By Peter Perrotta
In this post-pandemic world, shortages seem to be the new normal.
Not only are there shortages of new and used vehicles, but the gas used to run most of these cars is currently in short supply as well.
As the prices at the pump seem to be going up each day, consumers may be rethinking what type of vehicle they may want to jump into next – hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric come to mind.
The folks at Toyota and its luxury division Lexus have been producing first-quality hybrid vehicles for quite some time now. It’s always been my feeling that Toyota’s Prius model has been a leader in its class when it comes to good, quality hybrid offerings.
However, the Prius isn’t the only kid on the block in the Toyota/Lexus stable.
Two years ago, Lexus came out with the UX250h crossover hybrid – the smallest vehicle in this auto makers lineup. I recently test drove the 2021 Lexus UX250h for one week to see if this cutting edge vehicle measures up.
First off, the design of the UX250h – the UX stands for urban explorer – is more akin to a traditional hatchback than a true crossover. Nonetheless, it has an attractive rugged, sort of spit fire look to it that gives it a lot of curb appeal.
Inside, the UX is appointed quite nicely much along the lines what one would expect from a Lexus. While the UX250h isn’t particularly large, I was able to get into and out of the low statured vehicle relatively easily.
Head and shoulder room is ample. I did find the leg room to be a wee bit cramped for my six-foot frame, but not enough to be tremendously uncomfortable.
Cargo space, while not overly ample, is enough to stuff a small load of belongings in the rear compartment. For example, I was able to snugly fit four display cases for my weekend baseball card shows in the rear cargo area behind the second row.
Where this relatively new model excels though, in my opinion, is that it is a fun to drive vehicle that is relatively inexpensive to drive.
Powered by a 2.0 liter, four cylinder hybrid engine, this little go getter is capable of putting out 181 horsepower – which is more than enough to power it through the fast lane on the expressway.
I found the UX250h to be quite versatile when it came to various driving situations. On the highway it maintains a safe and secure stance even at relatively high speeds. Around town it is chipper enough to get you in and out of tight traffic situations. As far as handling goes, it does quite well in tight cornering situations as well.
The EPA fuel consumption ratings are easy on the pocketbook as well. This UX250h has an overall fuel consumption rating of 39 miles per gallon – 41 mpg in city driving and 38 mpg on the highway.
The EPA estimates that on average it will cost only about $1,050 a year to run this car as it uses a meager 2.6 gallons of gas per every 100 miles driven.
The base price of the 2021 UX250h, which comes standard with an all wheel drive drivetrain, is $39,800. With added options and destination and delivery, my test vehicle had a total sticker price of $44,300.
Added options on my test vehicle included: $1,660 for triple beam head lamps, LED fog lamps and cornering lamps; $565 for parking assist; $500 for a heads up display; $425 for premium paint; and $150 for a heated steering wheel.
On the government’s five-star crash test safety ratings, this UX250h scored a top-notch five stars on its overall score. It received four stars for its frontal crash test, five stars on its side crash test and four stars on the rollover test.
The UX also comes in a front wheel drive gas powered 200 model.
The editors at Car and Driver give the UX250h high marks for its “entertaining” driving behavior. They also noted that it is “nicely appointed” and comes with a lot of standard equipment.
Car and Driver handed out low marks for having a “coarse” engine sound and they didn’t like its touchpad controlled infotainment system.
To be quite honest, I didn’t notice that it had a coarse engine sound. When you put it in the sport driving mode and accelerate sharply it does rev a bit, though.
While I’m not a big fan of the mouse-like touchpad controls for the infotainment system, once you get used to it its not a big distraction. The Lexus voice command system works quite well as an alternative.
Overall though, this hybrid crossover is definitely worth checking out, especially as the price of gas seems to be on the way up.
Peter Perrotta’s On The Road column appears weekly. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.