GRR

Lexus UX300h 2024 Review | First Drive

An upgraded hybrid for 2024...
26th May
Ethan Jupp

Overview

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Lexus’ UX has been serving effectively as an entry-point to the range since its launch in 2019, boosting the brand’s volumes enormously and bringing sorely needed new blood to the brand. Five years on and the LBX is due to join the range underneath it and doubles down on expanding the customer base, leaving the UX room to reach upwards. That was Lexus’ goal with this update.

It’s the hybrid UX250h that is to be replaced by this, the significantly-updated UX300h, for 2024. The results should mean a more versatile electric element as well as improved performance and efficiency overall. Some tinkering under the skin should yield a more Lexus-like driving experience, too.

We like

  • Stronger performance
  • More efficient powertrain
  • Comfortable and refined

We don't like

  • Aging exterior design
  • Not the most practical
  • Sturdy pricing

Design

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We’ll get to what’s going on under the skin of the UX300h in a bit because really, it’s what we’re here to talk about. It’s all we’re here to talk about, in fact, because really, not a lot has changed on the outside to differentiate this from the 2019 original. It was never a hideous car – it’s handsome enough, in fact – but 2019 current is not 2024 current, especially for a brand like Lexus that’s moved forward significantly with its design language since.

Between the LBX, NX, RX and the rest of what’s been very openly teased as coming soon with a number of concepts, there’s a totally new corporate face for Lexus that the UX doesn’t benefit from in 2024. 

With the hardware update this car needed, it deserved a 2024 glow-up to sing its praises from afar. People shouldn’t be coming into dealers wondering if this is the new one. Nevertheless, we’ll take a proper update under the skin over a surface-level dress-up with no substance any day, so credit where it’s due.

Performance and Handling

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And it is due, too. It’s easy to dismiss amorphous crossovers like the UX out of hand. The fact though, is that this is a very well-executed lower premium motorcar in terms of the way it drives.

To be abundantly clear, this is not in the context of a performance car, but of a well-balanced, above-average passenger car. The quality of the damping – the judgement of the compromise between comfort and control – is decidedly deft. There’s an expensive, well-developed, refined and dignified feel to the way it goes about its business, from the ride and body control, to the steering, throttle and brake modulation. It’s all indicative of a UX that’s been carefully massaged under the skin.

Indeed, while the 2.0-litre petrol engine stays more or less unchanged for 2024, it gets a boost courtesy of fifth-generation Lexus hybrid technology. While the jump from 184PS to 199PS sounds modest, the difference is felt low-down, where the petrol engine isn’t taxed as hard through the e-CVT transmission when you need performance.

It has an all-new lighter 60-cell Lithium-ion battery that makes the UX300h feel like it spends more time self-charged and less time self-charging, augmenting the petrol engine with instant punch more readily than before. The E-Four AWD version is especially pokey, thanks to a new 40PS, 84Nm motor at the rear that’s a huge bump from the 7PS, 55Nm unit in the outgoing 250H. In terms of the figures, a good 0.4 seconds has been lopped off the 0-62mph time for the FWD version. As for the E-Four, it’s quicker than the old UX250h by 0.8 seconds.

It all just works together more cohesively and with less perceived effort. Most of the time, the engine is relaxed and sipping fuel, with only the hardest acceleration and steepest hills resulting in gruff, shouty, CVT kickdown sensations of old. We saw figures close to the claims, too, with 40-60mpg depending on driving style.

The eCVT and self-contained hybridity will require you to adjust your driving style to get the best out of it. It’s about smoothness, it’s about picking your moments. That EV button is best for urban dawdling, for instance and this is certainly not a motorway slugger. But when it all comes together, you get it. It works, which is something I never thought I’d say of a CVT.

With that said, the F-Sport spec paddles, which to a very very distant extent allow simulating ‘shifting’, are little more than a gimmick and really, miss-sell the driving experience. Leave that box unticked, or leave them alone, we’d say. Otherwise we’d summarise the driving experience of the UX300h as, well, very ‘Lexus’, which is entirely complementary.

Interior

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If the exterior is all but untouched, there are at least a few upgrades to the cabin, if not quite enough to push the UX into contemporary class leader territory. There’s a new fully digital customisable driver’s display that’s standard at seven-inches but with a 12.3-inch option. 

There’s also an RZ-style centre console, a more compact drive selector and praise be, the track pad has been binned. 

The UX is now fully touch-screen, with a new infotainment binnacle containing either a standard eight-inch display, which frankly, is a bit pokey, or an upgraded 12.3-inch screen. More on both in tech and features below but on appearance, there’s still a vibe of being a generation behind even the entry-level LBX.

Quality is still good – improved even – and befits the UX’s place as one above the entry-level model. There’s a good view out and around and room in the back is sufficient, if not ideal for regular long journeys with adult passengers.

Technology and Features

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Truthfully the UX in spite of its grandfathered looks and gently-updated interior has some bang up-to-date tech and features but we’ll start slow with the screens. 

Yes, there’s a new infotainment system, which in truth, could do with fresher graphics when outside of the wireless AppleCarplay or Android Auto. I would also hazard to suggest that the larger option shouldn’t be an option in 2024 but instead, Premium Plus or F-Sport Design Tech specs are needed for it to come as standard. Likewise the larger driver’s display, which goes some way to modernising the cabin.

Not even electric seats are standard. So it’s worth bearing in mind that the entry point in the range won’t buy you the tech and trim levels you necessarily expect of that Lexus badge, even if this update is supposed to elevate the UX in the range now the LBX has taken over as the entry point.

Both infotainments and indeed, both digital driver’s displays, are at least snappier to respond thanks to the increased computing power of the upgraded UX. Which brings us onto some of the snazzier features, such as the ‘Hey Lexus’ onboard assistant, the Lexus Link smartphone app for remote locking, climate controls and so on. There’s also the option of a digital key – once again only available for Premium Plus and F Sport grades or above – that can be used in the app by as many as five separate users. 

New for the UX also, as you’ll be able to tell with the new nodule above the steering wheel, is the Driver Monitor, which uses a camera to ensure you’re paying attention and in the right condition to be driving, with dash notifications and bongs that tell you off if not. It’s a bit trigger happy, truthfully, given it pipes up even when you’re having a faff with the infotainment. Maybe that says more about the safety of touch screens, actually…

Pricing is a dark art in the UX, because Lexus buyers expect equipment and toys and you won’t be getting the best stuff at the £34,895 entry point. To get things like the 13-speaker Mark Levinson Premium surround sound, you need Takumi spec for which you’ll pay no less than £48,495. If you want the big screens, it’s Premium Plus at minimum, which is £42,595 at least. A fully loaded F-Sport Takumi with E-Four AWD will set you back £50,995, no less. All UXs do thankfully get things like a reversing camera and in-built sat-nav, but even the heated steering wheel and seats are the preserve of Premium spec.

Verdict

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The new UX300h is surprisingly pleasing in ways and frustrating in others. The engineers clearly know how a Lexus should feel and drive and as such, it genuinely impresses when behind the wheel. But it’s starting to look old, which will betray those improvements when trying to attract buyers in showrooms. Likewise the digital appointment of the cabin just isn’t quite up to what the Germans are putting out.

There’s also the question of pricing and just how much ‘Lexus’ you get for your money. A Lexus should be well equipped, feature-laden and nicely trimmed but you’re looking at adding folding money for spec and trim levels that get you the things you want. The UX that I would describe as having the bare minimum appointment to be worthy of the badge, is a £42,595 car, or a sturdy eight grand more expensive than the cooker. Happily, key rivals don’t exactly give away the best features either, so it’s about equal spec-for-spec, pound-for-pound, with most competitors.

What was a fine car is now improved in 2024. This update, in tandem with the popularity of the LBX, should do wonders for Lexus’ volumes. We still look forward to an RZ-esque facelift, though…

Specifications

Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol hybrid
Power 199PS (146kW)
Torque 206Nm (151lb-ft)
Transmission eCVT
Kerb weight 1,600-1,680kg
0-62mph 7.9-8.1 seconds
Top speed 110mph
Fuel economy 49-56mpg
CO2 emissions 113-129g/km
Price £34,895-£50,995