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Lexus UX 300h 2024 review – hybrid crossover updated to take on BMW’s X1

The UX 300h is more powerful, more efficient and more comfortable than before – can it keep up with the latest band of premium crossovers?

Evo rating
Price
from £34,895
  • Relaxed and refined driving dynamics
  • Bland and unrewarding beyond that

LBX, UX, NX, RX, RZ. That's not a cheat code for a Grand Theft Auto game, but Lexus’s current range of SUVs. The latest is the newly updated UX, which competes against BMW's X1 and has been treated to a more powerful hybrid system, improved dynamics and a boost in technology for this year.

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The UX was first introduced in 2018 and has been a sales hit in Europe (it’s one of Lexus’s most popular models), originally launching in 2-litre hybrid UX 250h trim. The new UX 300h replaces the 250h, using the same engine but paired to revised hybrid electronics – the 60-cell battery and inverter are new, so too the rear electric motor if you go for the four-wheel-drive version. Every parameter of the new UX, from its efficiency and emissions to acceleration and response, has been improved, says Lexus. 

Climb inside and there are advancements here, too. The dash is dominated by a clear, crisp 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen (a rather apologetic-looking eight-inch display is standard), with a UI that’s relatively easy to decipher – certainly more so than the trackpad-style interface you often find in Lexuses. The climate controls are separated from the screen on a row of physical toggles, and while some of the materials do have a whiff of Toyota about them, there’s enough quality in the touchpoints and design to push the UX towards the premium end of the scale. Take the hooded gauge cluster, for instance, which features LFA-style graphics and a rotating dial to switch between drive modes. 

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Unsurprisingly, there’s not a drop of LFA DNA in the UX’s driving experience. Despite the promise of extra power (196bhp compared to the 250h’s 181), a stiffer body structure and a Sport mode, this is a laid-back car with soft edges. It’s a Lexus, in other words, which is fine by us. 

Be gentle with the throttle and you'll set off quietly on electric power, the steering light and easy in your hands, the (optional) adaptive dampers allowing a degree of body movement in their softest setting. The brake pedal is soft but easy to modulate and exterior noise is well suppressed – the new UX is padded out with extra sound insulation, and while we aren’t talking about luxury saloon levels of refinement here, it's relaxing and calm at a cruise.

A few cracks begin to appear as you tackle trickier surfaces and conditions. Poor surfaces ask more questions of the dampers and some roughness filters through to the cabin, and the UX doesn’t completely flatten harsher bumps and imperfections. You start to feel more vertical movement in the body as the road undulates and the speed climbs, too; switching to Sport mode dials most of this out but also tenses up the ride quality and adds unnecessary weight to the steering. Happily, you can mix and match settings for the dampers, steering and powertrain in the infotainment screen.

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The UX 300h isn’t a fast car – 62mph comes up in 8.1sec, or 7.9sec with four-wheel drive – but the throttle calibration in Sport and the torque from the hybrid system give the impression that there’s more grunt available than there really is. The powertrain is at its best under light loads when leaning mostly on electric power, the combustion engine humming in and out when needed. 

Push the throttle deeper and there’s less urgency than you expect given the initial response, and the CVT transmission means that there’s an elastic relationship between your right foot and the acceleration, a delay as the revs rise and fall to meet your demands. Under full power the engine drones away as in most CVT-equipped cars, but you can pull on the wheel-mounted paddle shifters to simulate a more conventional transmission with stepped gears. We wouldn’t bother, as the UX isn’t a car that rewards you for engaging with it – it’s happiest when you settle down and leave the powertrain to its own devices.

The easy-going character extends to the chassis, which is set up for security rather than entertainment. The steering is accurate enough at normal speeds but feels less direct as the car's weight starts to shift around, and there's very little sense of connection to the tyres or road beneath. Grip is good, though, and the UX doesn’t feel sloppy or aloof – just a little out of its comfort zone when you really lean on it. Truth be told, if the UX’s ability to thrill and excite on a back road matters to you, it probably shouldn’t be on your shortlist to start with.

Price and rivals

It’s impossible to ignore the huge variety of crossovers competing for the same slice of the market in 2024. From the BMW X1 to the Audi Q3 and newcomers like the Alfa Romeo Tonale, the UX has an overwhelming list of rivals it must beat.

At £34,895 the base-spec UX is around £500 cheaper than the BMW X1 sDrive20i, which offers similar performance from its mild-hybrid engine. Audi’s Q3 is cheaper with a £33,380 starting price and also features mild-hybrid tech, but choosing the automatic S-tronic model bumps the price up to match the UX.

Alfa Romeo’s Tonale doesn’t quite have the dynamic ability showcased by the larger Stelvio, but it counters with an attractive design and a more interesting interior than that of the Lexus. At £36,005, the entry-level 158bhp Sprint model is a little more expensive, though, and none of the UX’s rivals can match Lexus’s stellar reliability record and 10-year/100,000 service-activated warranty.

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