And while you don’t have to go as far as dressing your Mini-me like yourself—as Dr. Evil did in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me—having one around can indeed be spiritually uplifting. Perhaps that’s why I felt that the new Lexus UX felt so fun and refreshing, as I drove it around the streets of Los Angeles during the lockdown...despite the fact that I’m no big fan of subcompact crossovers.
Granted, the Lexus UX isn’t a mini version of me or my daily commuter, a BMW 5 Series, but it is of the brand’s RX and NX SUVs, which have been big sellers the past several years. By entering the subcompact SUV/crossover segment, Lexus is looking to grab market share away from the likes of BMW (X1 and X2) and Mercedes-Benz (GLA). It’s also giving buyers plenty of options by offering three different drive systems: a gasoline-powered 2.0-liter inline-4, a hybrid and an EV, the latter of which will not be available outside of China, Japan and some parts of Europe. Unfortunately, we won’t get it in North America, and that’s a pity.
The variant I drove was the UX 250h F Sport. Before even stepping into the vehicle, I was impressed with how the thing looked. It was unmistakably a Lexus, evidenced by the love-it-or-hate-it spindle grille, but the fender bolsters, its low stance and 18-in. alloy wheels gave it an aggressive nature that I honestly didn’t expect. While I have all the respect in the world for soccer moms, I felt validated taking this vehicle to the golf course and my favorite surf spot (two things occupying my free time during the pandemic), with none of my “macho” friends hurling a single insult my way.
The power comes on efficiently, and while it’s no drag racer (going from zero to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds), it provides more than enough pop zipping around town. Under the hood is a 2.0-liter inline-4 paired with an electric motor that produce a combined 181 hp. The system comes mated to a CVT gearbox, which helps the UX 250h return an astonishing 41/38 mpg city/highway. (In fact, after driving 300 miles, it only cost me $25 to fill up the near empty fuel tank.)
All that said, what I found most impressive about the UX 250h F Sport was its handling. The vehicle exhibited sharp steering character and excellent turn-in response, on par with many sedans and coupes in today's marketplace. The F Sport suspension package, a tuned version of the base model’s MacPherson struts up front and multi-link at rear, provided excellent stability and just a skosh of understeer through the tight stuff. Overall handling balance was exceptional, and yes, the UX 250h F Sport was fun to drive on a winding road.
The cabin is vintage Lexus, with comfortable seats, an attractive overall design and excellent fit and finish. Ride quality is exceptional, even with the Drive Mode set at Sport, and the cabin remains quiet over the coarsest road surfaces. I’m still no fan of the brand’s Remote Touchpad, as I prefer switches and knobs, but the 7.0-in color display is easy to read and blends flawlessly into the dashboard. The rear seats will definitely be a bit tight if you’re sitting behind someone who’s six feet or taller, unless of course, you’re the Mini-me, and the luggage compartment will hold a set of golf clubs if you fold down the rear-seats.
Lexus has priced the vehicle competitively, starting at $36,350. Our test mount, equipped with F Sport and various other niceties, came to $45,590. In all, the UX is a premium version of a hatchback with added elegance and style for the person who has outgrown the image of driving a hatchback. As the owner of a full-size and mid-size SUV (a very old Chevrolet Tahoe and an Audi Q5), after spending a week in the Lexus UX 250 F Sport, it has me thinking of giving them a Mini-me of their own.