•Review / Gifted Stay•
Last week Ed and I headed over to Lexus Poole to pick up the new Lexus UX 250H F SPORT as we were test driving it for a couple of days. I will be the first to admit I never used to be a car person. If somebody asks about our own car, I’m likely to say “erm…it’s red…”. Driving the new Lexus UX was a game changer for me. It has so many amazing features, as well as being a self-charging hybrid, which makes it really energy efficient. It was a dream to drive and I was sad to hand the keys back at the end of our test drive.
Arriving at the forecourt, we were met by Ben, Senior Marketing Executive for Westover, and Carl, salesman at Lexus in Poole. My first impressions of the UX 250H F SPORT was how sleek and smooth the car was when comparing it to our rather bulky 7 seater. The car is a 5 door crossover SUV, and is smaller and more compact than what I am used to driving around in.
Carl talked me through the main functions of the car, ensuring I was comfortable and confident in driving it away, and giving tips on how we could make the most of our time test driving the car with some of its ultra modern features, which I hadn’t come across before, being used to driving a car that is ten years old.
The UX is keyless, which was a little mind-blowing for me but something I quickly got used to. Simply stand by the driver’s side door with the key on you and the car will unlock. To lock the doors, touch the slight groove in the front door handles.
Driving is super simple – the car is an automatic. All you have to do is press down on the brake, press the power button and put the car into drive before slowly releasing the brake/pressing on the accelerator to go. Again, this is fairly standard in automatic vehicles, but was a bit of a shock to the system for a long-term manual car driver like me. It was easy to get the hang of though, and within around ten minutes I was plotting how I could persuade Ed to change our car to an automatic as it really is so much easier to drive!
The UX 250H is a self-charging hybrid, which means that the car is powered via a mix of electric and petrol, which makes the car a lot more energy efficient than our diesel people carrier. As it is self-charging, there is no need to search out charging stations, which is something that has always been a bit of a concern for me when considering an electric vehicle.
I found it so interesting seeing when the car was driving on electric and when it switched up to fuel. It was so quiet driving in electric as well. I could barely tell the engine was on when we first moved away and whilst driving slowly through the town.
There is a small symbol which lights up on the display when the electric power is on, which then turns off again when using petrol. There is also the option to see on the multimedia display how the electric and petrol are working together to power the car, which Ed found fascinating to watch whilst I was driving at different intervals on the journey.
There is a button, which is located in the cockpit, to the left of the driver’s seat, which manually activates the electric mode, which is designed to be used for short journeys in urban environments like a town centre. I didn’t use this myself, but it’s great to have the option available.
Lexus had very kindly arranged for us to stay at a hotel around an hour away in between Winchester and Southampton, Lainston House, which is part of the Exclusive Hotels and Venues group, so we loaded up the boot with our suitcase and drove out towards Ferndown.
It is worth noting that the boot was a little smaller than I expected, and if we had been going abroad and taking larger cases, we may have struggled a little. However, there is extra additional storage space underneath the main boot, which we used to store our coats and additional shoes, and instead of a rigid parcel shelf, the UX has a flexible, foldaway version, which can easily be stored, leaving more space for luggage, or placed over items, enabling bulky items to be protected with ease.
Rather than going straight to the hotel, we decided it would be nice to drive through the New Forest, as it is one of my favourite places to explore. It was a lovely day, and I felt totally at ease driving in the UX along the New Forest’s winding lanes, tight bends, small picturesque villages and stunning open roads. The car is really fantastic to drive on corners, steering felt totally fluid, and although it was a powerful vehicle to drive, I never once felt I wasn’t totally in control.
As well as standard safety features you would expect on any modern car, the Lexus UX has additional airbags, including knee, side and curtain airbags (covering all side windows), plus some key features which really boost confidence when driving in unfamiliar territory, late at night or in busy built up areas. The Automatic High Beam senses vehicles ahead at night and the Pre-Collision system detects pedestrians at night and bicycles in the day, providing a visible warning to allow you to take measures to avoid a collision.
If this warning isn’t adhered to, the car will apply increased brake pressure to further prevent an accident. A Blind spot monitoring system also shows you when another vehicle is approaching by lighting up a symbol on either side mirror, alerting you to a potential hazard and providing additional support and assurance when you are in the driving seat.
The model of the UX we had was the F SPORT edition, which has a sporty, red and black leather interior, exclusive 18.5 inch alloy wheels and the option to drive in Sport S+ mode (alongside sports, eco and normal on the standard UX model), which is great for country lanes and allows you to switch manually up and down gears whilst the mode is activated.
I liked that the sports+ mode could be switched on and off using a dial to the left of the steering wheel, which gives you the option of switching between modes during a drive, based on driving conditions and your own personal preference.
I must admit, I wasn’t keen on this feature myself, as it made me a little nervous and I wasn’t confident with switching gears, using paddle shifters on the steering wheel, especially after getting used to the car being an automatic. I think this is something Ed would use a lot more than me, and it would take a fair bit of practise before I felt able to use it to its potential.
That’s not to say I didn’t appreciate the additional features which come as standard with the F SPORT edition of the car. I loved the S-Flow climate control settings, including individual settings for both driver and passenger, stopping those arguments once and for all of whether it is too hot or too cold for each of you on a car journey. The seats can be either heated or cooled, which was such a novelty.
You can also reposition the seats forward, backward and up and down, providing a really comfortable position totally tailored to you. I drive quite close to the steering wheel and I loved that the seat automatically moved backwards when the power was turned off, allowing me to step out of the car with ease, and moving back into position again when the power was turned back on.
The car is equipped with lots of handy features to minimise distraction whilst driving. Both windscreen wipers and lights are automatic and, once synced to your smartphone, you can use the voice command function to call your phone contacts, although Ed and I did have some hilarious results when trying this function out, which involved shouting ‘line one’ at the car repeatedly until it managed to call my mum – highly amusing!
Wireless charging is possible for compatible smartphones, but there is no need to fret if your phone isn’t as there are also numerous USB ports situated in both the front and back of the car, meaning nobody travelling needs to worry about losing battery even on a long journey.
The UX is fitted with a Touch Pad control panel, much like a smartphone, which can be used to control the multimedia display by moving your finger across to access the different functions such as audio and navigation systems. It has split-screen capabilities, meaning you can see two functions at once. The panel can be a little sensitive, and it took a bit of getting used to. This can be adjusted though, and if we had of had the car longer, I would have enjoyed setting everything up to suit me personally.
I’m not sure if the panel has been designed to be used whilst driving, but I wouldn’t personally feel very safe using this and would recommend handing this over to a passenger, or setting it up before driving off. For quick access to music during driving, you can use volume controls and forward and back buttons on the steering wheel, and change between audio systems via a handy dial located in front of the centre storage compartment.
Talking of this compartment, it was just the right size to store my camera and I loved that it was double hinged and could open up from both the driver and passenger side, depending on who was using it at the time.
Something I loved about the UX was the Heads-Up display, a projected display showing a variety of different features depending on which of the car’s numerous functions were currently in use, projected onto the windscreen in the driver’s line of sight. This unobtrusive display, which can be seen easily even in bright sunlight, means you don’t need to look down or to the side whilst driving, something which has been known to cause accidents.
Worth noting is that the speed limits, which are automatically displayed on the Heads-Up projector, can be slightly delayed or can be affected when passing junctions or going over or under bridges, where the speed limits of other nearby roads can briefly appear. We also encountered a couple of roads on our travels where the speed limit was incorrect, perhaps due to limits on these roads changing recently and the system not having a chance to update. For this reason it makes sense to still keep an eye out for road signs to ensure you are driving at the correct, and safe, speed limit for each road you are on, rather than relying purely on the Heads-Up display system.
The Lane Tracing Assist function helps to adjust the steering of the car to keep you in the correct lane and warns you on upcoming bends. When this function is switched on, you will also see the symbol displayed via the Heads-Up projection. When using the in-car navigation, the upcoming direction will also display, preventing the need to look across or rely on a passenger to keep track of your next move. When changing music, the song’s title will also briefly be displayed on the Heads-Up display.
Arriving at Lainston House, I was able to fully appreciate the car’s advanced parking assist, complete with 360 degree cameras, which work to provide a virtual 3D replica of the car and surrounding area, allowing you to see the car as you park it, alongside instructions on how best to manoeuvre the vehicle into tight spaces, which I reckon could help guide even the most nervous drivers into a space with ease. I loved this function and wanted to keep parking to try it out numerous times (photos of parking assist screen taken whilst stationary in the Lexus car park for safety reasons)!
Getting our luggage out, we headed in to the reception. I kept forgetting the UX’s one-touch open and close for the boot – so useful and something I knew I would miss when we got our old car back – I am all about the gadgets!
Following an incredible night’s stay in one of the beautiful garden suites at the hotel, and a delicious cooked and continental breakfast, Ed and I bid farewell to the picturesque grounds of Lainston House and made our way back onto the country lanes, opening the sunroof to let the warm spring breeze in as we enjoyed the drive.
The UX accelerates so smoothly, moving effortlessly as the car picks up speed. Braking was a little jerky, in comparison. I wasn’t sure if it was just where I was still getting used to the car, but it did seem tricky to come to a totally smooth stop, and Ed noticed the same.
We have cruise control on our own car, so Ed was interested to see how this function would compare on the more up to date UX. On the way back towards Bournemouth, we went onto the motorway, giving us the perfect chance to try this out. Ed found the Dynamic Radar Cruise Control to be a lot more advanced, using sensors in the front bumper to automatically adjust the speed of the car if there was a car going slower than you in front, matching its speed to keep you at a safe distance. If the car then pulled out of the lane, the cruise control would then climb back up to the pre-set speed.
We picked up my dad at the beach and headed back into Christchurch where we went for lunch at the Boathouse.
Ed, who is 5’11, had the chance to ride in the backseat and said he was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable and spacious it was. From the outside, the back of the UX can appear a little tight and cramped, especially compared to our much larger seven seater people carrier.
Although I would say it would be a little too tight for our family of five, at least until one or more of the children are out of car seats, it would be adequate for a slightly smaller family. The middle seat can fold down to provide a padded, generously sized double arm rest, complete with cup holders and, with a fully adjustable ventilation system, plus the USB ports I mentioned earlier, a journey in the back of the car is perfectly enjoyable.
All too soon, it was time to head back to Lexus Poole to return the car. We had both thoroughly enjoyed testing out the UX 250H F SPORT. The car is fantastic to drive, and I will definitely keep it in mind when it comes to a time when we are ready to purchase a new car.
Thank you to Lexus Poole for allowing us to take the car out. You can find out more about the UX on their website.
I was provided with the Lexus UX 250H F SPORT to test drive for two days and gifted a complimentary stay at Lainston House, however all opinions and images are my own.