THE UX is Lexus' entry-level sports utility vehicle (SUV), and is slightly smaller than the popular NX range. Priced at RM235,472 (Urban); RM274,027 (Luxury) and RM289,364 (F Sport), the UX 200 is much more accessibly priced than the NX 300 line-up here, which is priced around RM303,117 to RM336,019.
These prices factor in a Government-issued 50% sales tax exemption (from June 15 till Dec 31) on imported cars, which give premium car buyers substantial savings.
However, for the UX and all other Lexus models, Lexus Malaysia is extending the tax exemption a month longer to Jan 31.
As an example, the UX 200 (Luxury grade) featured here is cheaper by almost RM10,000 compared with its March launch price of RM283,888.
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Now, the front-wheel drive Lexus UX is billed as offering SUV versatility and a hatchback's sporty styling. After living with it for three days, we daresay it really has car-like handling and agility, and is an impressive alternative to its European rivals.
Features and Technology
The UX 200 Luxury is a good example of the advanced safety, luxurious refinement and comfort that Lexus is renowned for.
There is a lot of safety kit here including eight airbags, and high-tech driver's assistance systems that allow for automatic braking to avoid a collision or reduce the impact, assisted steering to keep the car in its lane, and keeping a pre-set distance from the car in front.
While the entry-level Urban grade is very well-kitted, paying almost RM39,000 more for the Luxury grade gets you quite a lot of useful features.
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For one, you get sportier 225/50 RF18 run flat tyres (instead of 215/60 R17 tyres on the Urban grade) which means some sacrifice in ride comfort, but a gain in safety and convenience.
The Luxury grade also comes with rain sensing wipers, automatic folding side mirrors, roof rails, a powered steering column, a powered rear liftgate with hands-free kick-open function, a bigger 10.3-inch display screen (instead of a 7-inch screen on the Urban grade), and a three-memory function for the driver's seat.
A Lexus Premium Audio system is fitted on both the Urban (six speakers) and Luxury (eight speakers including a subwoofer) grades. More importantly, the Luxury grade has extra safety features including a Blind Spot Monitor (BSM), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) and a Panoramic View Monitor.
The RCTA and Panoramic View Monitor are very useful in avoiding unwanted accidents when moving into or out of a parking spot. We particularly like the front parking camera, as we cannot see the front end and always have to estimate the space between the front bumper and the street kerb.
Interior and Practicality
The interior feels and looks upmarket and premium with sumptuous leather seats and covers, fine stitching, high quality plastics and materials, and smoothly machined surfaces.
A classic analog clock next to the display screen mounted on the top central dashboard, lends some old school charm. The Luxury grade also gets exclusive leather seat finish featuring sashiko, a Japanese stitching technique used in making judo and kendo martial arts uniforms.
On the Luxury grade, you also get the exclusive dashboard trim finish inspired by the grain of Japanese paper, called washi - seen in the 'shoji' paper sliding doors of traditional Japanese houses. This washi dashboard trim finish is also a first for Lexus, and gives the UX a nice arty touch.
There is no touchscreen here; to navigate and control the infotainment system, one uses the Remote touchpad, located next to the gear shifter. The touchpad takes some getting used to, as it is a finger swipe, point and tap interface.
We found it a bit tough to swipe and position the cursor accurately, but maybe we need more practise. Still, one can always use the buttons - found around the touchpad - to select the menu, navigation map, radio, and media options.
Interior storage options include two cup holders in front, front door bins, cup holders in the rear arm-rest, and a seat-back pocket (on the front passenger seat). Another nice touch is the central storage box cover, which doubles as a front arm rest, that can be opened on both sides by front occupants. This is where you find two USB ports and a mini-jack socket.
For rear occupants, there are another two 2.1A USB ports below the rear air-conditioning vents. Front occupants get more charging options for their smart and electronic gadgets with a wireless charging pad and a 12V/120W socket.
There are no turbocharged thrills here, but the 2.0-litre inline 4-cylinder petrol engine is a solid performer with 169hp and 205Nm of torque. The 10-speed Direct-Shift continuously variable transmission (CVT) is a marvel, and delivers sporty acceleration and response from standstill, akin to conventional automatic gearboxes.
Acceleration from standstill feels direct, thanks to a mechanical gearset that kicks into action during the initial sprint, before the CVT takes over at mid- and higher speeds. Compared with a normal Toyota CVT, the Direct Shift-CVT provides better fuel economy and shift speed.
On the highway, we cruised at 90kph at a low 1,300rpm. At 110kph, the digital tachometer needle hovered at 1,600 to 1,700rpm. We found a refined powertrain, smooth and responsive response, and a quiet cocoon that is well insulated from external noise.
Another departure from the norm is the twist control lever for the drive modes (Sport, Normal, Eco) located on the dashboard, behind the steering wheel. A push control lever for Traction Control is on the opposite side. These levers do allow easier access to drive mode controls, especially when we wanted sportier motoring.
We also like the car's forward visibility and slim front pillars, which gave us good field of vision and reduced blind spots. Ride quality does feel slightly on the firm side, especially on badly maintained roads, and we think this is also due in part to the Bridgestone Turanza T005A runflat tyres.
The UX 200 also handles well, and has an engaging demeanor, with sports sedan-like agility.
The UX 200 is a good example of how Lexus has gotten very good at the subtle art of producing a premium and classy-looking uncluttered interior in a great and practical packaging. Everything feels well put together, nicely polished and stitched, and immaculately detailed.
We really like the cabin design, and feel that the UX 200 sets a benchmark for premium interior ambience. The kit level is high, and you get the nice convenient features like touch-activated front reading lights and one touch up/down function for all side windows.
With good drivability and comfortable seats compared with its competitors, the UX 200 is perfect for city commutes.
Gas struts for the bonnet would have been nice too, but we suppose one can't have everything. We found more than enough rear head and leg room for 170cm adults.
The only real complaint we have about the SUV is the small 271-litre rear luggage space, although this can be expanded by folding down the 60/40 split rear seatbacks.
To sum it up, the UX 200 is a compact SUV that drives and handles very well, is highly specced, and thoughtfully designed. Against its European rivals, it is definitely a worthy rival and has many strong points for a buyer to consider.
Lexus UX 200 (Luxury grade)
Engine: 1,987cc in-line 4, 16-valve, DOHC, VVT-iE (Intake), VVT-i (Exhaust)
Maximum power: 169hp at 6,600rpm
Maximum torque: 205Nm at 4,800rpm
Transmission: 10-speed Direct-Shift continuously variable transmission (CVT)
Rear luggage capacity: 271 litres
Fuel tank: 47 litres
Kerb weight: 1,540kg
Features: 3-Beam LED Projector Headlamps, Push Start Ignition, dual zone air conditioning, rear air con vents, Electric Parking Brake with Auto Brake Hold, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Power 8-way front seats, 225/50 RF18 Run Flat tyres, Rain sensing wipers, Auto folding side mirrors, Roof Rails, Power Back Door With Hands-free Kick-open Function, Japanese Paper Grain and Metallic Ornament interior finishing, powered Steering Column, Lexus Premium Audio, 8-speakers including Sub Woofer, 10.3-inch display screen, 3-memory function for driver's seat, Panoramic View Monitor, Reverse Parking Assist Monitor Safety features: Eight airbags, front Pre-Collision System (PCS), Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC) with Stop & Go Function, Lane Keeping System, Adaptive High-beam System (AHS), Active Cornering Assist (ACA), Vehicle Stability Control System (VSC), Hill-Start Assist, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), parking sensors (front and rear), Whiplash Injury Lessening Seats, Blind Spot Monitor (BSM), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), ISOFIX Child Seat points
Price: RM274,027 on-the-road (with 50% sales tax exemption)
Warranty: 5 years with unlimited mileage, free 3-year Lexus Assist (24/7 Roadside Assistance)