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Peters’ Garage: 2021 Lexus UX 200

View the Lexus UX200 this week.

By Eric Peters

Lexus built the first luxury crossover SUV — way back in 1998, when it introduced the RX 300. It’s hard to believe, but before that year, there weren’t any crossover SUVs, period. There were cars — sedans and coupes and wagons.

And there were SUVs — based on pickup trucks.

Lexus was the first to take a car and make it look like an SUV without it being based on a pickup truck, thereby retaining the carlike ride and handling while adding the trucklike ride height … without the trucklike ride.

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It became immensely popular almost overnight — kind of like smartphones, which pretty much everyone now has, too.

But Lexus didn’t have a subcompact crossover in its lineup until very recently.

That one’s the new UX 200.

What It Is

The UX is the littlest brother of the better-known RX. Both are crossover SUVs, but the UX is a much smaller crossover.

It also carries a much smaller price tag — $32,300 to start and $37,500 for a top-of-the-line Luxury trim, versus $44,150 to start for the current RX 350.

It also comes with a much smaller engine — a 2.0-liter four-cylinder instead of a 3.5-liter V-6. With the smaller engine comes with a much smaller appetite: 29 mpg city, 37 mpg highway, versus 20 mpg city, 27 mpg for the bigger and thirstier RX.

It doesn’t, of course, have as much room inside as its bigger brother, especially in its second row. But like most crossovers, it has a great deal more cargo room than a car of the same overall size.

Surprisingly, it has more cargo capacity behind it back seats than its much bigger brother.

What’s New

All trims now come standard with the previously optional Blind Spot Monitor System and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. The Enform suite of apps (including Wi-Fi) has been updated as well.

What’s Good

It has almost as much cargo space as an RX — for a lot less coin.

The standard engine isn’t turbocharged.

It has a high fuel economy.

What’s Not So Good

It has a modest performance.

There’s no all-wheel drive — unless you buy the hybrid version.

The standard run-flat tires could leave you stuck if you bend a wheel.

Under the Hood

Regardless of trim, every UX 200 comes with the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which makes 169 horsepower. A continuously variable automatic transmission is standard.

So is front-wheel drive.

Unusually — for a crossover SUV — the UX isn’t available with all-wheel drive, unless you buy the hybrid version, the UX 250h.

That one’s an interesting juxtaposition in that it’s capable of 41 mpg in city driving and 38 mpg on the highway, versus the nonhybrid UX 200’s 29 mpg city, 37 mpg highway, but it costs about $2,200 more to start ($34,500 versus $32,300). If you do a lot of city driving — where the hybrid has a 12 mpg advantage over the nonhybrid — you will probably make back the $2,200 after a few years of driving. But if you do a lot of highway driving, you may never make it back.

But you’ll make it up the driveway in the winter, so that’s something.

On the Road

Another unusual thing about this small crossover is that its engine isn’t turbocharged. So it’s not as strong as the turbocharged engines in some of the others in the class, such as the BMW X1’s standard 2.0-liter 228-horsepower engine. The Audi Q3, another rival, also comes standard with a 228-horsepower 2.0-liter engine (and standard all-wheel drive).

However, both cost more than the Lexus — and both may cost you more later — because they have turbochargers. The additional pressure on the engine — and the additional parts — make this statistically more likely. Lexus has built its reputation on better-than-Toyota reliability — and it’s hard to get better than that.

Lexus does it by conservative engineering.

The UX may not be quite as quick as some of its rivals, but it’s a good bet it’ll be running longer, costing you less overall.

And zero to 60 mph in the low seven-second range, which the UX can deliver, is quick enough to not feel slow.

At the Curb

Though the UX is almost 2 feet shorter overall than its bigger brother, the RX 350, it has more cargo room — 21.7 cubic feet — than the RX does behind its second row (18.4 cubic feet). It also has about twice the cargo room of a subcompact sedan the same overall size, which accounts for the declining interest in small sedans.

The UX also has a clever tiered storage system that makes the most of the available space.

The Rest

All trims come standard with 18-inch run-flat tires, which means you can keep on driving even if the tire is punctured. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the absence of a spare wheel means you’ll be stuck if one gets damaged, as by a curb strike or from hitting a really bad pothole.

The Bottom Line

If you like the RX but want one-third less of an RX, the UX might be the right-sized Lexus for you.

View the Lexus UX200 this week.

Eric’s new book, “Don’t Get Taken for a Ride!” is available now. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2020 CREATORS.COM

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