By Mike Torpey on 2020-01-19 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
Lexus UX 250h
THE car of choice for growing families has undergone a step change in recent years.
Merely seeking out a hatchback offering decent value for money is no longer good enough.
These days it more often than not needs to be something with the flexibility of an SUV but also as nimble and manoeuvrable to drive around town as a hatchback.
You can add some eye-catching design and premium quality to the equation too, which sets things up nicely for the latest addition to the Lexus line-up - the UX.
The luxury division of Toyota sees the UX as a 'gateway' model, designed for the modern 'urban explorer' - many of whom will not only be experiencing their first Lexus, but also their first luxury vehicle.
The plan is for it to play a key role, alongside the established Lexus CT hatchback, in helping the Japanese brand achieve its target of 100,000 annual sales in Europe by next year.
In the UK, the UX is offered exclusively as a self-charging hybrid and powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine mated to an electric motor and with a continuously variable (CVT) transmission.
Boasting a total power output of 181bhp the UX can accelerate from 0-62 in 8.5 seconds and on to a potential 110mph - so for a compact SUV the UX's performance is competitive.
More impressive is the car's fuel economy, our front-wheel drive variant returning 54 miles per gallon over 180 miles of principally city and suburban driving compared to the official 68.9mpg. CO2 emissions are also low at 95g/km.
Attractive figures of course, however buyers are going to expect appreciably more from a car that may start at £29,905 but at the top end of the scale can set them back more than £41,000.
This they get in spades from the UX.
For instance the cabin has been designed to feel more like a luxury saloon, though with SUV versatility and higher seating position.
And the materials, particularly the finish of the perforated leather seats, are of premium quality, as well as being eight-way power adjustable.
Lexus says the springs and foam in the cushions are specially designed to gently envelop the occupant and disperse pressure under the sciatic area - so there's a boon for back or leg pain sufferers.
Then there's the sound of the doors closing - and an example of the Lexus attention to detail.
The company's acoustic engineers apparently worked with neural scientists to create the ideal door-closing sound.
Using research into the brain waves created when a luxury car door shuts, the team chose specific materials and adjusted the shape of the door by tenths of a millimetre to produce the perfect tone.
Otherwise the cabin is upmarket and spacious with decent legroom for three in the back whilethe boot is split level and has compartments.
Our only gripe concerned climbing in and out of the front seats - do it too quickly and you can catch your knee on the corner of the dash.
Lexus UX 250h
Mechanical: 181bhp, 1,987cc, 4-cyl petrol engine and electric motor driving rear wheels via CVT transmission
Max Speed: 110mph
0-62mph: 8.5 seconds
Combined MPG: 68.9
Insurance Group: 22 (1-50)
C02 emissions: 95g/km
Bik rating: 23%
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles, 3yrs paint, 12yrs anti-rust
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