The 2021 Lexus UX is an unusual subcompact luxury crossover, but, despite its hatchback-like proportions, it’s also an appropriately classy and surprisingly sporty offering. Its diminutive size and lower price tag place it below the Lexus NX as the company’s smallest crossover. In fact, the UX is the smallest model in the Lexus showroom. This means limited cargo capacity and passenger space compared with its competitors, but its low center of gravity contributes to impressive athleticism that helps make the UX fun to drive. Unfortunately, its standard four-cylinder engine and available hybrid powertrain both have poky acceleration and produce coarse noises. Still, the 2021 UX has a host of standard features and a handsome interior that make it an interesting, albeit small, alternative to classmates such as the BMW X1 and the Mercedes-Benz GLA-class.
What’s New for 2021?
For 2021, Lexus makes several improvements to the regular UX200 and the hybrid UX250h. The latter benefits from a new adjustable rear cargo board that increases its cargo capacity from 17 cubic feet to 22 cubes. All models now come standard with blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. Fans of Autumn Shimmer and Silver Lining Metallic will be disappointed to hear that both paint colors are no longer available. Lexus also says it has improved the accelerator response on the UX250h.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
We think the hybrid UX250h is the one to get because of its standard all-wheel-drive system and better fuel economy in the city; we’d go with the F Sport version that brings a sportier suspension, more supportive front seats, and a slick-looking gauge cluster—among other enhancements. Of the two available packages, we’d pick the Premium option that includes heated front seats, rain-sensing windshield wipers, better interior materials, and a sunroof. Finally, we’d recommend adding a head-up display, heated steering wheel, power liftgate, and wireless charging.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The Lexus UX is available with either a gas-powered or a hybrid powertrain paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). However, only the hybrid UX250h offers all-wheel drive; the regular UX200 is front-drive only. The latter uses a 169-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The 2019 UX we tested needed a lengthy 8.5 seconds to get to 60 mph, and the engine sounded unrefined at high revs. While the 2019 UX250h hybrid version we tested makes 181 horsepower, it had equally unimpressive acceleration. Thankfully, both had great steering feel and quiet refinement endearing enough to help make up for their lack of quickness. An F Sport package brings performance-oriented upgrades such as a sport-tuned suspension, 18-inch wheels on run-flat tires, and exclusive interior and exterior appointments.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The hybridized UX is better suited to saving fuel when driving around town, with an EPA-estimated 41 mpg city and 38 mpg highway. The gas-only model is rated at 29 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. We tested both versions on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy test route—part of our extensive testing regimen—to see how they perform in the real world. The UX200 earned 35 mpg highway while the UX250h only earned 31 mpg, both lower than advertised.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Inside, Lexus ensures that passengers know this is a luxury vehicle thanks to an attractive layout and posh materials. It also boasts a bunch of standard features that includes dual-zone climate control and power-adjustable front seats. The experience can be elevated with options such as heated and ventilated front seats, a head-up display, and snazzier materials. While the back seat is far from spacious, it’s also not as cramped as one might expect. Unfortunately, the cargo area behind those seats is pretty small and it’s even smaller on hybrid models. We managed to fit four carry-on suitcases back there on the regular UX, but we could cram an extra three carry-ons in the rear of the BMW X1.
Infotainment and Connectivity
Every UX has a loaded infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa compatibility, a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, and four USB ports. The little Lexus also can be enhanced with numerous options that include a larger 10.3-inch center screen, built-in navigation, wireless charging, and an eight-speaker premium audio system. While we appreciate this amount of content, the infotainment system is often frustrating to operate with its unintuitive touchpad controller and other illogical controls.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The 2021 UX earned a five-star crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the last version that was evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) was named a Top Safety Pick. Every model is also equipped with standard driver-assistance technology. Key safety features include:
- Standard forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking
- Standard lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist
- Standard blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Lexus provides a competitive limited warranty and an even better powertrain warranty. The automaker also includes a short period of complimentary scheduled maintenance.
- Limited warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers six years or 70,000 miles
- Complimentary maintenance is covered for one year or 10,000 miles
More Features and Specs