By LEN INGRASSIA

Arcadian Auto Editor

It’s a pint-size Lexus ... with much of the brand’s finesse wrapped in with just a few things missing. Overall the new UX 200 is a five-passenger, four-door hatchback classified as an entry-level crossover.

From its side, the UX mimics its larger RX/NX siblings, with sculpted creases and stylish wheel moldings. And it shares the big snout grille that has become the Lexus hallmark. Upward-mounted taillights add a contemporary look when teamed with a full width light strip.

Coupled with the Japanese automaker’s signature quality and a base of just over $30,000, it’s easier to overlook small flaws in an otherwise beautiful package.

Pros:

Lexus/Toyota build quality

Stylish against rivals

Upscale interior

Cons:

Noisy

Cramped rear seat

Limited cargo space

We were perplexed whether to call this entry luxury Lexus a hatchback or small crossover. The liftgate has the height of a hatchback and inside cargo with rear seats in the upright position is nearly 22 cubic feet, less than some rivals. Front seating is comfortable, though, and retains the flexibility of its larger siblings with power adjust and lumbar support. High-grade materials drape the interior, giving it an upscale feel with easy reach controls.

The UX 200’s infotainment system suffers from the same fussy touchpad found in other Lexus models and is best adjusted while parked. A new set of radio control dials at the front of the center armrest offers some relief.

Base price for the UX is $32,000 that includes a good amount of standard equipment. Our test car added a luxury F Sport package ($2,890) to its $34,000 sticker. Fully loaded, the price hovers around $40K ... and that may lead to some head scratching at checkout.

Rivals are priced nearby, though, including the Audi Q3, Volvo XC40, BMW X1, and the substantially more expensive Mercedes-Benz GLA.

The UX and hybrid version UX250h were introduced at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show and are aimed at the urban commuter. The UX name stands for urban explorer. Powered by a 169 horsepower naturally aspirated four-cylinder, the UX is a front-wheel drive crossover mated with a 10-speed direct-shift CVT transmission.

But while most Lexus cars and SUVs are known for their whisper quiet ride, the UX is not among them. With modest acceleration, we noticed a groaning sound from under the hood, although this could have originated from the F Sport’s piped in cabin exhaust noise (go figure). Our independent testing from zero to 60 clocked in at 8.5 seconds, reportedly the same as the hybrid.

Combined EPA fuel economy is listed at 33 mpg, although we were unable to achieve that result in extended highway travel.

On the road, the UX feels solid and handles well in turns with a stiff suspension. Braking is solid and the ride is mostly smooth although its shorter wheelbase makes for a choppier ride than its NX sibling. The full Lexus safety package is included in the base price and makes the UX a better value than rivals charging extra for the same equipment.

Contact independent automotive columnist Len Ingrassia at lenscarcorner@comcast.net

2019 Lexus UX 200 F Sport

Base: $32,000

Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 169 hp

EPA rated mileage: 29 city, 37 highway, 33 combined.

Assembled: Miyawaka, Fukuola (Miyata plant, Japan); information on U.S./Canadian parts content, major source of foreign parts, country of origin, engine and transmission—not available.

Crash test ratings: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the Lexus UX 200 its highest rating of “Good” in moderate and small overlap frontal collision for driver and passenger side, side impact, rollover and whiplash protection from rear impact. The IIHS also awarded a “Superior” rating for the Lexus standard front crash safety system. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rated the UX 200 five stars overall, its highest rating with five stars in side impact collisions and four stars in frontal crash and rollover protection.

Warranty: 4-year/50,000-mile basic; 6-year/70,000-mile powertrain; first and second scheduled maintenance

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