0-liters powering virtually all of the competition." -- Motor Trend
  • "You won't feel much force during acceleration, however, regardless of whether you're in a front-wheel-drive UX 200 or an all-wheel-drive UX 250h hybrid." -- New York Daily News

Handling and Braking

The UX Hybrid comes standard with all-wheel drive, though it only works at low speeds (at higher speeds, this Lexus becomes a front-wheel-drive SUV). The UX Hybrid provides a smooth ride over most road surfaces, and it maneuvers well in tight spaces. It also displays agility on winding roads, though it's less fun to drive than many competitors.

Lexus Drive Mode Select lets you choose between three modes (Normal, Eco, and Sport) that alter driving dynamics to provide more athleticism or better fuel economy. The available F Sport package includes revised springs, stabilizer bars, and different wheels to add a bit more performance.

  • The hybrid is quiet and slick off the line when it's operating on electrical power, but its engine can both sound and feel strained when asked for more acceleration. At least its brake pedal feels almost exactly the same as that of the non-hybrid, impressive given how often regenerative braking results in mushy and unpredictable brake feel. It's really tough to get excited about driving the Lexus UX, even in the F Sport model with the drive-select knob twisted to Sport+, because you always feel mildly detached from what's going on. The UX's chassis is agile and happy to change direction, but not exactly eager to dive into bends. No feedback is telegraphed through the steering wheel, but at least the action is nicely weighted, quick and precise. It's a crossover that will neither annoy nor excite you on the road -- fitting in well with the ethos of most other Lexus models." -- CNET
  • The UX follows the ethos of other recent Lexus models, with a suspension that can find its way around the corners with surprising rapidity but doesn't seem to enjoy it much. There are plenty of positives: Good grip … good control of body movement, and excellent bump absorption—all with a steady and comfortable ride. F-Sport models have stiffer shocks, a stiffer rear stabilizer bar, and a body-mounted 'performance damper,' but I didn't notice much difference between it and the regular UX. Overall, I found the driving experience to be pleasant, but I can't say I had a whole lot of fun." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "What this small Lexus does best is, well, be a Lexus. By that we mean provide a comfortable, premium ride. In this respect it feels like a smaller Lexus NX, which in turn feels like a smaller Lexus RX. … Except on some rougher roads, we found the cabin quiet. And the Lexus' suspension did a good job quelling said rougher roads. Also above average is the UX's maneuverability. Lexus touts its turning circle as a low 34.2 feet, and we can attest to this nimbleness." -- Kelley Blue Book
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