Can this smaller than usual Lexus live up to its longer than usual name? Let’s find out

Why we’re running it: Lexus has pinned its hopes of UK sales growth on this new compact crossover

Month 1 - Specs

Life with a Lexus LBX: Month 1

Welcoming the LBX to the fleet - 12 June 2024

Has anyone else got a mental block on all these Lexuses with an X in their name?

There's the RX, a Jaguar F-Pace rival, the Audi Q5-sized NX, the very slightly smaller UX and then this, the LBX, Lexus's newest car and its smallest yet.

LBX stands for Lexus Breakthrough Crossover, which seemed a bit silly until I read that all of those other names are also abbreviations: Radiant Crossover, Nimble Crossover and Urban Crossover (still silly but consistent at least). And the fact that this one isn't called BX to follow the pattern is significant, according to Lexus.

The only other time Lexus have previously used a three-letter name was for its VI0-engined supercar. "As the LFA showed a different side to the brand in terms of attitude and performance, the LBX will challenge the status quo and redefine what a small car can offer", apparently.

And Lexus is very much hoping that this will be a breakthrough model, anticipated to comfortably become its biggest seller and intended to attract new, younger customers to the brand.

The sceptics among you might describe the LBX as a badge-engineered Toyota Yaris Cross for at least £5000 more. Indeed, the two cars share the same TNGA-B architecture and hybrid powertrain.

But there's plenty to separate them, too: the LBX is longer, lower and wider and we're told that the two cars were developed separately and the Lexus was optimised for ride and handling. Plus, I don't think the LBX's styling gives any clues that its associated with the Yaris Cross.

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The Premium Plus Design trim of our car is the fourth rung up on a ladder remarkably featuring seven. That puts this car at £35,595 - £5500 more than the starting price but still £5000 away from the range-topper, which is also four-wheel drive.

There's plenty of equipment for that money. The cheapest models receive 17in wheels, a 9.8in touchscreen and automatic high beam. Here, the wheels are 18in and there's a head-up display, blindspot monitoring, a 12.3in touchscreen, heated front seats, a wireless phone charger and a powered tailgate. The main difference with the top-spec LBX is fancier 18in alloys and a posh Mark Levinson speaker system.

The LBX offers only one hybrid powertrain, centred on a 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine and able to run on electricity alone. With a combined 134bhp, it can haul the car from 0-62mph in a respectable 9.2sec, while the official fuel economy is a heartening 61.4mpg.

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It seems odd in this day and age to launch a brand-new car - especially a smaller one - with no plans to launch plug-in hybrid or fully electric variants. Toyota and Lexus, having been trailblazers with hybrids, chose not to lead the way for electric cars, and given that Lexus expects the LBX to account for a third of its total UK sales, clearly this lack of choice isn't expected to be a barrier to success.

I like a compact car, especially because I live in London, but I was mildly concerned about the size of the LBX, knowing how bulky my son's car seat is and the impact that has on front passengers. I haven't tested it with any particularly tall passengers yet, and I strongly suspect that any such candidates wouldn't be comfortable on a long journey, but moderately sized adults have sat next to me and been comfortable.

Our photographer Jack has verified that there's a decent amount of head room in the back, though. The boot has also come as a pleasant surprise, at 402 litres - only three litres less than in the rival Audi Q2. There is a loading lip, admittedly, but the boot seems well packaged to make the most of the space, and I can happily fill it up for a weekend, including my toddler's bike, without spilling over into the rear seats. Suitcases would be another matter, obviously. Now I just need to work out how to actually open the boot without a quizzical look and a second attempt...

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The inside is very black in that safe way that so many cars are these days. It's practical, it's smart and it's (arguably) premium. The fact that it's uninspiring is a side note, and I've seen an alternative cream finish that looks swish. Nonetheless, this car does feel premium inside, with cosseting seats, a big touchscreen and nice turface finishes.

A few weeks in and I'm still getting the hang of reverse being a notch forward and drive being a notch back on the gearknob. It feels counterintuitive. I was wondering whether it was just me, but then a friend asked me to explain the exact same quirk on the BMW iX3. I had no answers but felt better at least.

As a Lexus model, the LBX uses the Toyota group's e-CVT, of which I've never been much of a fan. I'm intrigued by its execution in the LBX, though, because so far it's proving itself to be better than expected. There's still a noticeable moan when the engine is worked hard, but let's see how I adapt with more miles under my belt.

It has yet to be seen if the LBX will make a sales breakthrough for Lexus in the UK, so my goal for the coming months is to find out if it has the appeal to make that leap - and if it deserves that third letter in its title.

Second Opinion

The world needs more small cars, and I can see no reason why a small car can’t be upmarket, so I want to like the LBX. On first encounter, I liked the idea more than the execution, but there was enough character to make me think familiarity could convince me. I will be interested to see if that happens for Rachel

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James Attwood

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Lexus LBX FWD Premium Plus design specification

Specs: Price New £35,595 Price as tested £36,265 Options Metallic bi-tone paint £670 

Test Data: Engine 3 cyls in-line, 1490cc normally aspirated, petrol, plus electric motor Power 134bhp at 5500rpm (combined) Torque 136lb ft at 3600-4800rpm Kerb weight 1280kg Top speed 106mph 0-62mph 9.2sec Fuel economy 61.4mpg (WLTP) CO2 103kg/km Faults None Expenses None

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Add a comment…
gadgetwhisperer 18 June 2024
I think for anyone ever drive a manual, that shifter configuration is very much intuitive. My car also use same configuration, and it feel as natural as when we play a racing game.
NorfolkS2TVR 18 June 2024
To me it's obvious that reverse is push forward: on any automatic I can think of from the neutral position on the gear selector it's like that. The only difference is now you haven't got the park position on the selector.
xxxx 18 June 2024

28k on a Toyota Yaris 1.5 3 pot with a 7k badge stuck on. I can't think of a worse way to blow 35k.