By on February 27, 2018

Image: Lexus Europe

The only thing missing is a cabriolet. With the unveiling of its new UX subcompact (“urban compact crossover” in Lexus parlance), Toyota’s premium division now spans the utility segment gamut, with models ranging from ultra-small unibodies to full-size, body-on-frame luxo-barges.

Lexus’ European arm pulled the wraps off the UX on Tuesday, ahead of the global model’s world premiere in Geneva next week. In the model’s sights are a trio of pint-sized Germans and a singular Japanese foe, all competing for a slice of a segment with unclear growth prospects.

Bearing edgy sheetmetal not dissimilar to the compact NX and midsize RX crossovers, the UX adopts Lexus’ trademark spindle grille and grafts a pair of itty bitty tail fins onto its rear flanks. It’s expected to ride atop Toyota’s TNGA modular platform — the same one underpinning the Toyota C-HR. Thanks to this architecture, Lexus saw fit to boast about the UX’s “exceptional body rigidity” and “low centre of gravity,” which promises agile, car-like handling.

As small, car-based crossovers are absolutely nothing new, it’s hard to imagine there’s still people concerned about body-on-frame/live axle driving dynamics, but maybe urban, European customers really do lie awake at night worrying about this.

While we’ll see the UX on this side of the Atlantic, there’s a question mark hovering over the model’s powertrain. The European setup is expected to be a new 2.0-liter four-cylinder and electric motor combination, delivering greater gusto and economy than an existing small Toyota four-banger. Certainly, the lone naturally aspirated 2.0-liter in the C-HR doesn’t scream “premium.” For a vehicle of this price point (whatever it may be), buyers demand a reasonable measure of power and prestige.

We’ll learn more about this model on March 6th. In the meantime, there’s good reason to wonder whether Lexus’ entry into this segment will grow the market or just steal sales away from Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW, and Infiniti.

Sales of the Mercedes-Benz GLA in the U.S. peaked in 2015, its first full year on the market. Volume slid slightly the following year, and 2017 saw a further 1.8 percent drop. The Audi Q3, on sale since 2014, rose to a new U.S. sales high last year, but only topped 2016 by 2.9 percent. Infiniti’s QX30, which debuted in 2016, raked in 14,093 sales in its first full year on the market. That tally is significantly below its competition.

The BMW X1 remains top dog in the premium subcompact utility market, with sales rising 10.8 percent in 2017 to 30,826 units. These volumes, while far below those of compact or midsize crossovers, aren’t insignificant. In a mildly contracting new car market, having a higher-margin new vehicle to dangle in front of utility buyers is never a bad thing.

[Image: Lexus Europe]

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42 Comments on “With the UX, Lexus Now Has a Finger In Every Utility Vehicle Pie...”


  • avatar
    PartsUnknown

    I’m excited for the sport version. I think they’re going to call it the S-UX. Production limited to 6,000 examples though.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    You get a compact crossover. And you get a compact crossover. And you get a compact crossover too! Everyone gets a compact crossover!

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    The grille looks like the mouth on the alien from ‘Predator’.

    • 0 avatar
      Cactuar

      Yes predator-face is a common name for the “spindle grille”.

      Where are my triple plastic wheel arches? We only get double arches on the UX, boo. Give me arches like on the Knight XV and now we’re talking.

      https://www.conquestvehicles.com/gallery/full/airport/DSC3736.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      It works on some of their vehicles, notably the LC. That, or the LC’s mad sexy despite the grill. Take your pick.

  • avatar
    sckid213

    The styling here makes the UX look like an equal sibling to the C-HR, rather than an upmarket cousin. Something about Lexus’ styling doesn’t “look expensive” to me, and this wee thing the worst offender so far.

  • avatar
    romanjetfighter

    uses a lot of he same design elements from the toyota corolla. scion tC has a lot of similarities with lexus too. the individual elements.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    Lexus ugly now comes in all sizes: useless to jumbo.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      I don’t find them ugly in real life. The overwrought design works, and serves its purpose: Flaunting that you can build to precision and tolerance standards that allows for such unforgiving design elements. Trying to copy and knock those shapes off on a budget, without the whole thing coming off as nothing but an obvious mess, is not an easy task.

      • 0 avatar
        stingray65

        Interesting design strategy – “we make them ugly so you can see how well we build them”.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          Lexus is a premium brand. Honda and Toyota has built functionally perfect cars for decades now. By now, so can anyone else.

          To justify premiumness, you have to, at a minimum, be somewhat “different.” Whether everyone considers your “differentness” pretty or ugly, takes a distant second, to preventing any old copy shop in China from turning out visually identical copies of what you are trying to sell for a premium price.

          Over time, a look that is associated with quality, will come to be considered desirable. That’s how Mercedes did it back in the day. Not via the prettiest deign per se, but by backing up their particular look, with a reputation for excellence.

          But that was back when the entire auto industry was concentrated enough, that blatantly copying popular designs was a non starter. Now, that’s no longer the case. Especially in the markets where there still is healthy growth. Hence, focusing on designs that are difficult to copy, enables you to keep just that much more, of the exclusivity premium segment buyers are willing to pay up for.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        Yeah, poor Lexus and their tight budget. We should take up a collection so they can afford to not be hideous.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Lexus did a nice job keeping the interior of the NX truly premium. In terms of luxury it’s a head above the other entries in that class. I hope they do the same with the UX but I’m not holding my breath.

    In the powertrain department I’d expect we’ll see the same 2.0 and maybe a hybrid. Lexus isn’t afraid of being behind in powertrains.

    • 0 avatar
      Chocolatedeath

      I am going to have to disagree with you on the NX. I have read numerous sites that pointed out the “not so premium” interior of the NX.

    • 0 avatar
      ThomasSchiffer

      Interior quality and feel is always subjective. The Internet complains about the BMW 7er interior being ‘cheap’ compared to its rivals but it makes a very high quality impression on me. In this class of vehicle you won’t find a cheap interior, they are all good.

      • 0 avatar
        Chocolatedeath

        How is interior quality subjective when pretty much the Lexus NX has only a slightly better interior than a RAV4? Compared to its peers it has one of the worst Interiors not subjective but material wise included

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          If you say that the NX has only a slightly better interior than a RAV4 then I know for sure you have never sat in at least one of them. They are remarkably different.

  • avatar
    ExPatBrit

    Interested in the dimensions of this, want to downsize from our second gen Lexus RX and the current NX is still too large.

    If this is Mazda CX3 size could be worth a look.

    • 0 avatar
      Carfan94

      You have a 2nd Gen RX, and you think the NX is too big? I have a 2007 RX, And I don’t understand why anyone would want anything smaller than an NX. The NX feels quite snug to me. My next Lexus is definitely going to be either RX or GX, or maybe even GS. But that’s a long way off, definitely can’t afford anything right now. 6 cylinders or larger is a requirement for me though.

  • avatar
    MLS

    “Toyota’s premium division now spans the utility segment gamut, with models ranging from ultra-small unibodies to full-size, body-on-frame luxo-barges.”

    The stretched RXL is a compromise. Third row is extremely tight.

    “Lexus’ European arm”

    Ha!

    In short, this thing is disgusting, but the class as a whole is rather unappealing. Q3 looks decent but is outdated and overpriced. GLA is an affront to good taste and an embarrassment for the brand. Don’t see point of QX30. Gun to my head, I’d have to choose X1.

    • 0 avatar
      Carfan94

      The RXL is such an epic fail, I don’t know how they were about green light it. It is obvious the 4RX was not designed from the outset with a 3rd row. It is definitely a shoehorn in, 2 years late, rushed into production. The Highlander has more third-row space despite the same wheelbase. I’m very curious to see how well it sells vs the competition.

  • avatar
    Carfan94

    The UX doesn’t look that bad, There are more pictures on other websites. It has a full-width taillight tube and small tailfins. The interior looks much nicer than others in this class. I’m very curious to see what the standard grille looks like, I usually prefer them over the mesh sports grilles.

  • avatar
    KalapanaBlack7G

    The wheelwells and front bumper stand out to me as particularly ugly. The rest is a featureless blob.

    The grille isn’t even the worst part of the bumper. Like the RX, it’s the droopy, melting openings on either side that house the awkwardly low fog lights. Just looks like blank space that they used obviously cheap plastic filler in, but that also obviously doesn’t need to exist.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    UX = Ugly eXperiment.

    In other news, BMW files a lawsuit in California accusing Toyota of appropriating their “we fill niches that don’t exist with SUVs that you can’t distinguish from one another” marketing scheme.

  • avatar
    brn

    Spin all four wheels on a hatchback and you get to call it a CUV/SUV. I’m a little depressed.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Lexus – from anonymously boring to hideously ugly in a few short years. Bravo.

  • avatar
    ernest

    I’m convinced of one thing after seeing this. If Mercedes fielded a carbon copy of the AMC Gremlin, Lexus would feel forced to field a competitor.

    This thing is fugly… but a GLA isn’t exactly a beauty queen either.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    Cant believe that only give you 4 minutes to edit now…geez

  • avatar
    Pete Zaitcev

    I’m interested in something like this, but I need a certain off-road capability. Both Tata/Rover RR Evoque and Geely/Volvo XC40 appear to deliver in that department at least somewhat (Evoque above 1:16 ratio and 8 inch clearance, XC40 close to 1:16.8 when I assumes 3.20 final drive of X1 and a similar clearance). The UX seems to be significantly lucking in this department, at least in pictures.

  • avatar
    ThomasSchiffer

    In this class I think the Audi Q3 looks best. But then again I am somewhat biased towards Audi.

  • avatar
    carsofchaos

    Did you really say “A finger in every pie”?


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