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SLOW GOING: 2021 LEXUS UX 200 F SPORT

The latest craze in the crossover market is seeing how low they can before they’re technically considered a hatchback. But with the market well over-saturated with sub-compact crossovers like the Mercedes-Benz GLA, Audi Q3, Volvo XC40, BMW X1 and the Lincoln Corsair,  Lexus wasn’t going to end this sub-ute game at their small-sized NX – oh no, no, no.  They went even smaller with the UX-series and now, they may just be pushing that very fine hatchback line.

The North American market was ever so graced with Lexus’ cheek pinching charmer back in 2018 in the attempt of trying to stay ahead of the crossover curve. Like with any typical Lexus product, the UX was offered in both hybrid and non-hybrid variant. Back when it first hit the market, we dipped our driving shoes into the UX 250h hybrid that ended up being a peachy surprise. However, now three years later we are looking at the different side of the UX tree that lies a turbocharged engine in front-wheel drive only.

Hitting its three-year itch, the UX continues to be a cute little bitty sweetheart. Carrying the latest design of the Lexus fashion, it wears its abstract style well and manages the eccentric angular lines better than some of its larger crossover siblings. Most of the changes brought into the 2021 model were made to the UX 200 featured in this article. While not substantial, changes like improved throttle response, standard blind-spot monitoring and an adjustable rear cargo board can make a difference. Like the exterior, the interior remains mostly the same as before with a very Lexus-like quality to it. It carries a modern influence with well executed materials throughout – it’s nice to see that Lexus didn’t cheap out when it came to the interior quality of a lower level model. Now if we can just get them to re-work their touch-pad that operates the optional 10.3-inch display, it would be practically a perfect setup.

Despite having been swooned by the UX 250h back in 2019, the UX 200 is a bit of different story. Unlike its interior, it’s, uhh, not very Lexus-like when it comes to the performance side of a premium brand. With the UX 200 sitting at the entry level of the segment, it is offered only in a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and front wheel drive. Stepping up into the UX 250h increases performance with a hybrid powertrain and standard all-wheel drive, but also comes with a $2000 price jump from the base $32,900.

What makes the hybrid variant of the UX appealing is the updated technology that boosts the best of both the performance and fuel consumption world. The UX 200 on the other hand… not so much. Utilizing only 169-horsepower, we wouldn’t necessarily say the UX 200 is slow; however, we got bored when getting to 60-mph took us nearly into double digits on the stopwatch. It’s not built for quickness, okay we’ll play along, its urban living lifestyle that its built for does the city life justice. But then we get to its transmission – naturally Lexus made it more complicated than it should be with a 10-speed direct shift continuous variable transmission (DCVT.) Basically it’s a single gear that utilizes fake shift points in the computer so that the consumer doesn’t notice. But in the world of the UX, it’s rather amusing – the faux shift points end up working as a turbo booster sending odd thrusts into the cabin between each fake shift point – as if we were riding a slow moving mechanical bull – wee, that was oddly entertaining.

So performance isn’t its greatest attribute. But what the UX 200 lacks in ability makes up in agility. Since the UX is built on Toyota’s latest TGNA platform that is shared with the Toyota Corolla and C-HR, there is a nicely structured chassis nestled under its body panels. Ponying up an extra $2000 for the F SPORT and we get an upgraded, sport-tuned suspension that hits all the right buttons of a nicely formed ride. The UX carries decent body motions with reception responsiveness from the steering while managing to coarse through the city regimen without interrupting our interior cabin comfort.  And because the F SPORT comes with bolstered front seats, it makes it one heck of a comfortable place to be.

Despite the hybrid alternative achieving darn near 40-mpg’s from our last test, the turbocharged ways won’t hurt your wallet too much. We managed to hit 36-mpg during out 200-mile highway run with an average of 31-mpg combined.  

The UX is an overall pleasing crossover when we overlook the performance attributes. Being of the Lexus name however, we expected more from a brand that continues to take pride in performance with their naturally aspirated V-8’s. After all, the UX is using the same engine from the NX 300 – so come on Lexus, what’s another 30+ horsepower to put a spring in its step.

VEHICLE SPECIFICATIONS

Vehicle: 2021 Lexus UX 200 F SPORT
Base Price: $34,520
As-Tested Price: $42,250

PERFORMANCE SPECIFICATIONS

Engine: 2.0-liter Turbocharged Four-Cylinder
HP | Torque: 169-HP| 151 lb-ft of Torque
Transmission: Simulated 10-Speed CVT
Drivetrain: Front-Wheel Drive
MPG: 29 | 37 | 32 (city | highway | combined)
As-Tested MPG: 30.8-mpg combined | 36.4-mpgh highway (200-miles at 75-mph)
Fuel Range: 360 miles
0-60 MPH: ±9.0 seconds

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