2022 Lexus UX 250h review: This makes little sense...
Too expensive for being so tiny and slow. At least the MPG impresses.
2022 Lexus UX 250h review with The Road Beat
Words and photos by Mitchell Weitzman
What is it?
The Lexus UX 250h, a compact crossover based on Toyota's bargain basement C-HR (they share the same 103.9" wheelbase), albeit with the Lexus-luxury treatment and a hybrid powertrain. I can't stress 'compact' quite enough when describing this vehicle, especially when it comes to the inside. The as-tested price for this 'Luxury' trim UX (aren't all Lexus vehicle luxury by definition?) is a whopping $44,115. Be prepared, this review is not going to be entirely nice. At all.
Exceptional gas mileage is the key strong point of the UX 250h. During a week with this blue Lexus, I averaged 35 MPG, a commendable figure that has become consistent with the Toyota group's latest hybrid powertrains. If you want something luxurious and that saves on gas, the UX 250h does deliver that goal in spades. Even with its meager 10.6 gallon tank, that still means you can go almost 400 miles per fill.
And yes, wearing both a Lexus badge and 'Luxury' literally printed to the end of its name on the window sticker, this is a thorough Lexus experience when it comes to the quality of the cabin. The seats are made out of Lexus' 'NuLuxe' synthetic leather, but you'd be easily fooled into thinking it's the real deal. There's just a certain polish evident in the interior environment that whispers things like, "long-lasting" and a whole-hearted, "nice" to you. If there's one thing Lexus knows, it's how to put an interior together. Some of the buttons are of the cheaper variety, but for the most part, all touch points are a job well-done and gives the accurate and convincing impression of luxury.
The steering is accurate and not ponderous, and the car on the whole is secure and competent. Modest run-flat tires prevent it from being any real fun in corners, but the handling is at least decent on the whole. It doesn't really stop it from being snooze-fest, but the Toyota architecture underneath does provide a platform yearning for freedom. As just a car to hop in and for running to your destination, the UX largely succeeds with how easy it is to operate and drive. Despite the flashy blue paint and aggressively sculpted bodywork, just don't be fooled into thinking this is a sporting machine: It's not, not even in the slightest of ways. At least normal buyers will find comfort and confidence in its commuting dynamics.
And there's where the advantages of the UX 250h end, unfortunately.
There's not a lot Lexus can do to make up for its obvious weaknesses, all which circle back to that exhausting asking price. A severe lack of interior space and performance make the UX 250h nearly impossible to justify at the $44,115 cost. On paper, the UX has an overall length of 177", which is anything but tiny. However, past the front seats, this is a claustrophobic nightmare. Rear leg space dwindles for anyone over 5.5' tall, and my friend, at 6' 2", had a laughable experience seeing him cramped into its confines. This is partially in due to the short 103.9" wheelbase (even a Corolla has a longer wheelbase) combined with the low 60" height. While young kids would be fine, and some small dogs, this is not a back seat meant for actual humans for any period longer than five minutes. The same applies to a cargo space that is not Costco-optimized, so plan accordingly when you decide to pick-up some new furniture from that Facebook Marketplace ad.
The economy does impress yet, but the engine on the whole is an absolute garbage disposal. With only 181 horsepower to motivate this 3,600 pound crossover, acceleration is disappointing to say the least, with 0-60 MPH requiring a lengthy nine seconds to accomplish. And when you do need to ask for throttle when merging onto faster roads, the noise emitted is toxic, exacerbated by a continuously-variable transmission that holds the engine speed near redline for prolonged time. This kind of noise and behavior is not one reminiscent of a luxury product. Honestly, this is where fully-electric powertrains would be beneficial, because it'd be smoother, way more powerful, and you wouldn't have to hear that rattling racket anymore. But, then it'd cost even more...
The price becomes more challenging when you realize you can have a Toyota Venza Limited at the exact same price, which is pretty dang close to interior build quality, gets the same MPG, and is significantly larger inside everywhere as it's based on a Toyota RAV4 rather than a C-HR/Corolla. This kind of money also gets you into an okay Highlander Hybrid, even. You can sacrifice 5 MPG and have BMW's excellent X1, too, which drives soooo well and is also larger inside. The car is so cramped inside that it really does pose a legit concern for anyone spending over 40 grand on any vehicle. If it were cheaper, sure, it could make sense for those wanting a luxury compact car, but the price is a real head-scratcher. It's not like, "oh, at least it's fast or fun." No, for it's slow, expensive, and small. A trifecta of illness.
This UX still has the virus-like touchpad interface that is a curse of the automotive legendarium. It should soon be phased out for a modern and improved approach that's now available in the bigger NX, luckily, but for a car called the UX, the UX (user experience) is pretty awful. Programmers and digital architects ought to have been more mindful in a car that is literally named the User Experience 250h for those that work and live in a digital world, which is basically all of us now.
If this car cost $10,000 less, all would be forgiven. At that price, it would be basically a Toyota C-HR that's been hopped up to real luxury levels at a $7,000 price premium - an interesting niche. But no, you're paying almost $15,000 more here than for what the C-HR Limited, on which it's based, retails at - That is a cookie that's crumbled before even the first bite. What's more is that this UX 250h is just too dang small for the price, with storage and a back seat that are too compromised for everyday usability and utility. Toyota's own Venza is such a smarter choice, not to mention stepping up to an entry Lexus NX hybrid, which will still be a nice car in its own right. I like the idea of a compact luxury car because not everyone needs the space of something big, but it makes next to no sense at this price and with the lack of any other highlighted traits besides the gas mileage. If you're concerned about gas mileage and saving money there, just buy a cheaper car to begin with.
2022 Lexus UX 250h Luxury
Price as-tested $44,115
Pros: Great fuel economy
Cons: Cramped inside, woefully slow, it costs how much?
Verdict: It's too slow and cramped to justify the price
Toyota's own Venza, as mentioned, a hybrid that will average identical MPG, an upscale interior (for a Toyota) in Limited trim, and costs the same as this Lexus. Want something small, but actually fun? BMW's X1 might get a few MPG less, but it's leagues faster and sure to put a smile on your face in comparison. Likewise, save almost ten grand and bag a Mazda CX-30 Turbo Signature. It has a wonderful (and slightly bigger) interior, great performance, and drives neatly with real sporting edge. The upfront savings alone are big enough to justify 27 MPG overall verse 35.