Road Test: 2023 Lexus UX 250h Premium FWD
Standout Fuel-Efficient Premium Compact Crossover
The 2023 Lexus UX continues as the smallest compact crossover utility vehicle (CUV) from Toyota’s premium division. This small crossover is appealing in a number of ways as it offers hybrid efficiency, is available with all-wheel drive and does so with an upscale look and a high-quality fit-and-finish. The target customer may be someone buying their first Lexus and their first luxury car, a combination Lexus wants to take the lead in reaching.
The 2023 Lexus UX 250h is powered by the Lexus Hybrid Drive system of a 2.0-liter gasoline powered, 4-cylinder engine combined with the twin electric motors. The total system 181 horsepower runs through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) with a mechanical first gear that launches the UX 250h before the CVT kicks in.
The hybrid system automatically switches between the pure electric drive mode, combined electric motor and gasoline engine, and gasoline-only engine power. When on the freeway, take a glance at the center round gauge that shows whether the hybrid system is in the charging, eco or power mode. Learning how to modulate the accelerator pedal to stay in the eco and charge range will produce the best efficiency.
The 2023 UX 250h runs on 87 octane and is EPA rated at 43 mpg city/41 highway/42 combined. In the 210 miles we put on the CUV, averaging 65 miles per hour traversing Southern California highways, we had an average of 41.5 mpg. Fuel economy numbers reported by Clean Fleet Report are non-scientific and represent the reviewer’s driving experience using the dash gauge computer. Your numbers may differ.
The nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery is charged when applying the brakes or coasting. This regenerative charging system converts kinetic energy into electric energy and stores it in the battery. This process is also viewed on a dash gauge, where you can watch the power flow into and out of the battery.
Driving Experience: On the Road
Clean Fleet Report drove the UX 250h Premium with front-wheel drive (FWD) and driver-selectable drive modes of Eco, Normal and Sport. When to use the drive modes is self-explanatory.
The 18-inch machined, five-spoke bright alloy wheels with Dark Gray inserts are shod with 225/50 all-season Bridgestone Turanza run flat tires. There was no perceived degradation of handling due to the run flat tires, which sometimes can be an issue because of their hard sidewalls.
The UX 250h has respectable performance, thanks to the extra power from the twin electric motors. Zero-to-60 mph speeds are in the low-eight second range, which doesn’t quite put it in the performance or sporty category. But, place the CVT in Sport mode, and the engine is forced to stay in the rev band for a bit more performance. The acceleration is more than adequate for most driving situations with a linear and smooth feeling, something that comes from the non-turbocharged engine.
The UX 250h feels planted and solid, with a feel of confidence when going down the road. The electric power-assist steering is programmed for good road feedback, and the independent MacPherson struts with coil springs and gas-pressurized shock absorbers smooth-out the ride. The cabin was pleasantly isolated from common road imperfections, and with a 17-foot turning radius three-point turns are a thing of the past.
Driving Experience: Exterior
The UX 250h is in the compact luxury crossover segment so the Lexus design team knew it has to stand out. The focal point of all Lexus models is their signature grille that features a block-shape mesh pattern and a tasteful lower chrome edge. The arrowhead-shaped triple beam LED headlights, fog, daytime running and cornering lights frame the grille, which sports the Lexus “L” badge in blue, signifying this Lexus is electrified.
The UX has eye-pleasing proportions with the near-flat roof having aluminum rails and a color-matched shark fin antenna. It ends with a small spoiler located on the foot-activated power rear lift gate. The rear full-width tail lights (with a ‘Lexus’ Easter egg) have 120 LEDs that make for an impressive nighttime look. Clean Fleet Report’s UX 250h Premium also had a power tilt and sliding moonroof, power and heated exterior mirrors, and door handle courtesy lights.
The very few chrome bits and pieces tastefully accent the side windows and the front grille. Painted in Iridium ($500 option), a platinum shade, it looked elegant especially with the color-matching wheel arches.
Driving Experience: Interior
The uncluttered interior features Lexus high quality materials and a top notch fit-and-finish, with the dash inspired by the grain of Japanese paper called washi. If you can imagine an interior feature or treatment that should be on a premium car, then Lexus packed it into the UX 250h. The seats are well-padded and comfortable in NuLuxe synthetic leather, with the 8-way power adjustable front seats both heated and perforated. Second row access was easy, the seats were comfortable and there was ample head room, but the leg room will be tight for taller passengers. Two fit nicely, with three in a pinch. For convenience there are four USB ports and a 60/40 folding and reclining seat back.
Gauges, including the hybrid management system, are in easy reach and sight, including those for the dual-zone automatic temperature system. The heated, black leather-wrapped steering wheel ($150 option) contains audio telephone and voice controls, and was adjustable by the power tilt and telescoping steering wheel column.
Clean Fleet Report’s test car had the Lexus Multimedia System with a 12.3-inch, high-resolution display (part of a $1,405 option package) that included navigation and the Lexus Premium Sound System. The 10-speaker system provides excellent sound to deliver SiriusXM/FM/HDAM with MP3 playback capability.
Connectivity is through two front and rear USB-C ports and a USB-A port in the center console. There is wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, music streaming via Bluetooth wireless, with hands-free phone capability completing the system. Voice commands connect with Siri EyesFree and Google Assistant by saying “Hey, Lexus” or “Hi, Lexus.” The Wi-Fi Hotspot can support up-to five devices, and comes with a complementary 4GB of data for a three-month trial. The wireless phone charger is a $75 option. Enform connect services are included for 10 years.
Once inside and cruising down the road, wind noise was nearly non-existent, partially due to the low 0.33 Coefficient of Drag, a flat underbody, and noise reduction through sound absorbing and insulating materials.
The UX 250h is well-equipped with active and passive safety features, starting with the Lexus Safety System+ 2.5. This feature-rich system is explained here. Other safety items include 10 air bags, a tire pressure monitoring system, collapsible steering column, electronic parking brake, anti-theft alarm and engine immobilizer, rear view camera, blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert, rain sensitive wipers and rear park assist.
Pricing and Warranties
The 2023 Lexus UX 250h has a base price of $35,375, including the mandatory $1,150 destination fee. Clean Fleet Report’s UX 250h Premium had a base price of $37,800, and with $2,695 in options and the $1,150 destination fee, the final price came to $41,645.
The 2023 UX 250h comes with these warranties:
- Battery – 10 years/150,000 miles
- Basic – Four years/50,000 miles
- Powertrain – Six years/70,000 miles
- Hybrid – Eight years/100,000 miles
- Maintenance – One year/10,000 miles
- Corrosion – Six years/Unlimited Miles
- Roadside – Four years/Unlimited mile
Observations: 2023 Lexus UX 250h
The 2023 Lexus UX 250h is a stylish premium compact crossover, making it stand-out from others on the road. The UX 250h delivers agile handling with comfortable ride comfort, resulting in pleasing driving attributes. Toss-in the fuel-efficient hybrid system, and the UX 250h should have strong appeal for anyone looking for an upscale, highly efficient crossover.
The UX 250h may be the least expensive Lexus you can buy, but this does not mean there was any scrimping on build quality and materials. The interior is a most welcoming place, offering comfort, style and all the tech you could want.
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Story and photos by John Faulkner
Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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