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The Japanese firm's smallest machine yet is a hybrid-powered compact crossover. Can it excel in an underserved area of the market?

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The Lexus LBX may be the smallest Lexus yet, but it’s a big deal for the company. In fact, its bold ambitions are hidden in plain sight in its name: LBX stands for Lexus Breakthrough Crossover.

For now, let’s skip over the pedant-bothering detail that this car is therefore technically called the Lexus Lexus Breakthrough Crossover and instead focus on the ‘breakthrough’ element.

The LBX showcases a frameless version of Lexus's spindle grille, which is designed to appear more relaxed. It does the trick

This is the first compact premium car developed by the Toyota group (well, unless you count the Aston Martin Cygnet...) and has a real focus on growing Lexus sales in Europe.

The brand expects the LBX to account for around a third of its total sales volume in the UK next year, instantly becoming its best-selling model and playing a key role in breaking through the barrier of 20,000 annual sales. It was engineered in Japan, but the focus has very much been on this region.

Bosses say the LBX is aimed at young urban professionals, suggesting this is a premium car you can feel comfortable driving in jeans and trainers – which makes us wonder if they think people put on tuxedos to drive their Lexus RZs. We could also see it proving popular with existing Lexus owners looking to downsize, perhaps because their kids have left home so they no longer need that sizeable RX.



lexus lbx review 2023 25 static rear

The LBX is a premium-focused B-segment car, and for a new arrival in late 2023 it’s fairly novel: there’s no electric version planned, and by expanding into a smaller market, Lexus has bucked the ongoing trend of cars growing to the point that they barely fit on British roads any more. (We will conveniently forget the new supersized LM MPV for now…)

That puts the LBX into an intriguing spot in the market: its nearest direct rivals are probably the Audi Q2, which will be retired next year, and the DS 3, which hardly sells. It’s bigger than the Mini hatchback, smaller than the Mini Countryman. You could compare it to the new Volvo EX30, except that’s battery-powered and the Lexus is exclusively a hybrid.

The TNGA-B platform was modified to ensure the LBX handled like a Lexus, with the firm citing the 1989 IS saloon as a benchmark

Less charitably, you could also consider the LBX a blinged-up Toyota Yaris Cross. Underneath that stylish Lexus design and interior, both cars are based on the TNGA-B platform and feature the same 1.5-litre three-cylinder hybrid powertrain. 

The big difference is that you can get a Yaris Cross for £24,855. The LBX range starts at £29,995, with top-spec front-wheel-drive models reaching £39,545. Our Premium test car is priced at £32,495, or £435 if you’re paying monthly.

LBX chief engineer Kunihiko Endo insists that, while using the same basic platform, the two cars were developed entirely separately, with extensive work done to make sure his machine was a ‘true’ Lexus. Compared with the Yaris Cross, the wheelbase has been stretched by 20mm to 2580mm, and the body is 10mm longer, at 4190mm. The LBX is also slightly lower and 60mm wider, the latter allowing for a wider track that Endo says was key to optimising the ride and handling.

Styling-wise, you wouldn't mistake the LBX for the Yaris Cross: the Lexus design team has, to these eyes, done a great job of fusing the firm's traditional design notes into a compact package. The front grille has gone frameless (less formal, apparently) and the smooth, curved bodywork features a number of interesting lines – and helps the airflow to improve efficiency.

At the rear, the number plates is mounted low down on the car to give more prominence to the Lexus lettering on the boot, and there's also a new-style rear light bar. You'll also spot a small spoiler mounted on the rear edge of the roof.


Lexus LBX driving shot interior

Inside, our test car, which matched the mid-tier Premium trim that is expected to be the UK best-seller, largely feels like a Lexus – up front, at least.

It has an elegant, restrained dashboard, and the quality of the materials used for the key touchpoints feel the part. There’s synthetic leather upholstery, rear privacy glass, a wireless smartphone charger and more. Still, the main impression is an interior that’s nice and comfortable, rather than really feeling premium.

All models feature a 9.8in touchscreen with the latest Lexus Link Connect system. It's a huge improvement from the firm's recent efforts

The 9.8in touchscreen looks small compared with some, but it is well sized for this car, and Lexus’s infotainment software has taken great leaps forward in recent years. Besides, unlike in some rivals, the dashboard isn’t all about the screen: there are physical buttons for the key controls. Too hot? There’s a little temperature toggle below the screen. Need to adjust the mirrors? There are buttons on the driver’s door. Driving in low visibility? The foglight switch is on the indicator stalk, thanks very much. Add in its distinctly non-EV powertrain and the LBX feels more like an anti-Volvo EX30 than a compact premium rival.

That’s not to suggest this car is Luddite in design, though: modern touches include the e-latch door system seen on the RZ, which prevents the door from opening if it detects an object approaching, while pricier models let you use your smartphone as a digital key.

The LBX’s small size does show in some aspects: the door bins, central storage compartment and glovebox are what an estate agent would describe as ‘compact’. While some compromise on space is inevitable with a small car, some clever design tricks could have made them more usable.

It’s very tight in the back: even with the rear seats subtly raised and a fairly upright position, space is in short supply. And if someone in the front is of even slightly above-average size, the limited rear leg room will disappear. For intended buyers with young families – or elderly buyers whose kids have left home – that might not be an issue, of course.

The boot has a capacity of 402 litres, which is fairly decent, but it’s a basic design with no false floor, dividers or other clever tricks used by rivals to optimise that space. You can see this being the sort of car where many people will use the boot and back seats for storage.


lexus lbx review 2023 07 tracking front

The LBX powertrain is based around the 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine that's used in the closely related Yaris Cross – but the firm has made some key changes to boost performance so that it meets the expectations for a Lexus. 

The change comes in the electric element of the hybrid powertrain: the LBX gains a more powerful motor, driven by a nickel-metal-hydride battery shared with the larger Lexus RX. The different chemistry is claimed by Lexus to allow for greater responsiveness by being quicker to discharge its power. It gives the LBX a total output of 134bhp, slightly more than its Toyota cousin, which itself has just received a power boost, from 114bhp to 130bhp.

A four-wheel-drive version will arrive in 2024. It has an extra electric motor, on the rear axle, but curiously offers no more power. The focus is entirely on improving grip on slippery surfaces.

Endo makes much of Lexus’s efforts to reduce cabin noise, which really show at lower speeds, where the motor does much of the work and the LBX glides along in serene tranquillity, even in the most chaotic of rush-hour traffic.

The uprated motor does much of its work at low speeds to boost torque, giving the LBX more zip than the Yaris Cross. In fact, in cool, damp conditions early in our test heavy use of the throttle did briefly lead to some wheelspin. But keep things relaxed and the zip it offers is generally practical and useful.

However, when you deplete the battery and accelerate hard enough to stretch the engine and that peaceful contemplation is punctured by the slightly rough CVT whine of Toyota’s triple, sounding like a bear suffering from indigestion after raiding one too many picnic baskets. The hard-working engine does its best, but it sometimes doesn't quite offer the response you'd like, particularly on steep hills or at motorway speeds. 

It’s a shame, because it glides at low speeds and will cruise contentedly when you're driving in a relaxed fashion but it’s hard to square its engine note and response with its premium billing – or the sporty pretensions Lexus has for this car.


lexus lbx review 2023 11 tracking rear

One aspect at which the LBX undoubtedly excels is handling. Toyota's TNGA platform is known for producing strong handling cars, and the LBX is a really strong offering – one that can hold its own with several hatchbacks, and is well ahead of many sometimes insipid high-riding compact crossovers.

With its short wheelbase and comparatively light weight, the LBX is truly nimble and dynamic. It turns in sharply, responds well to your inputs and stays firmly in shape when cornering at speed. A tight turning circle of 5.2 metres helps to allow for swift direction changes, but it doesn’t suffer the instability that you encounter in many compact crossovers. 

The LBX corners really well, and has a posture that exceed most high-sided crossovers

It maintains composure well and doesn’t get too unsettled over the bigger bumps that small cars often struggle with. That's helped by the LBX's braking posture control system, which works to balance the front and rear braking, helping to reducing the pitching you sometimes get when slowing down, and reducing body roll in corners. You can definitely feel the system working, although it's not that obtrusive so the LBX still feels natural to drive.

There was a touch of jostling on some rough roads we encountered, so we will be keen to try the LBX on UK roads to see how it fares. But on the right road, it is genuinely engaging and fun, excelling in sweeping curves and flowing lanes – and it’s also nimble enough on congested urban streets to remind you why small cars are such a good idea.


lexus lbx review 2023 01 tracking front

In the UK, the LBX will be offered with a choice of six trim levels – Urban, Premium, Premium Plus, Premium Plus Design, Takumi and Takumi Design – with a limited edition Original Edition also available for early buyers.

The entry-level £29,995 Urban models have 17in wheels and a 7in digital instrument display, front and rear parking sensors, manual seats, dual-zone climate control and a six-speaker audio system. The Premium versions start from £32,495 and add interior ambient lighting, synthetic leather, a wireless phone charger, rear privacy glass, a pre-collision system,blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert. 

The AWD versions due in 2024 will only be offered in Takumi trim, and will be priced from £39,545

For £34,495 Premium Plus adds 18in wheels a powered boot lif, a 12.3in instrument binnacle and a head-up display. The Takumi trim is priced from £38,425 and added multi-colour ambient lighting, an electric driver's seat, leather, park assist, adaptive high beam, an advanced safety pack and a 13-speaker Mark Levinson sound system.

While the three-pot petrol engine that the full hybrid powertrain is based around can occasionally feel and sound slightly whiny, one undoubtedly strong aspect of it is a strong fuel economy.

On our 100-mile test route that mixed city, rural and motorway driving in the Spanish city of Valencia and its surrounding hills, we averaged 55mpg – creditably close to the official fuel economy of 60.1mpg. We'd expect that we could improve that better once we adjusted our driving to best suit the car.

As a result, expect Lexus to highlight the potentially significant running-cost savings compared with some rivals – especially for buyers on Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) deals. At launch, the Premium trim LBX will be offered with 5.9% APR and a £500 deposit contribution for a monthly payment of £435, around the same that you'd pay for a Q2. But Lexus claims that you can save more than £20 per month in petrol costs compared to premium compact crossover rivals due to the efficiency of the LBX's powertrain. 


lexus lbx review 2023 06 panning urban

In an age when cars are getting bigger and it's a struggle to fit some of them on UK roads, the Lexus LBX is a good idea: there's absolutely no reason why a small car can't be premium, and it will be a concept that will likely appeal to many buyers. Certainly, you can see why Lexus has high hopes for it and why it’s projected to be a sales success. It’s a welcome addition and the sort of car we need more of: small, economical, fuel efficient and fun to drive.

But the strong handling is offset by some of the shortcomings elsewhere, and as an all-round package, it doesn’t wholly succeed in delivering the premium sheen its price suggests. Is it nicer to look at, sit in and drive than a Yaris Cross? Undoubtedly. But is it £6000-plus – and up to £10,000 if you look at top-spec trims – nicer than a Yaris Cross? That depends on what you value in a small, premium car.

The LBX feels like a proper Lexus that has been shrink-wrapped, which is a very good thing

The LBX is a strong package that excels in some areas and is very likeable, but it doesn’t quite deliver on the concept’s promise.

James Attwood

James Attwood, digital editor
Title: Acting magazine editor

James is Autocar's acting magazine editor. Having served in that role since June 2023, he is in charge of the day-to-day running of the world's oldest car magazine, and regularly interviews some of the biggest names in the industry to secure news and features, such as his world exclusive look into production of Volkswagen currywurst. Really.

Before first joining Autocar in 2017, James spent more than a decade in motorsport journalist, working on Autosport,, F1 Racing and Motorsport News, covering everything from club rallying to top-level international events. He also spent 18 months running Move Electric, Haymarket's e-mobility title, where he developed knowledge of the e-bike and e-scooter markets.