Behind the Wheel: 2021 Lexus UX250h

My wife recently got a company car, but there wasn’t much to choose from (like, literally just 2 cars – one of which wouldn’t fit in our garage) and so we ended up with this Lexus, and I have to say… I kind of hate it.

Given that it’s just for her to drive to and from work, it’s not that bad, but I’m glad that we won’t be using it for anything else.

To start with, it’s a hybrid, which is a bit of an odd choice in this day and age – hybrids really don’t make much sense anymore; either go full electric or just use a 2 L gasoline turbo like everyone else.

Granted, the hybrid powertrain does get you an impressive (for its size) fuel economy – my wife is averaging about 40 MPG, whereas her previous 2019 Kia Soul (with a 2 L non-turbo engine) was averaging no more than 30. But with only a 10 gallon tank, the range is pretty much the same as any normal gasoline-only vehicle of similar size, so aside from spending less on fuel, it’s not really noteworthy.

It does have a very comfortable ride – even more so than my Mercedes. The suspension really just soaks up even the worst bumps, which makes it feel like you’re just floating along.

Of course, the flip side of a comfortable, floaty ride is that the handling is equally floaty. Driving it reminds me of the big old American “boats” of the 70s in the way it feels, especially when it leans into a corner. A corner-carver this thing is not.

It’s also SLOW. You really have to mash your foot down to get it to move, and just in general responsiveness it feels heavier than it really is.

When it comes to the interior, it fails in basically every way.

  • The interior materials look premium but are quite cheap and plasticy-feeling once you touch them
  • The infotainment screen is laughably small for a 2021 vehicle – I think the screen in my GLK (which is 7 years older) is the same size or possibly even bigger – and its made worse by the fact that the screen in the Lexus is quite a ways forward, making it seem even smaller.
  • The touch pad is the only way to interact with the infotainment and it is just AWFUL. It’s usable, but not at all pleasant or intuitive. There’s little feedback on the “cursor” or what’s selected on the screen, and it’s far to easy to swipe and go past what you wanted to select. Maybe you would get used to it with time, but something that isn’t intuitive right off the bat strikes me as bad design. Even a simple wheel or 4-way control pad would’ve been better. And when you connect your phone and start using CarPlay, it’s even worse, since your phone is implicitly designed around touch… but with the touch pad, you have to resort to moving the focus around on screen. It works, but barely, and it is slow, distracting, and difficult to use.
  • The interior space is surprisingly small for both passengers and cargo. My GLK does not have very good rear leg room, but it is worse in this Lexus, despite the Lexus being several inches longer than my GLK! And though the rear cargo area is quite deep, it’s not very tall due to the sloping rear end. My wife’s prior Kia Soul had much, much better front and rear passenger room, despite being quite a bit smaller.

Now, granted, some of these complaints may be because this is a fleet vehicle and is not one of the higher-trim editions. Maybe you can get a bigger screen and nicer materials with a better trim… but the infotainment system itself is inexcusably bad for 2021, and the lack of interior room is confusing… this is not a short vehicle; where did all the interior space go?

This vehicle makes me question the sanity of anyone who chose it deliberately. Lexus is supposedly a “luxury” brand, yet very little about this vehicle feels genuinely “luxurious” to me (aside from the pillowy-soft ride). It’s all appearance and very little substance.

As I said, I really don’t like this vehicle – almost to the point where I’d say I hate it, and certainly to the point where I don’t at all enjoy driving it and will actively avoid doing so if I can at all help it. As a company-provided car just for getting to & from work, it’s fine for that purpose, but if we had almost any other choice, I’d pick something else over this thing.

By Keith Survell

Geek, professional programmer, amateur photographer, crazy rabbit guy, only slightly obsessed with cute things.

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