A lux brand offers a diminutive CUV with efficiency. Cliff Leppke – CleanMPG – Nov. 16, 2022 Lexus calls it the UX 250h Luxury. Regardless, the UX doesn’t mean a posh user experience. The MSRP is $46,600. That sum buys 2.0L I4 engine-related thrash. Moreover, this is mucho coin for what is a variation of the Corolla Hatchback wearing weight-cutting aluminum body panels, and a hybrid powertrain with 181-hp combined. There was a time when $47,000 bought a luxo-liner powered by a velvety V-8. Things change. This wee hatchback (Lexus prefers SUV) has adequate people space in the cabin’s front; things get tight for humans and their gear toward the rear. One cool feature: illuminated center-of-the-vent knobs. Ride quality is compliant, as if sprung by bungee cords. This and its maneuverability make it a great grocery getter. It moves seemingly seamlessly in D. Use S-mode for step shifting; you can alter engine rpm and thereby cut its buzzy drone. Steering effort is moderate but it doesn’t increase when cornering, reducing confidence. Lumpy pavement agitates this carriage. It rolls on 18-inch run-flat tires. Select info on the infotainment screen and you get a stylized version of the vehicle's power delivery. It depicts whether you’re charging, moving via engine/electric motor or a combination thereof. You don’t see the UX’s electric rear-motor drive system’s status, though. Choose one of three driving modes: eco, normal and sport. The latter presents a simulated tachometer instead of a power/ECO meter. This is useful or is that “use fuel,” as it clearly displays 0-rpm in EV mode. A green EV icon lights up when you’re either moving or stationary and the engine is off but other vehicle systems are on. You get a suite of driver assist features with two levels of hyper-active lane-keep assist. The UX’s soft-side inside doesn’t extend to the back. Those in the first row get power adjusting seats and a pliable dash pad. The driver’s position feels slightly askew. Rear door cards are hard plastic. In Lexus fashion, there’s a frustrating touch-pad control system. You move your finger on this device to highlight items on the infotainment screen and then tap it to enter. Around the center front armrest, radio controls ape a vintage Sony Walkman. A motor adjusts the heated steering wheel’s position. Another motor operates the rear lid. Select a concierge setting and Lexus’ fussy climate control interface is less cumbersome. It automatically manipulates seat and steering wheel toasters. Back-pew riders get side airbags. Cargo area, despite a dual-level floor, is shallow. Rear backrest headrests fold, a boon for flipping forward seatbacks. And there’s a first-aid kit. While the starting price is $40,240 plus $1,075 destination, my tester included a wireless phone charger, windshield deicer, head-up display, triple-beam LED headlamps ($1,660) and parking assist, illuminated front door sills and gloss black wheel package ($1,300). During the 1970s, well-heeled buyers rushed to acquire high-mpg rattling diesels from Mercedes Benz. So, there’s a historical precedent for fancy fuel-efficient autos. Sometimes you spend more, ironically, to save more. The UX, I noticed, struggled to reach 34.5 mpg motoring during an Alberta Clipper or cold snap. Due to a schedule change, I drove the UX for two extra days in warmer weather. The engine, therefore, didn’t churn as much in order to heat the interior and charge its 1.4 kWh NiMH battery. And the UX ambulated as an EV for short distances—that bumped the fuel economy to 37 mpg. The EPA numbers are 41-mpg city, 38 highway and 39 combined. Those figures might, given today’s fuel prices, make the UX make sense. Yet, there was a time when a relatively graceful non-hybrid Corolla Liftback sipped fuel just as sparingly. In contrast, the UX proves it isn’t easy being green.