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2021 Lexus UX: 5 things you need to know

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Luxury in a smaller vehicle has been an alluring combination for many who want something more than a Toyota RAV4 without sacrificing the size. The 2021 Lexus UX fits this bill and after a week of driving around in one, here are five things you need to know.

Before we begin, we should point out the Lexus UX is technically a subcompact, smaller than the NX and much smaller than the RX. It is offered in three trim levels (base, F-Sport and Luxury) with all trims using a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. There is a hybrid version, the 250h, which pairs the gas engine with a hybrid drive system making 181 total system horsepower.

It comes standard with an AWD system.

Just enough power in the 2021 Lexus UX

Let’s start first with the power delivery from the engine. It is, in a word, average. Nobody is going to write home and say this UX 250h is quick off the line, unless you tap into the drive modes offered in the F-Sport model. 

To be clear, it doesn’t languish, and no, you don’t feel the need to put your leg out the door to help push off a la Fred Flintstone style, rather, it is clear this isn’t a sports car.

One time during our week, we maxed out the subcompact with four people, their luggage in the trunk and on their laps. Under this load, the UX engine did an admirable job, but, again, it wasn’t amazing. And need we re-state: Luggage on laps?

Tight Interior

Speaking of interior space, there seems to be plenty at first glance, and the Lexus UX is for a single professional or a couple. However, this is a four-door vehicle, and space is an issue.

I found the rear cargo area was much more of a hatchback design with a high roof height when opened. Also, the second-row seats were tight, to put it gently, and ok for kids without car seats. 

From the driver’s position, the space isn’t much better, and it was not a roomy fit for my 5-foot, 7-inch frame. Not terrible by any means, but I definitely would have liked a bit more space.

Lexus UX

Infotainment software miss, design a hit

Lexus is rolling out a new infotainment system, and that’s a good thing. The Lexus infotainment system isn’t terrible, but it definitely is in need of an upgrade and the new system takes care of those concerns. 

While the software needs an update, the design of the 10.3-inch screen in our test model fits well into the dash and doesn’t feel like an afterthought as we’ve seen from some other automakers.

Styling is a win

At this point, you might be wondering what I did like about the Lexus UX. This is a weird one for me, but I like the styling. It stands out in a crowded field of look-alike designs. It also has sporty feel, and it’s one of those vehicles you’d want to take a closer look at if you saw it in a parking lot.

Every time I got in and out, I spent a few moments looking it over. While funky looking vehicles sometimes go too far trying to be different, this one still has Lexus luxury with a hip design.

One of the big things you’ll notice is the rear taillamps made up of 120 LEDs creating a distinctive nighttime signature on the vehicle. It is a cool design for sure.

My only issue is the door openings are a bit tight thanks to this design — so make sure you try getting in and out several times to see if that is an issue for you.

Build quality, materials

Without question, one of the biggest things to know about the 2021 Lexus UX is how solid it feels. This shouldn’t surprise the average Toyota/Lexus fan, but for someone shopping between different luxury brands, I believe this makes Lexus stand out. 

From the door gaps being uniform around the vehicle, the solid close from the doors, the attention to detail on the interior material choice as well as how the materials are fixed to the vehicle, this is a solid luxury subcompact.

The bottom line on the Lexus UX

While the Lexus UX clearly isn’t a vehicle meant for guys like me, it is a solid contender in the marketplace. I can see this vehicle doing well in a city or urban setting and being the right-size vehicle for small parking spots. 

Once it has the new infotainment system, more pep under the hood and a bit more room in the cabin, then I think Lexus will have a great offering. 

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Tim Esterdahl

Automotive Journalist Tim Esterdahl has been a lover of trucks and SUVs for years. He has covered the industry since 2011 and has pieces in many national magazines and newspapers. In his spare time, he is often found tinkering on his '62 C10 pickup, playing golf, going hunting and hanging out with his wife and kids in Nebraska.

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