It seems difficult to believe that Lexus is over thirty years old. The premium brand from Toyota launched in the late 1980’s to great success and has, since then, made hybrids their very own USP.
You would like to think then that when electric vehicles started to appear that they would have had enough of a head start to hit the market first with their very own electrified product. Yet it has taken until 2020 for them to bring their EV to the showrooms, and even then, it is a compromised design of a car that already exists.
The UX is Lexus’s own compact crossover, the like of which we seem to be welcoming every week. It has all the ubiquitous design details that are required, such as raised ride height, black plastic wheel arch extensions and those flush roof rails for all the lifestyle paraphernalia that their upwardly mobile clientele aspire to own.
And on the inside, it is every bit the luxurious accommodation that we have come to expect from Lexus. Soft leather paired with blue tinged instrumentation welcome you aboard and cosset you as required.
Yet, for all that, the UX300e feels more of a half-hearted attempt than many other combustion engine cars that have been electrified. You get the impression they only did it because they had to. Not because they wanted to.
The rear seat space is tight for anyone who is brushing close to 6ft, and those roof rails will come in handy for the roof rack you will need if you want to carry anything other than a few grocery bags in the boot. At a paltry 367 litres, it just isn’t big enough for a car of these lofty aspirations.
And then there is the electric hardware itself. A front-mounted motor does well in allowing the 201 horses it produces having contact with the road, and there is a reasonable level of grip from the tyres as long as your right shoes aren’t made from lead. And whilst the steering has the right amount of feel that any self-respecting Lexus owner could desire, and the suspension errs towards the comfortable side of sporty, it never feels like it wants to be hurried.
Yet it is the 50kWh battery that delivers the real disappointment. Just 196 miles of WLTP range is quoted, which in my time with the car is more likely to be 150, and for a car at this price point, with this badge on the nose, it really isn’t good enough. And the odd decision to equip it with a Chademo socket rather than the more widely used CCS one is still lost on me. Charging rate is limited to 50kW meaning you must wait over 50 minutes to add 80% of capacity from a fast charger.
The refined driveline and well-appointed interior aside, it is a difficult ask to accept these compromises in a car whose price starts at £44,000 and rises to over £53,000.
For some, probably current Lexus owners, the UX300e may be an easy stepping stone into a fully electric vehicle from a hybrid. For the rest of us, however, there are far more appealing, and better executed options out there.