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The entry to the world of Lexus is their UX, a compact SUV which does not sacrifice any of the qualities of the brand. Back in 1983, Lexus originated a programme to develop a new premium saloon with the code name F1, this culminated in the launch of the LS in 1989 and from that point, with sales now in more than seventy countries, Lexus has gone from strength to strength.

The year 2005 saw a hybrid version of the RX and it is this technology that is very much at the heart of the brand. My opportunity to drive the new UX came over roads in Yorkshire which are very much akin to our roads in Ireland; this allowed me to explore the qualities of this newcomer which is the ideal entry to the world of Lexus, one renowned for innovation and quality. The UX delivers Lexus’s innovative luxury and safety in a package that combines bold new designs and an ultra-efficient new powertrain. The thought did cross my mind that this striking looking new vehicle may not only be a first Lexus for some, but also their first luxury vehicle and they will not be disappointed.

Right from the word go, make no mistake, Lexus were also in the business of challenging the German premium brands and for many this has become a welcome breath of fresh air away from Audi, BMW and Mercedes. I can see the UX proving popular with the younger driver who seeks a fresh, contemporary and dynamic take on luxury driving. This new Lexus has the honour of being the first in the brand to be constructed using the new Global Architecture Compact (GA-C) platform, a lightweight yet super-rigid structure, extremely low centre of gravity and refined suspension tuning endow it with exemplary handling agility and ride comfort, and a distinctive driving character.

The new model is offered exclusively with a fourth generation self-charging hybrid power train in our market, however in some markets, a two litre petrol version will be available. Praise indeed to the Lexus design team who created an overall design theme for the UX that combines strength with refinement and is stylish yet functional. The spindle grille, a signature feature of all Lexus models, is unique to the UX, featuring a new mesh pattern with individual elements that gradually change in shape as they radiate out from the central Lexus emblem and the result is an intriguing three-dimensional look that appears to change with the viewing angle. Further strong design with the headlights with the daytime running lights arranged in an arrowhead shape above the headlamp units. The headlights themselves are single-projector dual-beam LEDs (UX and F Sport grades) or ultra-small triple-projector LED units (Takumi grade, Tech & Safety Pack). The overall design of the UX is sharp and angular with sculpted surfaces with dramatically flared front and rear wings, while the vehicle’s aerodynamic profile and large wheels pushed out to the corners and a strong front facia generate an agile stance. The UX cabin is up to what we have come to expect from the brand, the feeling of a luxury saloon, but with the higher seating position and versatility that are required of an SUV. I felt very much in command as the ‘Seat in Control’ concept makes the driver feel more in touch with the road and engaged in the drive. The main vehicle functions are grouped around the driver’s side of the cabin and the shape of the driver’s seatback is designed so that the controls can be operated with the driver maintaining a comfortable and natural posture. The front seats are six-way manually adjustable and eight-way power adjustable in the F Sport and Takumi, the latter with additional adjustable lumbar support for the driver. The instrument panel is designed to make technology easy to use. A seven-inch TFT display that digitally renders realistic, analogue gauges with a three-dimensional effect and a head-up display is standard on the Takumi, adds to the high-tech feel, projecting key information in colour onto a virtual screen 2.5 metres in front of the driver. The Lexus Remote Touch Interface (standard with the 10.3-inch Lexus Navigation) is as easy to use as your smartphone.

To the heart of the matter, the fourth generation Lexus self-charging hybrid power train, includes a two litre petrol engine, hybrid transaxle, compact battery and power control unit. With 181bhp the total system output, it combines high fuel efficiency with a very smooth, natural and responsive driving experience and class leading 41 percent thermal efficiency. Added benefits such as no need to plug in, low cost of ownership and high residual values make the new UX one of the most desirable compact SUVs currently available. In recent months there has been something of an explosion of new models to this sector of the market.

Ian Lynas