DEMAND for cars using electric power in some form or another has grown sharply during the last couple of years with an array of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fully battery operated motors now available as more auto manufacturers jump on the bandwagon.
Lexus, and parent company Toyota, were among the first to champion this fuel-saving, environmentally friendly technology though, and the brand's newest model, the UX, is powered exclusively by the fourth generation version of it's self-charging, petrol-electric powertrain.
Combining a 2.0-litre engine with an electric motor - two on all-wheel drive versions - this bestows both decent performance and good fuel economy on the compact SUV, making it an intriguing alternative to the other premium fare in this hugely popular market.
The Japanese car is distinguished from its European rivals by typically Lexus style trappings including the large ‘spindle' grille; muscular, squared-off wheel arches; and an abundance of sharp angles and crisp crease lines.
Although a ‘compact' SUV, the expansive bonnet, wide stance and chunky rear end give the UX an imposing presence while the rising waistline and raked tailgate creates a sporty profile. This motor will certainly stand out on the executive car park.
Prices start from a snip under £30,000 for the basic UX model, with F-Sport and Takumi grades completing the range.
The self-charging hybrid powertrain uses regenerative braking to keep the battery topped up, so doesn't need plugging in, and, according to Lexus, can keep the UX running on electric power alone for up to 55 per cent of the time in city traffic.
The hybrid system switches imperceptibly between electric-only and hybrid power to maximise fuel efficiency, with the electric motor also providing an extra boost when sharp acceleration is called for.
With a total power output of 181bhp, it'll shift the car from 0-62mph in a none-too-shabby 8.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 110mph as well as providing plenty of mid-range punch for overtaking.
The continuously variable transmission used in the UX is much improved over previous iterations and offers smooth and linear power delivery without the intrusive roar of the engine revving out when you put your foot down.
Lightweight construction, a well balanced suspension and well-weighted steering make for some nimble and agile handling, with little body roll in corners, and, although not overtly sporty, make this a relaxed and enjoyable motor to drive on the open road.
All cars get alloy wheels, a navigation and multimedia system with digital radio, dual-zone air conditioning, heated front seats, reversing camera, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking and lane keep assist.
Our entry-level car was also kitted out with the Premium Plus and Tech & Sound packs, pushing the price up by £6,100 but adding such niceties as rear privacy glass, Mark Levinson audio system, head-up display, wireless phone charging, power-adjustable heated front seats and steering wheel and a powered tailgate.
The solid build quality and high-end materials we've come to expect of Lexus give the interior a suitably plush and upmarket feel, especially with the leather upholstery also included in the Premium Plus pack, and the overall feel is definitely one of quality and comfort.
The navigation and infotainment system is slightly hamstrung, though, by Lexus' persistence in using a laptop-style touchpad to control the functions. This is fiddly to use, especially on the move, and less intuitive than the rotary controllers or touchscreens of most rivals.
Practicality is not a strong point for the UX either. There's good space and adjustment to get comfortable in the front but rear head and legroom is merely average and storage cubbies are a little scant - with no door bins at all in the back.
The boot, at 320 litres, also offers no more room than many hatchbacks and, although it'll be okay for a weekly shop, loading up for a family holiday will be a challenge without a roof box.