There’s a very good reason that BMW, Audi, Jaguar, Volvo and plenty more besides have hurried to introduce compact SUVs in recent years: no other premium market sector is growing at a faster rate across Europe just now.
Lexus wasn’t about to sit back and watch its rivals grab fistfuls of market share, which is why its line-up of SUVs is now three rather than two-strong. The new UX slots in beneath the mid-sized Lexus NX, which itself sits one rung below the flagship Lexus RX.
Lexus reckons something like 80% of UX buyers in Britain will never have owned a Lexus before, which means this distinctive crossover serves a dual purpose: earn revenue in the short term and bring new lifelong customers into the fold beyond that. The company’s marketeers have aimed it directly at 30-something city dwellers, a group that it refers to as ‘creative urban explorers’, but it accepts that a significant number of buyers will also be older couples downsizing from full-size SUVs. Whoever the UX is aimed at, the car is must prove itself against is the Volvo XC40, our favourite compact SUV.
The UX is clearly the most car-like of all the XC40’s challengers, for it is a mere 68mm taller than a Volkswagen Golf but some 129mm lower-set than a Jaguar E-Pace. With a very low slung seating position within that fairly squat body the UX even feels more hatchback than it does SUV. Those buyers who are looking for a lofty seating position and a commanding view of the road will be well advised to continue their search elsewhere.