Subcompact crossovers continue to gain popularity in both the mainstream and luxury segments. Several automakers now include these in their lineup as the new point of entry. The 2022 Lexus UX 250h serves as the gateway to the brand’s two lineups: SUVs and electrified vehicles. At the moment, it remains the only hybrid in its segment. Its closest competitor, the Alfa Romeo Tonale PHEV, arrives next year. With that said, let’s take a look and see if this pint-sized crossover brings a strong argument to the table.
Hatchback in Disguise
As the smallest utility vehicle in Lexus’ lineup, the UX looks like a hatchback with body cladding. That’s because it’s exactly that. Versus other subcompact SUVs, you need to duck down to get in and its exterior dimensions nearly mirror that of hatchback versions of the Mazda3 and Subaru Impreza. You get Lexus’ trademark spindle grille in front and unique full-width LED taillights with integrated mini tailfins. The 2022 Lexus UX 250h essentially keeps most of the design cues from the concept car that inspired it just toned down for production. For 2023, the car gets a refresh but you need a magnifying glass to see the tweaks since they’re so subtle.
Inside, you find typical Lexus build quality, featuring fantastic materials and excellent fit and finish. Unique materials like dash trim made to mimic Japanese washi paper pay homage to the brand’s roots. Everything you interact with feels like it belongs in a vehicle wearing a luxury badge. The UX also distinguishes itself by forgoing leather for an animal-free alternative that feels soft and premium.
The UX falls short in usable interior volume due to its snug cabin. Front seat passengers will find accommodations intimate but comfortable thanks to the supportive seats. Rear seat passengers, on the other hand, don’t have much head- and legroom. You also get limited cargo capacity with all seats up due to the car’s shape and the nickel-metal-hydride battery taking up most of the space. Additionally, extra sound insulation would help keep noise levels down, especially at highway speeds.
Lots of Tech Features Standard
The 2022 UX retains the older Lexus infotainment system featuring a 10.3-inch screen controlled via a touchpad. Despite the logical menus, the inconsistent sensitivity levels from the controller make the interface distracting to use. Couple that with slow response times and you get a multimedia experience that leaves a lot to be desired. The available eight-speaker audio system, on the other hand, offers a surprising level of clarity. However, the Mark Levinson unit offered in other global markets and larger Lexus models offer a superior listening experience. Fortunately, Lexus added its new UI for the 2023 UX, simplifying the overall experience.
Every UX 250h gets the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 driver assistance suite. Although it’s an older unit, it operates seamlessly and doesn’t get overly intrusive when re-centering the vehicle. Adaptive cruise control’s distancing component operates more conservatively, leaving a lot of room between you and the vehicle ahead. Thankfully, it reacts quickly and slows the vehicle down smoothly when someone cuts you off. Additional functions include helping you navigate gentle turns on the highway with adaptive cruise control and lane centering active. Rear automatic emergency braking is bundled together with parking sensors as a standalone option.
2022 Lexus UX 250h: Ready for the Urban Jungle
It’s best to experience the UX 250h in the urban environment where its tidy dimensions highlight its maneuverability. Darting through tight spaces becomes a cinch thanks to the car’s tight turning circle and quick, responsive steering. Couple that with good handling and you get a vehicle that’s easy to drive and inspires confidence on the road. You don’t sacrifice comfort for agility either. The UX manages to remain cushy over poorly maintained roads and it helps that every version gets chunky tires with thick sidewalls.
Power comes from a 2.0-liter I-4 coupled to two electric drive motors, a battery, and a planetary gear set. With 181 hp combined, the UX 250h possesses respectable power but its 3,605-pound curb weight keeps it from feeling zippy. That amount of power barely feels adequate, meaning you need to plan your passes maneuvers and keep your pace steady going up inclines. EPA-rated at 41/38/39 mpg city/highway combined, the UX’s efficiency trails some Lexus models like the NX 350h and ES 300h. During my week with it, I managed to beat the official ratings, averaging 46 mpg combined. Sadly, the tiny 10.6-gallon fuel tank limits the overall driving range despite its efficiency.
Like other FWD-based Toyota and Lexus hybrids, the UX 250h uses an e-AWD system with a second electric motor mounted on the rear axle. However, this one uses a tiny 7-hp unit that only operates up to 43 mph. That means it feels like a front-drive vehicle 99 percent of the time. Luckily, it’s free of torque steer when accelerating and you get additional energy recuperation when slowing down. The brake pedal operation highlights the UX’s age since it’s obvious where the handoffs from regenerative to mechanical braking happen. At least it’s smooth and won’t jolt you when you need to stop suddenly.
2022 Lexus UX 250h: Wait for the 2023 Model?
Lexus targeted a specific audience with the UX and those consumers will likely be satisfied with this vehicle. Although it’s more European and Japan-focused, this little crossover fits the bill as a new entry point to Toyota’s luxury division. Like many entries in the subcompact SUV segment, the UX has a lot of roof for improvement, especially if it wants to appeal to a broader audience in the North American market beyond urbanites. Lexus already has the components in place and has the know-how to create a better successor. The 2023 model year refresh improves the quality of life with the new infotainment system and upgraded driver assistance features.
Price stands out as the biggest knock on the 2022 Lexus UX 250h. Starting at $36,425, it isn’t cheap, and this particular Luxury trim test car checked in at $44,615. That’s in the same ballpark as some larger compact SUVs. Whether that’s worth it to you depends on your living situation and whether you care about that desirable badge or not. However, if you simply need a small vehicle with upscale appointments and generous cargo space, you have plenty of options at the same price point as this little Lexus.