2021 Lexus UX

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2021
The Car Connection
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2020
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
November 1, 2020

Buying tip

The Lexus UX250h hybrid is the miser’s choice, but it’s $2,200 more and doesn’t come in front-drive form.

features & specs

UX 200 F SPORT FWD
UX 200 FWD
UX 200 Luxury FWD
MPG
29 city / 37 hwy
MPG
29 city / 37 hwy
MPG
29 city / 37 hwy
MSRP
$34,900
MSRP
$32,900
MSRP
$37,600

The 2021 Lexus UX taps design verve to hawk its cozy interior space and its middling performance.

What kind of car is the 2021 Lexus UX? What does it compare to?

The 2021 Lexus UX is a five-seat crossover SUV that’s on the small end of its competitive class, but offers a hybrid option that dramatically boosts its gas mileage. Its rivals include the Audi Q3, BMW X1, and Benz GLA.

Is the 2021 Lexus UX a good car?

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We think it stands out as much for styling as for its hybrid efficiency, though rear-seat space isn’t as accommodating as it might be. We give it a TCC Rating of 6.3 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What’s new for the 2021 Lexus UX?

Blind-spot monitors are standard across the lineup for 2021. Lexus offers base, Premium, and F Sport trims. All wear a crisply folded and wedgy shape that bears almost none of the hallmarks of Lexus cars from just a decade ago. This one’s blunt, hard-edged, dramatically detailed, and endowed with a big hourglass grille. It’s more muted inside where a big display screen caps the dash and piano-style controls, surrounded by high-grade materials.

The UX200 taps a 169-horsepower inline-4 and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) for its drivetrain, while the UX 250h adopts a different inline-4 with a battery pack and with electric motors on each axle for slightly more power, slightly stronger acceleration, and great fuel economy upwards of 40 mpg. Handling’s fine, but the ride quality can be brittle when shod with F Sport wheels and tires and a tauter suspension tune.

Three inches shorter than the original Lexus RX from the 1990s, the Lexus UX has good front seats that get more snug and supportive in F Sport trim. The back seat’s more narrow and confining, and cargo space, while not as deep and square as you’ll find in most other small crossovers, is decent once rear seats have been folded down and out of the way. 

Crash-test scores put the Lexus UX at the top of its class, and automatic emergency braking is standard, along with power features, synthetic leather upholstery, and an infotainment system that isn’t touchscreen-enabled. Instead, a touchpad serves as the input device with redundant voice and steering-wheel controls; it’s a kludgy setup that we’d swap out for a touch-friendly screen any day.

How much does the Lexus UX cost?

Prices start at $33,925 for the UX200, which comes with power features, synthetic leather upholstery, and touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
Where is the Lexus UX built?
It’s assembled in Japan.

6

2021 Lexus UX

Styling

The UX pulls few styling punches.

Is the Lexus UX a good-looking car?
We think so, though fans of the Lexus of a decade ago might get eyestrain from its sharply folded and multi-faceted body. Curves have been swapped out for edge everywhere you look. We give it an extra point for daring, bringing it to a 6 overall.

Adventurous looks mark the UX, from the latest take on the hourglass grille found across the Lexus lineup now, through the LED headlights that streak like lightning across the front end. Deep creases act like ripped abs on the UX’s flanks. The abrupt, short hatchback body gets capped with red-finned lighting in back that ties together the look.

Inside the UX calms down and dons more traditional apparel. It still wears a lot of lines and a lot of buttons and switches, but the visual sweep is gentle and looks suitably rich. A 7.0-inch display factors into the gauge cluster, unless it’s a UX F Sport, which gets an 8.0-inch screen. Drivers tap piano-style keys beneath the widescreen infotainment display; with navigation, it’s 10.3 inches on the diagonal, and takes up a lot of dash-top real estate.

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5

2021 Lexus UX

Performance

The UX meets drivers in the middle, and goes no further in performance.

The petite UX crossover doesn’t have rally driving in its DNA, doesn’t put muscle-car horsepower to the road. It’s cut from a moderate cloth, with capable but not exciting performance with optional hybrid fuel economy as its best selling point. We give it a 5 for performance, right up the middle.

How fast is the Lexus UX?

Not very. Base UX200 crossovers get a 169-hp 2.0-liter inline-4, while the UX 250h hybrid adopts a different 2.0-liter inline-4 mated with electric motors and batteries for a net 176 hp. 

Neither powertrain is very exciting. Lexus quotes a 0-60 mph time of just under nine seconds for the former, about 8.6 seconds for the latter. The UX pulls away from stoplights without much gusto, despite a fixed first gear coupled to a planetary torque-split transmission that is programmed to feel like a multi-gear automatic. With the F Sport package, Lexus adds in paddle shifters, which come in handy when going down hills to dial in more engine braking.

Is the Lexus UX 4WD?

The UX200 comes with front-wheel drive, while the UX250h hybrid is all-wheel drive—a system that uses the hybrid pack to power the rear wheels while the engine powers the fronts. That AWD system gives it excellent traction in wintry and wet weather.

Aside from that running gear, the UX also has a front strut and rear multi-link suspension and electric power steering, as well as a set of drive modes that can alter the steering, shift, and throttle sensitivity. It doesn’t affect the UX’s suspension, which rides well on smooth pavement and complements its fairly quick steering response. The emphasis still is on better ride quality, though on F Sport UX crossovers, the setup feels slightly stiffer and isn’t as able to damp out potholes, coarse pavement, and even minor road ripples at lower city speeds. 

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2021 Lexus UX

Comfort & Quality

The 2021 Lexus UX packs plenty of space in its small footprint.

The Lexus UX sits on a 103.9-inch wheelbase, shorter than that of a Toyota Corolla. It still scoops out good interior room for the front passengers and a usefully shaped cargo hold, for a rating of 7 here.

We like the UX’s front seats, with their shapely padding and power adjustments. They’re covered in convincing-looking synthetic leather, too. Head room may be a concern with the optional sunroof, though, at just under 36 inches. The F Sport gets even more heavily bolstered seats, but they sit higher and nibble away even more head room.

In back, the UX has just 33.1 inches of rear-seat leg room. It feels better than it sounds in description, but it’s just on the margin of comfort for two adults stationed on the back bench. A third rider’s not going to be comfortable for a long trip, either, and narrow rear doors don’t make it easy to access that space. However, Lexus does provide an armrest that folds down, and USB ports to charge devices.

Behind the rear seats, the UX has 17.1 cubic feet of cargo space. 

Lexus applies interesting materials to the interior of the UX, with a washi tape-texture trim on some panels and bright interior hues to liven up the cockpit.
The UX lineup, from what we’ve noticed has higher levels of interior noise and coarseness—as well as minor vibrations—than we’ve noticed in other models from the luxury brand that aren’t intended for all-out performance. For some who buy Lexus models thinking about the wall of wine glasses on the hood, that could be a deal-breaker.

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2021 Lexus UX

Safety

The UX bests crash tests.

How safe is the 2021 Lexus NX?

Very safe. The IIHS gave it a Top Safety Pick+ award for “Good” performance in all its tests, including headlight tests. The NHTSA, though, gave it five stars overall but just four stars for front-impact protection.

Combined with its standard automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, and active lane control, that gives the UX a score of 8 here. Better outward vision to the rear quarters would boost its score another point.

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2021 Lexus UX

Features

Infotainment's a bear, but the Lexus UX ponies up features and warranty coverage.

At $33,925 to start, the Lexus UX earns extra points for its warranty and for its standard features, but we take a point back for its fussy infotainment controls, for a 6 here.

Which Lexus UX should I buy?

Base UX200 crossovers have synthetic leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, power features, and an infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Most come with a Premium Package that adds heated and cooled front seats, a moonroof, and upgraded interior trim; that’s our recommended configuration.

For almost $5,000 more, the Luxury package adds features such as a power tailgate—but not leather, which isn’t offered on the UX at all. Options include a larger 10.3-inch display with navigation, but it still uses the same touchpad interface as the smaller standard display. The system flunks its own UX test; it’s difficult to gauge inputs on the fly and the controls are tucked in a place on the console that’s hard to see.

How much is a loaded Lexus UX?

You’ll pay more for a loaded hybrid; the UX 250h shares standard equipment with the non-hybrid, but costs $2,200 more thanks to its standard all-wheel drive.

Lexus includes a 4-year/50,000-mile warranty with each UX and covers the first two maintenance visits.

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6

2021 Lexus UX

Fuel Economy

The UX earns great EPA ratings.

Is the Lexus UX good on gas?

We score vehicles based on the more popular models, and with the Lexus UX, that means a 6 for fuel economy. The base UX 200 is rated at 29 mpg city, 37 highway, 32 combined. If you spend a little more, UX 250h sips fuel at the miserly rate of 41/38/39 mpg—and does it on regular unleaded fuel.

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$32,900
MSRP based on UX 200 FWD
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6.3
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 6
Performance 5
Comfort & Quality 7
Safety 8
Features 6
Fuel Economy 6
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2021 Lexus UX Pricing Insights

  • 2020 Lexus UXs available; 2021s arriving
  • Rebate: $3,000 cash on 2020s
  • Financing: From 0% for 60 months
  • Leasing: From $299 per month
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