When the all-new Lexus UX 200 broke covers at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show, I was extremely confused with the idea of a small Lexus SUV when the Japanese premium carmaker already has the highly accomplished Lexus NX.
The insatiable appetite for Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) around the world has prompt carmakers to create countless variations of SUVs – convertible SUVs are, by far, the wildest creation ever.
Last year in Malaysia, the SUV market grew by 64.8% and the fact is people can’t get enough of SUVs. A smaller, lower-priced SUV then makes sense for the Lexus brand.
Lexus Malaysia has managed to secure an attractive price point for the UX 200 with 3 variants on offer priced from RM 243,888 to RM 299,888 which is on par with the segment. Mind you, the Lexus is fully imported from Japan.
However, some are sceptical with the UX 200, particularly with the engine performance of the 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol mill. We had a short drive in the UX 200, and we are convinced that it checks all the right boxes as the best premium city car.
Butter Smooth Engine Performance, Doesn’t Feel Underpowered
The 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine and CVT automatic transmission sounds underwhelming on paper. But these are not your ordinary 2.0L CVT.
It’s Toyota Motor’s latest Dynamic Force petrol engine that comes with direct injection, Dual VVT-i technology and high compression ratio (13:1). The transmission is known as the Direct-Shift CVT that has a mechanical launch gear and 10-speed virtual ratios.
Combined, it offers 171 PS and 205 Nm of torque driving the front wheels. Horsepower figure is one thing, but what’s more important is the power delivery characteristic in the real world.
Off the line, throttle response is instant and sharp thanks to the mechanical launch gear. Power delivery is also linear without that dreaded rubber band effect. If anything, it feels more like a conventional torque converter than a CVT, that’s how good the transmission is.
What’s also important is that the UX 200 doesn’t feel strained even when accelerating from highway speeds. There’s ample of pulling power even from 110 km/h and not once I felt that it needed more grunt.
Although it’s nowhere near as punchy as its turbocharged rivals, the UX 200 offers the most sophisticated and refined powertrain in the segment, by far.
BMW Handling with Lexus Refinement, Best of Both Worlds
We cannot stress enough how exciting new-generation Lexus models that are underpinned by Lexus Global Architecture platform drives. It’s a variation of the TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) platform which has a low centre of gravity, double wishbone suspension set up and rigid structure for a fun and dynamic driving experience.
The UX 200 despite being the most entry-level Lexus SUV, is the most dynamically capable one yet. Firstly the seating position is spot on thanks to the powered adjustable front seats and steering column, gives you an impression that you’re driving a hatchback rather than an SUV.
The steering incredibly communicative and sharp while the chassis has plenty of talent to keep up with your inputs. During our emergency lane change and slalom activity, the UX 200 was highly predictable and reactive to your inputs, more engaging than a BMW in fact.
Ride quality is also not compromised either as the UX 200 Luxury which rides on sensible 18-inch alloys irons out undulations elegantly as a Premium car should. Coupled with its muted cabin, this makes the UX 200 one of the most comfortable cars in the segment.
Driver Centric Cabin at The Expense of Practicality
The driver-centric design approach of the UX’s cabin is a departure from Lexus models of old. How the centre console is angled towards the driver and buttons all aligned within reach. The cabin layout is more driver-centric than even the Lexus LC coupe!
However, the flip side is that the cabin of the UX is not as practical as some of its rivals. For starters, there aren’t as many usable storages at the front as you’d get in a Volvo XC40. Rear passengers are also devoid of side door bins.
If you plan to seat 4 most of the time, taller passengers (over 180 cm) will find it to be a squeeze at the rear. Having said that, the UX is infinitely more spacious than the Mercedes-Benz GLA (X156).
Boot space is also the smallest in class at a mere 271 litres. That’s comical compared to the BMW X1’s 505 litres. Even the GLA (X156) is able to accommodate up to 421 litres! If you opt for the UX 200 Urban, the space-saver spare wheel will further shrink the boot space to 228 litres.
Who Is It Made For?
The Lexus UX 200 has a clear advantage over its rival in areas of refinement and driving dynamics. Equipment levels are also on par, if not better, with those of the same segment and price point.
Lexus Safety System+ ADAS, Apple CarPlay & Android Auto and powered front seats are standard across the range. Which makes the entry-level UX 200 Urban, at RM 243,888 (OTR without insurance), competitively priced against class rivals.
The UX 200, given its size and tight cabin space, is more suited for individuals looking for a compact premium car that offers unrivalled refinement for their everyday driving needs.
It certainly is not spacious nor practical enough for a family. But as a second car in the household, the UX 200 is an excellent choice.
However, it will definitely also appeal to driving enthusiast who enjoys conquering apexes and occasionally indulges in twisty B-roads. Being SUV, it's also easier to convince the missus.