2020 Lexus UX250h Review - A Surprising User Experience

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
Fast Facts

2020 Lexus UX 250h

2.0-liter DOHC four with two-motor hybrid system (181 total system horsepower)
Continuously-variable transmission, all-wheel drive
41 city / 38 highway / 39 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
41.7 (observed mileage, MPG)
5.7 city / 6.2 highway / 6.0 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price: $40,575 US / $42,226 CAN
As Tested: $43,625 US / $47,526 CAN
Prices include $1595 destination charge in the United States and $2,226 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.

The study of user experience, often shortened to UX (since everything needs to fit in a neat 140-character limit), looks at how humans interact with a particular system. Often applied to computers, cell phones, and the like, UX looks at usability, ergonomics, and human feelings as they pertain to whatever system is being studied.

Lexus has a different definition for UX. The brand’s UX is this 2020 Lexus UX 250h, an “Urban Crossover.” While budget constraints have affected city infrastructure maintenance nationwide, leaving many roads a pockmarked hellscape, I’m not completely certain I buy the crossover story. So I grabbed the keyfob, prepared to thrash this pretender in the old TTAC tradition.

I’m not completely sold on the styling. To be fair, there are only so many ways one can style this jacked hatch type of vehicle without the result looking like some overwrought L.A. Gear hightop sneaker from the late Eighties. Lexus’ signature hourglass grille isn’t as offensive here as in other models – it’s proportionate and almost understated.

[Get a price quote on the Lexus UX here!]

The wheel arches, however, bother me. See the above profile view. The aperture of the fender and the black plastic cladding both make the opening look asymmetrical. To my eyes, the arches are rounded toward the front of the car, and more squared toward the rear. It’s a weird effect I can’t help but notice.

Out back, however, is a delightful touch. Tail fins!

Well, no, not really tail fins, but a tiny raised surface on each tail lamp stands proud, reminding me of the toned-down fins that appeared on American cars in the mid-Sixties. It’s a lovely detail.

This paint. Swoon. Lexus calls it Nori Green Pearl, and I was underwhelmed when I first saw it under overcast skies, sitting beneath my pear tree. Once some light falls on it, however, the colors start to dance. I’m not good enough with the camera to properly do this color justice – try and spot one on the road or at a dealer and you’ll see what I mean. And, unlike special hues found on many, many other cars, it’s not an extra cost option.

The interior further surprised me. It’s not as cramped as I’d expected from the subcompact classification. Indeed, my family of four journeyed to a new hiking spot a few hours away and emerged with absolutely no discomfort or complaints from the increasingly whiny tweens. One note – real leather seats are not available. The NuLuxe material, however, felt as good as a real hide.

One point of user experience that seems to elicit complaints across the Lexus lineup comes from the infotainment control. No matter the car, the touchpad is always a bit too sensitive. Here, Lexus changes up the primary control buttons that sit just aft of the offending pad, giving tuning knobs for volume and, well, tuning, and a couple of hotkeys to toggle between radio and media. I suppose with plenty of driving time, these controls will become familiar, but I often found myself looking down to change various functions rather than keeping my eyes on the glass. I’d like to see Lexus completely reevaluate the UX here across the line – not just on the UX.

Cargo space isn’t massive at 17.1 cubic feet (down from 21.7 on the non-hybrid, front-drive UX 200), but it’s workable for the target market. As you’ll see, we managed a warehouse club run without problem, and without folding the seatback. Okay, well, maybe I fibbed – the hatch wouldn’t close as you see it here. Had I done a better job of arranging things I’m sure I’d have been fine. That massive barrel of cheese balls was fouling the hatch opening, so I tossed it in the back seat. I need to get better at grocery Tetris.

Now, for what everyone looks for in a hybrid subcompact crossover: a stellar driving experience. Well, I took FTD at a local autocross. . . no, I can’t get through that with a straight face, either. But my goodness the UX 250h drives better than it really should. Steering is quick and direct without being darty, and is nicely weighted, too. A curb weight of 3,605 pounds means the 181 horses aren’t setting the tires ablaze, but the response from the engine and pair of electric motors is quite good when getting away from a light or hustling through the twisties.

No, I’m not joking about that one – that hiking trip took us through some of southeastern Ohio’s best two-lanes, and the UX felt right at home. We ended up continuing down a poorly maintained, potholed one-lane gravel road to get to our trailhead, and despite some nasty rocks loudly pounding the undercarriage when I overcooked a few turns, the wee hatchback managed nicely.

I never expected to like this 2020 Lexus UX250h. From the outside, it’s a cynical take on the crossover genre with some divisive styling touches. Behind the wheel, however, it’s surprising in a good way. It’s not the right car for my family, but it very well may be perfect for you.

[Images: © 2020 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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4 of 24 comments
  • BrentinWA BrentinWA on Jun 24, 2020

    $43,000... no cowhide, no adaptive cruse and no rain sense wipers. Luxury? Hardly.

    • See 1 previous
    • RedRocket RedRocket on Jun 28, 2020

      Man, if Cadillac rolled out something like this the commentariat and editors would be singing a very different tune.

  • Lightspeed Lightspeed on Jun 25, 2020

    I've not driven the UX, but have driven a number of its NX cousins. I find that vehicle, cramped, stiff-riding and with the worst-sounding engine I've yet heard. I guess selling these allows Lexus to build better quality into their bigger cars, but overall, Lexus seems to be seeking opportunities to cheapen their brand.

  • Daniel J Until we get a significant charging infrastructure and change times get under 10 minutes, yes
  • Mike I own 2 gm 6.2 vehicles. They are great. I do buy alot of gas. However, I would not want the same vehicles if they were v6's. Jusy my opinion. I believe that manufacturers need to offer engine options for the customer. The market will speak on what the consumer wants.For example, I dont see the issue with offering a silverado with 4cyl , 6 cyl, 5.3 v8, 6.2 v8, diesel options. The manufacturer will charge accordingly.
  • Mike What percentage of people who buy plug in hybrids stop charging them daily after a few months? Also, what portion of the phev sales are due to the fact that the incentives made them a cheaper lease than the gas only model? (Im thinking of the wrangler 4xe). I wish there was a way to dig into the numbers deeper.
  • CEastwood If it wasn't for the senior property tax freeze in NJ I might complain about this raising my property taxes since most of that tax goes to the schools . I'm not totally against EVs , but since I don't drive huge miles and like to maintain my own vehicles they are not practical especially since I keep a new vehicle long term and nobody has of yet run into the cost of replacing the battery on an EV .
  • Aquaticko Problem with PHEV is that, like EVs, they still require a behavioral change over ICE/HEV cars to be worth their expense and abate emissions (whichever is your goal). Studies in the past have shown that a lot of PHEV drivers don't regularly plug-in, meaning they're just less-efficient HEVs.I'm left to wonder how big a battery a regular HEV could have without needing to be a PHEV.