Go to the Lexus website and you’ll see headings for each category of vehicle they sell. Sedans. Coupes. SUVs. Simple enough, right? Hover over “SUVs” and you’ll see what initially appears to be Lexus’ entry in the subcompact crossover segment, the 2022 Lexus UX 250h.
Subcompact crossovers have managed to become the New Hot Thing that everyone is allegedly buying and thus, everyone is building. Essentially hatchbacks with lift kits and (usually) all-wheel drive, this odd segment offers the notion of adventure for buyers who will never actually go any more off-road than a gravel parking lot.
As someone who cares about the driving experience over an easy-access H-point, I find this phenomenon very silly, doubly so given the proportions required for a tall-yet-compact vehicle make them all look a bit like cartoon shoes.
Thankfully, the Lexus UX 250h is not actually a crossover in any way.
What Is It?
This is a 2022 Lexus UX 250h, the hybrid model of the smallest Lexus with four doors and a hatch-ish body. Lexus calls the UX an SUV, but it is only slightly larger than Volkswagen’s very-much-a-hatchback GTI. The UX is nine inches longer, two inches wider, three inches taller, and offers 21.7 cubic feet of cargo space to the GTI’s 19.9 – all on a roughly-the-same 103 inch wheelbase.
Platform-wise, the 2022 Lexus UX 250h sits on Toyota’s GA-C platform, shared with other small vehicles like Corolla, Corolla Cross, and Prius.
Lexus sells the UX with front- or all-wheel drive, and with a choice of two engines. Your basic UX 200 has a 2.0 liter naturally-aspirated four-cylinder making 169 horsepower. Stepping up to the UX 250h adds an electric motor to the mix, pushing total power output to 181 horsepower.
Neither is any faster than the other, as the extra power of the hybrid system is offset by its extra 300 pounds of weight. Where the hybrid wins on paper is with its 41 MPG city fuel economy rating, a 12 MPG boost over the UX 200.
MSRP of the 2022 Lexus UX 250h starts at $36,425, and my loaded UX 250h Luxury added a heads-up display, auto-leveling LED headlights, and a heated steering wheel for a $43,625 sticker.
The 2022 Lexus UX 250h is Funky
When I think of “Lexus the brand” I don’t necessarily think of “funk” but more refinement and solitude. There are funky Lexuses – the IS 500, LF A, and LC F all come to mind – but most people are gonna imagine a silver ES 350 over anything.
The UX 250h is one of the funky ones. For one, Lexus sells it in colors. Real, bold colors. My test car was an amazing shade of blue called Grecian Water, and you can also choose a bright red, fiery orange, or deep olive green. The fun continues inside, with an optional two-tone blue and white interior and blue dashboard top. It’s very un-Lexus and I love it.
I also find it bold of Lexus to sell a hatchback when everyone else is throwing hockey pucks between their springs and unibodies to add ground clearance. You sit down in the UX 250h, and it feels a bit more chuckable and confident where taller vehicles may not as a result.
Despite the Funk, It’s Still a Lexus… Mostly
That refinement and solitude I mentioned earlier? It’s there, for the most part. The UX is very much a Lexus in its overall feel. Tactile elements are satisfying and solid. It’s quiet inside. The sound system, despite not having Mark Levinson badges stuck anywhere, is a bit mid-heavy but very good.
I was asked if I’d choose this over a Prius, and if I based the answer on refinement alone – yes, with a few caveats.
Though the 2022 Lexus UX 250h is plenty refined and generally pleasant, it’s happiest at city speeds, like any other small hybrid. That’s where you get the most benefit of the hybrid drivetrain, and it works well. It’s torquey away from stop lights and can run on the battery alone for brief bursts.
Merging and passing at highway speeds expose the UX 250h’s biggest flaw – a gasoline engine that is remarkably un-Lexus-y in its feel and sound. It drones on, the planetary CVT zoinking the revs into the engine’s power peak as the battery assist does what it can to mask the fact that each horsepower has to drag twenty pounds up to speed. There is one rate of acceleration, and it is only adequate until you need to hustle down a short merge lane or shoot any kind of a gap, at which point you’ll pat the blue-topped dash and utter a “come on, girl.”
Those almost-GTI dimensions indicate the rough shape of the UX, but Lexus has not used their interior space nearly as well as Ze Germans. The UX’s cabin is tight, with barely-enough headroom for tall folks and a “driver focused” center stack that intrudes on the driver’s right leg. If Lexus could find a few inches of interior space, the car would be more friendly for tall drivers, to say nothing of rear-seat passengers and any cargo.
I compared the 2022 Lexus UX 250h to a GTI for the sake of scale, not because Lexus makes any claims that their don’t-call-it-a-hatch is any fun. The UX 250h is in fact not much fun. It’s a city-sized car that is generally pretty nice, unobtrusive on the move, and easy to park. It looks better than anything else in the segment, because everyone else in the segment has given up on the idea of a luxury hatchback for something on stilts.
The UX is imperfect and frankly, not likely to win if cross-shopped against some of its competition. It needs to be a touch more refined and a touch bigger inside, without losing the little bits of charm and funk that make it “an interesting Lexus” instead of whatever Lexus you think of when you hear the word in passing.
Lexus will probably make the next UX taller and more shoe-shaped, and I genuinely hope they don’t. But the pendulum of automotive preferences has been swinging, and this kind of car can only exist for so long unless it is truly standout… and the current UX is not quite there.