‘Hybrid SUV’ is something of a buzzword in the new-car world these days, but certain models receive more attention than others.
A self-charging hybrid with no plug-in power required, the UX250h Sports Luxury only just slides into the under-$60,000 club as the mid-priced option in Lexus’s small-SUV range.
In short, it’s the logical next step for buyers who want proven hybrid power but with a bit more glamour.
What kind of car is the Lexus UX250h?
The UX250h’s 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine is complemented by an electric motor-generator that works to charge the nickel-metal hydride battery so you’ll never need to plug the car in.
This is partnered to a continuously variable automatic transmission that drives the front wheels only.
There are moderate power and torque outputs offered by the hybrid powertrain, with up to 107kW and 188Nm from the petrol engine, 80kW and 202Nm from the electric motor, or a combined peak of 131kW and 188Nm.
Looks-wise, the UX250h is a small SUV with a sporty stance that serves as the baby sister to the Lexus NX300 range (Lexus’s larger and more popular model).
Take the term ‘SUV’ with a grain of salt, however, as the Sports Luxury grade tested here is actually two-wheel drive and there are no real off-road-friendly settings available.
How does the Lexus UX250h's price compare to its competitors?
In two-wheel-drive guise, the Sports Luxury specification grade is priced from $59,000 plus on road-costs. If you want all-wheel-drive capabilities, you’ll need to pay an extra $4500 for the AWD Sports Luxury grade.
The car we’re reviewing here was fitted with a single option pack that added a moonroof, head-up display and smart key card for another $3500.
All up, the UX250h’s price as-tested is $62,500 plus on-road costs, with the ‘Caliente’ red paint a standard option (and a highly attractive one at that).
The Sports Luxury grade sits between the base Luxury grade and the top-spec F Sport.
For the extra $9000 separating it from the entry-level model, the Sports Luxury will score you 18-inch alloy wheels with run-flat tyres (as opposed to 17-inch wheels), a powered tailgate, privacy glass, 360-degree cameras, leather-accented seat trim (in place of leather-look), ventilated front seats, and '3-eye' bi-beam LED headlamps with cornering lamps.
When it comes to competitors, the UX250h has a wide range depending on what your priorities are. If it’s a premium feel you’re after, the Mercedes-Benz GLA kicks off from $55,100 plus on-road costs, while the slightly smaller Audi Q2 is closer to $40,000 for an entry-level model.
Of course, neither of those offer hybrid power, so other small SUVs with electrified powertrains include the related Toyota C-HR Koba hybrid for $37,665 plus on-road costs, or the Subaru XV hybrid for $35,580 plus on-road costs.
The Volvo XC40 Recharge plug-in hybrid, meanwhile, is perhaps the most similar offering in terms of size, premium feel and hybrid powertrain, and it’s priced from $64,990 plus on-road costs.
Whatever way you slice it, the UX250h is on the pricier end of the small-SUV spectrum.
|Options as tested||$3,500|
Is the Lexus UX250h a spacious and comfortable car?
Straight off the bat, you might notice that cabin space, cargo space and visibility aren’t exactly the UX250h’s strong suits compared to other SUVs.
The unique design means the roof feels like it slopes in toward your head in both the front and back seat, and when combined with the elevated seating position, it can leave you feeling a little cramped.
The cabin feels premium and well equipped with good forward visibility, but narrow rear windows and an extremely sloped windshield mean you never quite feel like you can get a clear picture of your surroundings.
The back seats themselves are comfortable, with a wide rear bench so you don’t feel cramped even at maximum capacity, but knee room and head room merely receive a passing mark for taller occupants and toe room is tight.
Back-seat amenities are solid, however, with two USB ports, an armrest with cupholders and central air vents.
The sunroof certainly helps provide the illusion of spaciousness, but this could be even more effective if it extended further into the back-seat area.
Finally, the power tailgate opens up on a boot area that is surprisingly – and unnecessarily – restricted. The boot floor is so elevated you’d assume there would be a spare wheel under the floor, but alas, no such thing.
Boot capacity is 364L, which is still better than the Subaru XV hybrid, Toyota C-HR hybrid and Hyundai Kona electric, but although the cargo area is wide and long, it’s notably shallow and loading taller objects could prove a struggle.
|Boot volume (min/max)||364L|
What standard equipment does the Lexus UX250h have?
On the plus side, mod-cons are everywhere in this well-equipped car, which certainly works hard to earn its price tag on the equipment side of things.
The driver’s seat and steering column can be set to slide back for easy exit, there’s a solid 13-speaker sound system and wireless charger, plus heated and cooled seats.
The Lexus infotainment interface remains unnecessarily convoluted, with the famously fiddly Lexus touchpad and an abundance of other controls and corresponding menu options that can prove overwhelming before you get used to them.
The 10.3-inch screen is able to host Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with factory navigation and digital radio.
A few other elements also felt needlessly complicated – putting the USB ports in the centre console box proves pesky because it’s fiddly to open and also means the cord can get in you or your passenger’s way.
Additionally, the location of the parking brake – hidden away down to the left of the steering wheel – is very inconvenient, but thankfully it automatically applies and releases when you place the car in and out of park.
The head-up display boasts live speed-limit updates as well as a digital speedometer, plus there’s lane-trace assist and front and rear parking sensors.
There’s also a basic but functional 360-degree animated view monitor, which works in tandem with the reverse camera to provide an excellent overheard and rear view when parking.
An unexpected but welcome bonus? How smoothly and quietly the windows slide up and down. It’s the little things.
What is the Lexus UX250h like to drive?
As previously mentioned, visibility in the UX250h may prove disorienting until you grow used to it. You’re elevated off the road, but without the expansive view of other SUVs due to slender windows and the tapered roof, as well as a slanted front windshield that feels dominated by a rear-vision mirror.
As such, you may find you rely on the car’s sensors and cameras to get a read on your surroundings.
One of the perks of driving the UX250h, however, is how seamlessly it switches from electric to petrol power and back again. It actually seems to rely mostly on electric power at lower speeds and can be driven in EV mode up to 45km/h, meaning that for a large majority of around-town driving it almost disguises as an all-electric car.
The steering is light, flexible and more characteristic of a compact car, which makes moving the car’s 1625kg kerb weight around manageable, although not very engaging. A 10.4m turning circle also makes for effortless manoeuvring around town.
Sport mode will firm up the steering somewhat and turn the digital instruments display red, but otherwise won’t make a huge difference to performance.
Speaking of performance, the UX250h is certainly no powerhouse on paper, but it does well to deliver its modest outputs quickly, smoothly and effectively when required.
It’s unlikely you’ll notice the car’s more modest outputs unless you’ve got a packed car or really need extra oomph on a freeway, and even then it’s got enough oomph to get by.
Overall, it’s quiet, comfortable and unaffected by road irregularities thanks to comfort-focussed suspension.
Moderate power outputs are, for the most part, unnoticeable and comfort and cabin noise are excellent, but restrictive visibility and less-than-thrilling handling may disappoint some prospective buyers.
|Engine configuration||Four-cylinder petrol with hybrid system|
|Power to weight ratio||82kW/tonne|
|Fuel consumption (combined cycle)||4.5L/100km|
|Fuel tank size||43L|
Is the Lexus UX250h a fuel-efficient car?
Lexus quotes 4.5L/100km of combined fuel consumption for the UX250h. I recorded 5.5L/100km of real-world fuel consumption in the midst of Melbourne’s stage-three lockdowns.
A week’s worth of heavily urban driving barely made an impression on the fuel tank. Of course, we'd expect a hybrid's urban performance to be good because the system is likely to make the biggest impact in stop-start driving.
Is the Lexus UX250h a safe and reliable car?
The Lexus UX range received a five-star ANCAP safety rating when it was tested in 2019. Certainly, you won’t be left wanting for active safety features.
Sports Luxury variants receiving radar active cruise control with lane-trace assist, adaptive high beams, and a parking support brake that will prevent you from backing into approaching vehicles or walls.
There’s also blind-spot monitoring, a panoramic-view monitor and a pre-collision safety system (otherwise known as autonomous emergency braking or AEB) that operates up to 170km/h, with daytime cyclist detection and day/night pedestrian detection up to 80km/h.
The only thing missing was a speed limiter.
The UX250h receives Lexus’s four-year, 100,000km warranty and capped-price scheduled servicing is every year or 15,000km for three years, at $495 a service or $1485 all up.
Should I buy the Lexus UX250h?
As an economical, well equipped, comfortable, unique small SUV with a premium feel, the Lexus UX250h fits the bill.
It won’t make for the most engaging behind-the-wheel experience, and visibility could be better, but it offers X-factor via the seamlessness of its transition from hybrid to electric power and its distinctive looks.
Although the comprehensive level of standard equipment warrants the spend, the UX250h’s higher pricepoint is enough to justify a browse through both the higher and lower end of the hybrid SUV segment.