Photos: Lexus, Derryn Wong
– Lexus has its first small SUV, and it’s due in Singapore in early 2019 at the Motorshow.
– 2.0 and 2.0 hybrid for Singapore in Executive and Luxury variants.
– Aims to be very competitive with German luxury small SUVs like the BMW X1
– Interesting mix of ‘classic’ and new Lexus tech
– Stay tuned for CarBuyer’s review on September 12!
1. Here are some details on Singapore-spec cars already confirmed
There are two engine types for the UX: The UX 200 with a 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated gasoline model with 171hp, and a UX 250h hybrid (below) with 178hp from the same 2.0 engine with a hybrid system.
Both are front-wheel drive, although all-wheel drive hybrid models are available overseas.
Globally there are three variants of each, Executive, Luxury and F Sport, though the latter will not be sold in Singapore.
Executive and Luxury variants of the UX 200 and UX 250h make for four models in total for us.
While equipment levels will only be finalised closer to the UX’s scheduled January 2019 debut date, there is some initial information for Singapore’s cars.
Standard on all models are 18-inch wheels, a 10.3-inch infotainment display system with eight-speaker hifi sound, Lexus Safety System+ with Pre-Collision Detection, Dynamic Cruise Control, Lane departure warning, blind spot monitors. Eight airbags are also standard.
Luxury trim will add real leather upholstery and seat ventilation, adaptive suspension control (AVS), panoramic view monitor.
|Lexus UX 200||Lexus UX 250h|
|Engine||1,987cc inline 4||1,987cc inline 4, with hybrid system|
|Power||171hp at 6,600rpm||System total 178hp|
|Torque||205Nm at 4,800rpm||Not stated|
|0-100km/h||9.2 seconds||8.5 seconds|
|Fuel Efficiency *||5.6-5.8||4.1-4.3L/100km|
* Target estimate figures
2.The first small SUV from Lexus is the spearhead of a bigger assault
While it might look a lot like the current Lexus SUVs, the big RX and smaller NX, the UX isn’t a replacement or alternative to either: It’s actually a small crossover/SUV that’s aimed squarely at the likes of the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and X2, as well as the Mercedes-Benz GLA.
That’s a big move from Lexus, and it’s against the backdrop of a sea change for the brand in the past decade: It’s introduced radical new designs (see RX and NX), new models including the LC grand touring coupe, a very different LS flagship sedan, plus the F series of high-performance models.
The UX enters an extremely hard fought market segment: Luxury compact crossovers/SUVs. Currently there are at least seven direct competitor models in Singapore alone: the BMW X1, BMW X2, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Audi Q2 and Q3, Jaguar E-Pace, Volvo XC40, and more on the horizon such as the Infiniti QX30.
Like its competitors, the UX is aimed at a younger demographic, which includes upgraders and buyers from other luxury brands.
Chika Kako, executive vice president of Lexus International and chief engineer of the UX, says: “We designed the UX to appeal to young buyers who seek not only what is new and exciting, but what is also relevant to their lifestyles.”
At 4.5-metres long – roughly the same as its competition – the UX isn’t large, but what the brand intends for the model certainly is.
According to Lexus, up to 33 percent of luxury SUV sales in Asia will come from small or compact SUVs alone, and the UX itself is expected to make up nearly a quarter of the brand’s sales in Asia Pacific in the next two to three years.
David Nordstrom, the vice-president of Lexus Asia-Pacific, says, “The UX will become one of our core models, and we see great opportunity for the luxury SUV market in Asia.”
3. It’s one of the most directly-competitive Lexus model to date
In the past, when queried on the subject of the competition, Lexus engineers and management have historically remained coy, sometimes insisting the machines do not have direction competition.
The cars themselves have always been uniquely Lexus in approach – for example large-displacement engines, hybrid systems, a different set of compromises, in comparison to the turbo-powered, platform-shared German rivals, all of which are closely benchmarked to one another.
With the UX, the development team were very direct in its benchmarking of the above-mentioned competitors.
Chika Kako, the chief engineer of the Lexus UX, and Executive vice-president for Lexus International, said that list also included the previous BMW X1, at the time the UX was first planned and confirmed.
The result is that the UX has more power, and performance, than we’d expect from a compact Lexus – keep in mind the other small Lexus, the CT200h, has a mere 134hp.
The UX 200, powered by a 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated engine, has 171hp, while the UX 250h hybrid, also with a 2.0-litre engine, has 178hp of total system power.
To compare, the BMW X1 sDrive20i has 192hp, while Audi’s Q3 2.0 TFSI has 170hp, and the Mercedes-Benz GLA 200 has 156hp, with the GLA 250 packing 211hp.
Arguably the UX’s closest competitor is the BMW X2 – like that car, the UX isn’t as tall as a regular crossover, and aims to blend a more coupe-like design and ergonomics into the experience.
Also, while Lexus choosing a 2.0-litre engine means no Cat A UX will be on sale in Singapore, this is less important in an era of less expensive COEs, and closer Cat A and Cat B prices.
Sizing Up The UX
|Lexus UX 200||BMW X1 sDrive20i||BMW X2 sDrive20i|
|Kerb Weight||1,512kg (average)||1,485kg / 1,560kg||1,460kg/1,535kg|
We’ve reviewed almost all of the UX’s closet competitors on CarBuyer.com.sg, read the reviews here:
4. It’s a mix of new and established Lexus tech
What clued us into the UX and its competitive nature is the technology onboard too, with a mix of ‘classic’ Lexus tech and things we haven’t seen before.
The 2.0-litre direct-injection engine, M20A-FKS (above), isn’t related to the one seen in the Toyota RAV4 for example, but a totally new unit closely related to the new V6 family found in the LS flagship.
With a thermal efficiency of more than 40 percent, it’s one of the most efficient gasoline combustion engines in the world. The same 2.0 is found in the hybrid model, although it operates on an Atkinson cycle with some minor mechanical changes.
Ms Chika Kako, chief engineer of the UX, and executive VP of Lexus International
The gearbox on the UX 200 is, as you guessed, a CVT, but it’s also new Direct Shift CVT. It combines a torque converter and automatic-style first gear, used for starting and acceleration, to deliver a more direct feeling while still retaining CVT benefits of high speed and low weight.
Also rather uncharacteristically, Lexus opted to employ weight-reduction measures (ala Audi ultra) with aluminium bonnet, doors and front wings, plus a unique resin member for the rear hatch.
5. It has a surprising, close relative…
Like some Lexus models before it, the UX has a closely-related Toyota brother. In this case, it’s the Toyota C-HR compact crossover. Both have similar starting points – Lexus GA-C (Global Architecture – Compact) has its roots in the Toyota New Generation Architecture, though the latter is more of a method rather than a physical platform.
Does that mean the UX and C-HR have a relationship akin to that of the second-generation RX and contemporaneous Toyota Harrier (aka slap a Lexus badge on it and call it a Lexus) of the early 2000s?
No, because the two cars look totally different, and besides all the Lexus bits, there’s also a considerable difference in the use of weight-saving (see above) and construction methods, as the UX employs laser-screw welding and structural adhesives for improved rigidity, performance, and refinement.