Updated September 19, 2018: The Lexus UX, which debuted at the Geneva Motor Show last March, will be the brand’s most affordable vehicle yet. It’s a compact crossover that will be offered in both hybrid (the UX 250h base MSRP is $35,025) and non-hybrid guise (the UX 200 base MSRP is $33,025). It’ll be less expensive than its Mercedes-Benz (GLA 250) and BMW (X1) competition. Only the hybrid is offered with all-wheel drive (the UX 200 is FWD), and both models are less powerful than their rivals. However, the UX 200 utilizes the very good transmission found in the shockingly fun new Toyota Corolla. The UX will be available in December; the Hybrid will bow in January 2019.
Lexus UX 200 Specs:
Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder
Transmission: CVT; front-wheel drive
Torque: 151 lb-ft
It’s no secret that the Geneva International Motor Show is, essentially, the premier car-launch event of the year. Thanks to a mixture of timing and location, the early March mega-show is a new-car Mecca where lots of exciting metal goes on display. We’re looking forward to seeing fresh cars, refreshed cars and much more next week ahead of the public unveilings. But among all the sport sedans and hypercars and 4x4s is one vehicle in particular that stands out: the all-new Lexus UX compact crossover. The UX is a tiny version of the NX crossover set to compete with the Audi A3 and Mazda CX-3, among many others. It’s also a massive deal.
Nevermind the dubious moniker Lexus is giving the car — the brand’s “first urban crossover” — what matters here is that the UX is poised to check off the right boxes for a boatload of customers. At the turn of the millennium, Lexus was on top of the premium segment in the US and remained such for over a decade. When the NX crossover was launched in 2015, the brand regained traction lost to Mercedes and BMW in the interim. I’m guessing that the UX may nudge Lexus even closer to the top again for two reasons.
First, the ‘compact crossover’ is, for all intents and purposes, a wagon. It’s a little taller and a little dumber, but it’s at least a wagon/hatchback hybrid. Wagons are, objectively, the most practical overall car choice around, but consumers prefer their taller SUV relatives, which is why ‘compact crossovers’ do so well: they represent wagon practicality and SUV-ish height.
Second, Lexus styling continues to be remarkably distinctive in a world of lookalikes. While most other premium makers are relying on design language inspired by underbaked clay introduced to a wind tunnel, Lexus doubles down on aggressive, sharp styling. I think consumers will be attracted to edgy, new cars in this segment, especially when alternatives are the relatively stale German competition and otherwise derivative contenders from Infiniti.
(Not for nothing, the name “UX” is a clever play too — there’s a high probability of tech-minded folks coming across this little car when Googling things like ‘new UX’ and ‘best UX’.)
My prediction is that we’ll see a multitude of UX crossovers materialize very quickly once the car is officially launched, that most of them will be mid-to-high trim levels and that, seeing success, Lexus will edge back up as a major threat in the US premium segment. And who knows? Maybe the UX will be a great car too.