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Lexus UX200 F Sport: A strong contender for your first premium car

Entry-level doesn’t always mean watered-down

The UX's price should attract customers getting a Lexus for the first time. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

When you think about an entry-level Lexus, buying an older model usually comes to mind. Maybe a used CT200h or a previous-generation IS. But for new cars, people generally tend to shy away from a luxury brand’s cheapest offering for fear of it being a watered-down version of more expensive products. But hear me out when I say that you must give the UX a serious look.

While the UX is the most affordable (or least expensive) vehicle on offer by the Japanese automaker, I’ll tell you right away that this car brings so much of what it’s like to drive (and own) a Lexus at a fair price. You get sharp looks, incredible driving dynamics, reassuring comfort, and signature Toyota reliability.

The UX was designed by Chika Kako, Lexus's first female chief engineer. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

There’s no denying that the UX is an excellent-looking crossover with its sharp styling, the gunmetal-gray 18-inch F Sport wheels, the brand’s new lights, and the trademark spindle grille. If you take a closer look at the bodywork, you’ll come to appreciate the attention to detail that Lexus is known for. The car’s deep, lustrous orange paint job shimmers in the sunlight, while the uniform panel gaps are a visual delight. The plastic cladding on the fenders has been designed as part of the styling rather than looking like a tacked-on afterthought, and the taillights have “fins” to aid with aerodynamics. These are just a few of the many fine design elements you’ll come across.

The F Sport upgrades really do elevate the car's appearance in a tasteful way. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

The interior of the UX may seem a little conservative with most panels covered in black synthetic leather with red contrast stitching for this F Sport unit, but I applaud the restraint of piano-black in the interior. Instead, you get brushed metal trim, which hides fingerprints and scratches really well.

The F Sport front seats are well bolstered to keep you in place when going around twisty back roads, all while still being comfortable for long stints behind the wheel. They’re both heated, and the driver gets two-way lumbar support as an added bonus. The rear seats may look cramped, but they offer a surprisingly decent amount of legroom and headroom for the average Filipino adult. My taller friends still fit, but space was beginning to look like an issue.

The Dynamic Force family of engines was developed under the TNGA strategy. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

On the topic of space, unfortunately, you don’t get that much for cargo at the back. For starters, the load floor is high so be prepared to lift anything you’ll want to load (provided it’ll fit). There are some hidden storage bins on either side, and under the false floor is a removable tray. This houses the emergency tools and has two small compartments for even more storage. If you opt for the hybrid, you’ll get even less space under the false floor.

There’s a cargo cover that you’ll have to remove if you want to carry anything bigger than medium-size luggage. If you’ll haul something long, be ready to fold down the rear seats.

The F Sport seats have bigger bolsters to hold you in place during hard cornering. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

Things get a lot better once you sit behind the wheel of the UX, though. The cabin is designed with a focus on ergonomics and tactility. The turn signal and wiper stalks are weighted, and they engage with a satisfying click. The buttons on the steering wheel and the dashboard all feel solid and are within easy reach, and the storage cubbyhole under the center armrest can be opened from both sides. Media controls are integrated on a little stub found near the top of the center armrest. This may take some getting used to, but it’s handy when you need easy access to onscreen items.

The instrument binnacle's center dial physically moves when you switch driving modes. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

On the flipside, the infotainment system is a tad bit infuriating to operate even for a techie person like me. This is Lexus’s older Remote Touch interface, so the 10.3-inch screen isn’t touch-sensitive. The built-in navigation is too time-consuming to set up, so I’d just resort to using the maps on my phone instead. But the system’s actually quite accurate and capable of finding your way around the city when you feel motivated to type the address on the touchpad.

There’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto support, so you’re pretty much limited to Bluetooth or wired audio (or DVDs, if you’re still into those). But the sound system is amazing with clean highs and mids, and crisp bass. You can clearly distinguish the vocals and each of the instruments in the songs you play. And this isn’t even the premium Mark Levinson system found in other Lexus models.

The touchpad's operation has quite a bit of a learning curve. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

This F Sport variant gets a few upgrades on the exterior and in the interior, which are well worth the extra cash. Aside from the usual exclusive seats and trim, you get a kick sensor to open the hatch (which I found inconsistent), two more speakers (for a total of eight), and my personal favorite, the LFA-inspired gauges. It changes appearance depending on the drive mode, and the center dial can physically move to the right with a push of a button. It’s something that you’ll only find on a Lexus.

So, how’s the UX like to drive? One word: deceiving.

Buyers who find the UX's rear legroom and cargo space a little small might want to consider getting the NX instead. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

Yes, this is a crossover. It has the ground clearance of one, but it’s so nimble around corners that I’d say it drives like a hatchback. It’s based on the TNGA-C platform, which is also shared with the Toyota Corolla Cross. Unlike the Corolla Cross, however, the chassis and the suspension are tuned to offer a much more dynamic and engaging driving feel. Throw it around a corner and the car feels planted like it doesn’t want to let the body roll too much. The steering is quick and responsive, no matter which drive mode you’re in.

Of course, it’s still a Lexus, so NVH is excellent. But there’s a bit of tire noise coming from the run-flats that this car is equipped with. Switching to softer-compound rubber may improve the ride quality.

Front visibility is great, but rear visibility is not as good compared to other crossovers. The massive C-pillars are there to help with rollover protection, but I feel that they’re a little thicker than they need to be. At least you have the assistance of several parking sensors and a rear camera, which has decent resolution.

Even in dull weather, the orange paint job still pops. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

The engine that powers the UX is the M20A-FKS, part of Toyota’s Dynamic Force family of motors. The 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four-banger doesn’t feel labored even when the car is fully loaded. There’s just some fake engine noise piped in, so hit the Active Sound Control button to turn the system off.

The CVT manages to emulate gear changes really well, “shifting” almost instantly and holding revs in Sport/Sport+ mode. Leave it in Eco or Normal and the drivetrain is at its most frugal state. My average fuel economy was a healthy 8.8km/L for mixed city-and-highway driving with two adults onboard and in stop-and-go traffic.

The UX has everything the Lexus brand stands for but in a smaller package. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

The UX200 F Sport goes for P3,128,000. Sure, you can save quite a bit by getting the base variant (P2,538,000). However, you get so much more out of the F Sport package that it’s almost a no-brainer to cough up the cost difference.

Compared to its equivalently priced European rivals, Lexus’s execution of its “entry-level” model makes it one of the better choices if you’re willing to live with the lack of cargo space and the fiddly infotainment system. Plus, the Toyota reliability should be more than enough to reassure you that this car will have your back in the long run once you go past the three-year (or 100,000km) warranty.


Engine2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline
Power168hp @ 6,600rpm
Torque205Nm @ 4,800rpm
Dimensions4,495mm x 1,840mm x 1,520mm
Drive layoutFWD
UpsideStunning looks, amazing driving dynamics, and plush interior. This is your gateway drug into Lexus ownership.
DownsideRear visibility is not the best, the infotainment system can be infuriating to use, and the lack of cargo space might deter buyers.

Sam Surla

Sam is the youngest member of our editorial team. And he is our managing editor (believe it or not). He specializes in photography and videography, but he also happens to like writing about cars a lot.