2021 Lexus UX 200: little SUV big on value

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Unveiled at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show, the Lexus UX 200 is the upscale Toyota brand’s newest sport utility vehicle. It’s a subcompact crossover smaller than its NX sibling. The 2021 edition receives a few minor upgrades and tweaks.

Small even by sub-compact SUV standards, the Lexus UX 200 is available in Base, Luxury and F-Sport trims. It has a close relative in the UX 250 hybrid.

The 2021 Lexus UX 200 is sluggish but it's also worthy value with its superior features for a sub-compact crossover SUV.
The 2021 Lexus UX 200 is sluggish but it’s also worthy value with its superior features for a sub-compact crossover SUV. All images © Gretchen Gaither

All variants are powered by a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine with 169 horsepower. And all offerings are front-wheel-drive and directed by a continuously variable automatic transmission.

The reviewed F-Sport trim features the healthy list of standard equipment from the Base model. It spices things up with performance and interior upgrades. A sport-tuned suspension, 18-inch wheels, LED fog lights, an augmented engine sound generator and steering wheel-mounted paddles provide the spunk.

The F-Sport edition also has a premium fuel recommendation and is rated at 29 miles per gallon in city driving, 37 mpg on the highway.

Sport front seats and a digital gauge cluster also part of the trim and add to the F-Sport’s fun, albeit frustrating experience.

The 2021 Lexus UX 200 has the carmaker's signature "pouting fish" grille.
The 2021 Lexus UX 200 has the carmaker’s signature “pouting fish” grille.

For a Lexus, the UX 200 is oddly sluggish. It accelerates from 0-60 miles per hour in 8.9 seconds. Driving the SUV on steady climbs reveals the little machine’s limitations. It struggles to achieve the speed limit and it does so noisily.

Still, the vehicle offers an appealing ride. The UX (Urban Explorer) combines a peppy personality with astute, precise steering. It feels bigger than its profile. It’s athletic, cornering around mountain roads and maneuvering through traffic at ease, as long as any sudden performance needs aren’t required.

2021 Lexus UX 200: Plenty Of Standard Features

The vehicle’s standard features list is equally impressive, beginning with the Base trim. It includes: LED headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 7-inch infotainment display, simulated leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility, a six-speaker audio system and a Wi-Fi hotspot.

For safety, the collection of standard offerings is also robust: Blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keep assist and forward collision mitigation.

Lower-level trims also offer worthy options. The Premium Package features a sunroof, automatic wipers, hands-free liftgate, upgraded headlights and parking sensors with automatic braking.

The 2021 Lexus UX 200 has a big presence for a sub-compact SUV.
The 2021 Lexus UX 200 has a big presence for a sub-compact SUV.

Further niceties: a 10.3-inch infotainment display with navigation, an eight-speaker sound system, wireless smartphone charging and heated and ventilated front seats and steering wheel.

Lexus is renowned for its strong interiors. Material quality is superior and the configuration of the comfortable seating as well as the floor and ceiling layouts give the Lexus UX 200 a bigger presence. Overall, it’s handsome and diminutive. Its dimensions are 14 feet, 9 inches long, 6 feet wide and 5 feet and 1 inch tall.

Like many carmakers, Lexus stretches reality. It lists the UX 200 as a five-passenger vehicle. It’s best suited for four occupants. The back cargo area is small but easily accessible and without restricted areas.

Lexus also continues to feature oversized grilles. The UX 200’s small stature is great for parking and other small-space predicaments. But its exterior design is rich with sharp angles, making it appropriate, with its gargantuan front, for a role in the Mad Max movie series.

Competition is healthy in the sub-compact SUV class. Consider the group and respective starting 2021 model prices: Volvo XC40 ($34,695), BMW X1 ($36,395), Mercedes-Benz GLA-class ($37,045), BMW X2 ($37,945) and Mercedes-Benz GLB-class ($39,045). The Lexus UX 200 begins at $33,925, the least expensive of the leading group. The F-Sport pushes the starting price to $34,900.

The 2021 Lexus UX 200 holds its own against rivals, unless performance is a priority. Then the other brands are worth their respective higher prices.

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