CALL it kerb appeal, eye-gloss or plain showroom dazzle. Whatever term you use, style and image are big players when it comes to deciding which car to buy.
Which is why the recently introduced Lexus UX is hitting the target big style. Its racy looks and angularly distinctive lines are making an impact on today's choosy crossover buyers.
The big, deep grille flanked by vertical brake duct intakes on either side and its razor sharp lines demand to be noticed. It's also lower than most rivals emphasising its squat, sporty look.
For many the fact that the UX has a small boot, relatively cramped rear seat legroom and carries a £30,000-plus price tag is of less significance than its upmarket image, refined nature and beautifully finished cabin.
Less immediately obvious, but a big factor in the ownership stakes is that the UX with its lower than average centre of gravity and purposeful stance is a really good drive. Punchier than most compact SUVs, it also has direct and communicative steering that feeds back strongly from the road below.
I was at the wheel of the 250h F Sport version, the most sporty model with plenty of tech and goodies such as dual zone climate control, heated steering wheel and front seats, hill assist control and reversing cameras.
In keeping with its futuristic looks, it is powered by a hybrid petrol 2.0-litre engine coupled to an automatic electric CVT gearbox. With emissions of below 100g/km it has a low tax rating and decent economy of 49.5mpg combined according to official figures. Our own test resulted in just over 40mpg.
The UX treads a delicate but appealing path between easy-driving and sportiness in that it is undemanding of the driver yet progress is swift with little drama and even less mechanical commotion. An acoustic glazed windscreen plays its part in reducing noise as does the harmonious four-cylinder engine.
With a 0-62mph dash of under nine seconds it's a bit more nimble than most. This quality is further underlined by the swift throttle response and the steering wheel paddle change which reduces the tendency of the CVT gearbox to race unnecessarily.
Well damped suspension means little cornering roll, yet there's no adverse effect on ride comfort which is cushioning and comfortable.
Even those owners used to the fine finish of Audi and BMW would be happy with the quality of the Lexus cabin. They may, however, quibble at the small 335 litre boot and the infotainment system which is less than intuitive and can be tricky to use, particularly on the move.
Another possible shortcoming is the lack of stowage space within the smart cabin. Although there's a deep centrally positioned bin, the front door pockets are narrow and there is just a single pocket for rear seat passengers to use in the backrest of the front passenger seat.