The new Lexus. Once upon a time, Lexus conjured visions of marshmallow-shaped luxury sedans. Lexus drivers of that era might not recognize the 2021 Lexus UX – a tiny crossover with more creases than an origami crane.

The UX is a petite crossover in the vein of the BMW X1 and Audi Q3, which makes the Lexus hourglass grille look especially large on its nose. It’s complemented by sharp LED headlights that blend into a body full of edges and facets. Luxury cars sometimes cater to conservative tastes, but not the UX, and we applaud it for daring to be different.

Inside, things are more muted. The trim is high quality, and the dash is mostly occupied by a wide infotainment screen above piano-style buttons. The exterior may be brash, but the classic Lexus luxury lives on.

Fits five, barely. Up front, the Lexus UX is surprisingly comfortable. The power-adjustable seats are supportive even in base form, and the F Sport buckets are even more heavily bolstered. Head room isn’t exceptional, but only the tallest drivers will notice.

The back seat is less pleasant. Second-row passengers get only 33.1 inches of leg room, which is several inches less than you’ll find in an X1 or Q3. Shoulder room is in short supply, making it difficult to seat three abreast, and narrow doors aren’t the easiest to navigate.

Cargo capacity isn’t much of an improvement. The gas-powered UX 200 gets 21.7 cubic feet behind the seats, which is only average. The hybrid UX 250h needs space for its electric motors, leaving only 17.1 cubic feet – less than many hatchbacks.

Lexus UX

The tortoise, not the hare. The Lexus UX comes with your choice of gas or hybrid power, but don’t expect either to be fast. The base 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine makes an uninspiring 169 horsepower, and the hybrid manages only 12 more.

The hybrid is only available with all-wheel drive, and the extra weight offsets the power bump. Both versions are available in F Sport form, but the paddle shifters sporty accents feel out of place when acceleration is this sluggish. On the plus side, the hybrid is impressively thrifty at an EPA-estimated 39 miles per gallon combined, which means you won’t be stopping at the gas pump very often.

The UX further atones with its ride quality, which is generally good. It’s not a sports car, but the steering response is quick, and the multi-link rear suspension soaks up imperfections well. Larger F Sport wheels stiffen the ride, which is one more reason to steer clear.

Too much tech? The UX is heavy on tech, and, in some cases, that’s a good thing. We’re glad to see standard blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control, especially when they’re paired with a sterling crash test record.

At other points, the UX’s tech misses the mark. The infotainment screen is wide and attractive, but it isn’t touch compatible. Instead, drivers can choose between three control methods: wheel-mounted buttons, voice commands, or a touchpad on the center console. All three feel somewhat clunky, and are ironically more distracting than a touchscreen.

The UX’s tech also comes at a price, as the crossover gets expensive in a hurry. Hybrid models start past $36,000, which is expensive given the vehicle’s petite size.

Final thoughts. The 2021 Lexus UX may be bold on the outside, but the rest is right down the middle. Acceleration is uninspiring, cabin space is average, and value is debatable. All the same, the UX is a distinctive pick in a sea of faceless crossovers, and its luxurious trim and thrifty hybrid may be enough to tempt the right buyer.

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