Crossover & Midsize

Does the 2020 Lexus UX Even Count as a Subcompact Luxury SUV?

The 2020 Lexus UX is Lexus’s latest venture into the SUV market, and it comes in two major types. The UX 200 is unmistakably a Lexus but also doesn’t appear to have the same luxury feel like many of the other Lexus vehicles. It’s stylish, but it’s also apparent how Lexus got it out the door at an MSRP around $32,000. On the other hand, the hybrid version (the 250h) gets better fuel economy and all-wheel drive. Both options have more expensive trims available, of course. Reviews of the 2020 Lexus UX have been mostly positive, but consumers aren’t quite convinced.

Where the Lexus UX ranks

MotorTrend listed the Lexus UX at No. 3 on its list of Best Subcompact Luxury SUVs. They praised its “stylish interior,” “fuel-sipping hybrid version,” and “great value.” However, MT was less happy about its “underpowered, frustrating infotainment interface” and the fact that it felt “claustrophobic inside.” Although that last point is possibly a function of the vehicle’s design, it also points to what some see as a major flaw with the vehicle: it’s simply too small.

The Lexus UX is a “subcompact,” but compared to other vehicles in the class, it’s more of a “sub-subcompact.” The interior is beautiful and well-crafted, but it simply isn’t big enough to be comfortable. There doesn’t seem to be enough room for either people or cargo, the two major payloads in an SUV. Compared to the No. 1 option on the MotorTrend list, the 2020 Volvo XC40, the 2020 Lexus UX feels more like a roomy sedan.

The vehicle’s reception

However, the Lexus UX has graded out extremely well among reviewers, who don’t seem to mind its small frame. It topped the list of 2020’s most reliable luxury SUVs on the strength of its strong Consumer Reports numbers.

But it seems disingenuous to put the UX on a list alongside vehicles like the Lexus GX. The GX has its own set of issues, but it’s also capable of towing 6,500 pounds. Even the highest-end UX trims can’t manage a third of that. They both loosely fall into the “Luxury SUV” category, but they’re clearly different types.

And that’s the major issue with comparing the 2020 Lexus UX to other cars in its “class.” The reviews are great because they’re comparing it against issues SUVs face. Of course, it’s impressive that the 250h manages over 40 miles to the gallon. However, for a big sedan, it’s not tremendously impressive, especially because it’s a hybrid.

The bottom line on the 2020 Lexus UX

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None of this is to say that the Lexus UX is a bad car. It received rave reviews, and as consumers give it a try, it’s catching on. The hybrid option is eco-friendly and saves on fuel, and there are enough trim levels to satisfy everyone. Not to mention, the price is a major plus. But the body dimensions are nothing like other SUVs. If you’re looking to purchase an SUV, even a subcompact, take time to ensure that it’ll meet your standards. It’s easy to imagine a situation where the Lexus UX falls short.

One complaint MotorTrend did have about the hybrid version is that the extra electronics infringed on the already-precious cargo space. Combining that with the small amount of cargo room, it feels like the vehicle simply may not deliver.

But this is all known. It’s not an engine failure or tire issue that comes up after you buy, it’s part of car selection. The Lexus UX (either version) isn’t built to haul a lot, but if you’re OK with that it might be the perfect “SUV.”