LEXUS UX CROSSOVER

The UX 250h hybrid is the smallest Lexus SUV.

Capitalizing on the appeal for small crossovers, Lexus has launched its smallest SUV, the UX 250h hybrid, into the fiercely competitive luxury compact SUV market.

Armed with several best-of-class features, our 2019 UX 250h hybrid was equipped with the F Sport package, averaging more than 40 mpg on a 720-mile city/highway trip, better than EPA estimates and competitors.

Handling superbly in tight city parking spaces with a 34.2-foot turning radius, it hugged pavement like a sports car in any Normal, Sport or Eco drive modes, often substituting automatic transmission with manual steering wheel paddles.

Lexus vehicles rank highest in resale value, a major selling point for the competitively priced urban crossover UX, which lacks the horsepower and quickness of gas-only BMWx1, Infiniti QX30, Acura RDX or Jaguar E-Pace vehicles.

UX comes in hybrid or gas-only UX200, each with the standard Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 that includes cutting-edge driver safety aids such as dynamic cruise control, lane-keeping assist and pedestrian detection.

Handling in our all-wheel drive UX was responsive and precise. The ride, with its sport-tuned suspension, gave decent road feedback with some road noise.

Low horsepower (181) yielded superior gas mileage using the 2.0-liter gas engine teaming up with electric motors and the rechargeable nickel-hydride battery pack, which crimps cargo space somewhat.

UX is the smallest and first Lexus to use the fourth generation hybrid drive system migrated from Toyota Prius and first to use Toyota’s stronger global architectural platform.

A new Predictive Eco Drive helped minimize fuel consumption.

Outside, UX exhibits sharp angles and creases, a massive pinched spindle grill below spear-shaped LED headlights and unique 18-inch wheels wearing all-season run flat tires that come with the F Sport’s $2,800 luxury package, one of six options totaling $5,905.

A $2,200 navigation system brought decent voice recognition and a 10.3-inch elevated dashboard display manipulated by a center spine haptic touchpad lessened bothersome twitches occurring in past Lexus models.

Comfortable red leather seats with excellent front row visibility, sunroof, 8-speaker audio and top fit and finish provided excellent cabin ambiance. Rear seats fold for extra cargo space and storage trays exist under the cargo floor.

Smartwatch and iPhones connect either Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant or Apple CarPlay. There is a CD player.

UX is expected to receive top scores in crash safety tests.

LIKES: Mileage, profile, price, top safety aids, audio, handling, value.

DISLIKES: Road noise, F-Sport as option, not quick from stop.

BOTTOM LINE: Sporty looks, upscale cachet, top resale brand.

FACT FILE

2019 LEXUS UX 250h F SPORT

Base price w/destination fee: $37,025 ($42,930 as tested)

Curb weight: 3,605 lbs.

Wheelbase: 103.9 inches

Length: 177.0 inches

Width: 72.4 inches

Engine/battery: 2.0-liter, DOHC, inline 4 cylinders, nickel-hydride battery pack

Horsepower: 181-hp at 6,000 rpm

Torque: 140-lbs-ft at 4,400- 5,200 rpm

Transmission: Continuous variable transmission, manual paddles

EPA rating: 41 mpg city, 38 mpg highway

Range: 10.6 gallons, regular

Performance: 0-60 in just over 8 seconds

Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.