The 2021 Lexus UX Hybrid Has Problems, but Its MPG Will Shock You

The 2021 Lexus UX Hybrid is far from perfect. In fact, it’s ranked last on the U.S. News list “Best Luxury Crossover SUVs for 2021.” The publication notes that features and performance issues prevent the luxury compact SUV from ranking higher.

However, the Lexus UX Hybrid (otherwise known as the UX 250h) is noteworthy for its astonishing gas mileage, making it a decent value pick.

The Lexus UX 250h at a glance

Before delving into the Lexus UX 250h’s ranking, let’s look at what you’d get if you shelled out the $35,100 starting MSRP. Available in Atomic Silver, Cadmium Orange, Caviar Mica, Eminent White Pearl, Nebula Gray Pearl, Nori Green, Obsidian, and Redline, the UX 250h resembles a hatchback — albeit a tiny one. In fact, it’s the smallest vehicle in Lexus’s 2021 line-up, Car and Driver reports. Regardless, it’s reasonably sporty for a luxury subcompact SUV.

A 2.0-liter inline-four engine propels the UX 250h’s 18-inch alloy wheels. The I-4, coupled with electric motors and a continuously variable transmission, produces 181 hp and can hit 60 mph in 8.1 seconds. And according to U.S. News, the AWD-only UX 250h boasts a spectacular fuel economy of 43 /41 mpg city/highway.

The Lexus UX 250h’s interior looks impressive. It seats five comfortably on synthetic leather upholstery. Higher trim levels treat you to heated and ventilated seats. You’ll find 22 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row. A 7.0-inch infotainment display comes standard, as do a six-speaker stereo, voice command, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and four USB ports. Dual-zone climate control is there, too, along with a host of safety features. They include automated emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance, and blind-spot monitoring.

Plus, the UX 250h earned a 5-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) named the 250h a Top Safety Pick, but only the models with optional triple-beam headlights with auto-leveling. The IIHS also gave the 250h the highest rating of G+ for its child safety anchors’ ease of use. 

Why the Lexus UX 250h falls short

RELATED: The 2021 Lexus UX Offers Something None of Its Rivals Can

To compete effectively in a crowded segment, a model’s features should impress. Luxury SUVs’ infotainment systems typically have at least 8.0-inch touchscreens, not 7.0-inchers. And unlike most screens in comparable vehicles, the Lexus UX Hybrid’s display uses a trackpad (not a touchscreen), which can be difficult to use while driving. You can, of course, upgrade to an 8.0-inch display (and up to 10.3 inches) on higher trims. But you shouldn’t have to.

Performance is also an issue. The UX 250h’s acceleration is slow, U.S. News, MotorTrend, and Car and Driver agree. And the engine is disappointingly noisy.

Finally, space is at a premium. The Lexus UX 250h offers only 22 cubic feet of cargo capacity, unlike the comparable Audi Q3 (23.7 cubic feet) and BMW X3 (27.1). And if you plan to fit three passengers in the back row, they should be children, not adults, because it’s a bit small.

Who should purchase the 250h?

To be clear, the Lexus UX 250h is a decent subcompact crossover. But issues with its size, features, and performance prevent it from matching its peers in the luxury SUV segment.

Take, for instance, the Audi Q3, which not only ranks third on U.S. News‘ “Best Luxury Crossover SUVs for 2021” but also tops the publication’s list of luxury subcompact SUVs. The Q3 has a good reliability rating, easy-to-use technology, and solid handling. Or take the BMW X3 — number two on the crossover SUV list and number one on U.S. News’ luxury compact SUV list. It offers impressive cargo space, intuitive tech features, and responsive handling, along with a powerful engine.

These vehicles, and several others that rank higher than the Lexus UX 250h, are more well-rounded and offer more luxury and performance for the starting price. However, the UX 250h still outclasses these and other SUVs in miles per gallon. Despite their superior performance in other areas, the Audi Q3 and the BMW X3 are EPA-rated for 23/29 mpg and 22/29 mpg city/highway, respectively.

So, if you’re looking to keep ownership costs low and aren’t too concerned with middling acceleration, relatively little cargo space, or an annoying trackpad, the Lexus UX 250h may be for you. Its otherworldly fuel economy is a strong draw.