Residential architects accommodate urban population shifts to densely populated neighborhoods by simply building upwards.

However, since architects can’t widen the streets, many laid out in a day of equine drawn trolley, it falls upon automakers to shape and size vehicles to downtown dense urban friendliness.

Lexus, a luxury brand burned into the consciousness of an established older crowd, now embarks on relentlessly pursuing a younger urban affluence with its new 2019 Lexus UX 200, its first and rather ambitious gamble on an Urban Exploring Lifestyle “Cute Ute.”

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WHAT: 2019 Lexus UX 200 personal luxury crossover sport utility vehicle. “UX” = Urban Explorer. Cousin of Toyota CH-R. Designated ZA10, it’s  the first Lexus application of TNGA-C platform. UX 200 is Lexus’ first sportback since the CT200h.

Standard Power: 1987 cc, dual VVT-i DOHC 16V I-4 cylinder gasoline engine: 169 hp/ 151 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm + Direct shift fixed launch gear continuously variable band and pulley transaxle, with 10 simulated shift points.

WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE:  – Obliquely Origami

The 2019 Lexus UX 200 challenges observers to find congruity among a cumulation of creases. As a free spirit sport-back, though, it can flout conventional SAV design with bolder assymetry. What luxury crossover other than a Lamborghini Urus could get away with the F-Sport’s boastful lattice vertical corner fangs? A generously raked silhouette nearly excuses the sympetalous spindle grille, a face that only a mother could love [and judging by previous Lexus sales, many will].

– Belying mere front-drive on-pavement capabilities, is the dark contrast body cladding which in rough and tumble fashion covers rather than merely traces the large wheel arches. That sharply rising rear door to C-pillar crease screams oh so Lexus IS sedan. Trademark “L” for Lexus boomerang LED DRLS and rear lighting = standard. Under the liftgate glass the assemblies are connected by a light bar. Liftgate glass to rear bumper vertical creasing and cinching forms a less obvious spindle. Chrome flashes on door frames and lower fascia denote that there is luxury to be had here.

Styling Standout: Door mounted, upper darkened, lower body color matching middle directional LED wing mirrors.

WHY: Pleasingly incongruous cute sportback ute for refined Urban Exploration.  

WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since early 2019

WHERE: Lexus new vehicle dealers

WHERE MADE: Mikawaka, Japan

HOW ROADWORTHY: The genuine planetary first gear issues some getaway authority to the tumble intake twin-cam 2.0 liter four graded “B” for merely benign forward motion. But it’s not all that bad especially once the twist knob right ear of the gauge binnacle is twisted up to Sport mode. F-Sport’s motorized sliding TFT gauge meter renders some color pyrotechnics. For it’s time to manumatically tug the responsive, smallish steering wheel left dorsal shift paddles for some genuine CVT engine braking, with Active Sound Control audible enhancement, or the occasional surge to the lofty redline limiter. Astonishingly, the drivetrain doesn’t feel tortured when called upon.

As the first Lexus crossover to adopt the new modular TPGA platform the UX 250 F-Sport retains the brand’s reknowned syrupy immunity to road perturbances, still imparting a tauter, more buttoned-down to road attitude than its bigger relatives. Sway composure seeks only greater grip. This generation of run-flat tire rarely permeates the cabin, otherwise external sound immune. Heft at the helm is warm hatch rapid, but with most road feel excised. The disc brake set is matched with a stop and go suited pedal devoid of abruptness.

Turning radius: 34.4 ft. = 4.0 ft. < Audi Q3 Quattro; 2.8 ft. < BMW X2;  4.4 ft. < Infiniti QX30; 3.0 ft. < Jaguar E-Pace

HOW FAR: 33 combined miles per gallon fuel economy. 460 miles highway range.

HOW BIG/ LITTLE: 5 occupant seating = 2+2+1 pre-teen. Marketed as a personal urban sportback, the UX 200 is less spacious than true subcompact sports activity vehicles.

Wheelbase: 103.9″ = 1.6″ < Audi Q3 Quattro; 1.5″ < Jaguar E-Pace; 1.2″ < BMW X2; 2.4″ < Infiniti QX30

Row 2 legroom: 33.1″ = 3.0″ < Audi Q3; 3.6″ < BMW X2; 0.4″ < Infiniti QX30;    2.0″ < Jaguar E-Pace

HOW USEFUL: Power liftgate; 60/40% 2nd Row split folding seatbacks; ;  Sub cargo floor storage management bins; +1 2nd Row center armrest storage & power ports; +1 Forward view over sloped hood; -1 Two after rows worth of blindspots.

Max Cargo Volume: 41.4 cu. ft. = 16% < Audi Q3; 17% < BMW X2; 21% < Jaguar E-Pace; 14% >  Infiniti QX30

HOW SAFE: 8 airbags; IIHS Top Safety Pick; Rear camera; STANDARD Lexus Safety System Plus = Pedestrian detection braking; Forward collision avoidance braking; Lane Departure Warning, Keep Assist; Full adaptive cruise control, Automatic High beam LED headlamps;

  • Optional: Blind spot & Rear Cross-traffic warning, sonar front & rear park assist. (Should be standard given thick seat backs and 2nd Row headrests obstruction of side & rear outward view.)

HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: The UX 200 cabin won’t be mistaken for a lavish Lexus flagship but it impresses on several levels with an exemplary mesh of driver intuitive controls, decent occupant comfort given the size, and a successful execution of exemplary fittings.

Perforated NuLuxe seating, auto heated Row 1; Power 10-way driver, 8-way passenger front seats; Power adjusting heated leather tilt, telescoping steering wheel with smooth surface spoke integrated redundant controls; 2-Zone automatic climate control Keyless entry, push buttton ignition; Full express power windows x 4; 2nd Row privacy window tint; USB x 4; Cup, bottleholders x 6.

+1 Supremely supportive, long distance relaxing front bucket seats; Generous, heated power tilt / telescoping steering wheel w/ comfort retraction. Large font Heads Up display.

Ground Clearance: 5.9″ = 2.1″ < Audi Q3 Quattro; 1.3″ < BMW X2; 2.1″ < Infiniti QX30; 0.1″ < Jaguar E-Pace; 0.6″ > Mercedes Benz GLA

Cool Gizmo(s): LC coupe derived deep hooded narrow gauge binnacle w/ F-Sport 8.0″ power sliding meter gauge; LC coupe derived gauge binnacle outboard traction control and Drive Mode twist knobs; Accessory start-up infotainment screen planetrium graphics;

Details Done Right: Contrasting stitched seat & soft panel surfaces; Simulated brushed metal cabin accents; Fine grain dense plastic panels; Precision finish + action switchgear; Soft close power windows; Dense pile cabin & cargo bay carpeting; Cabin overhead, foot well & door panel ambient lighting;

Nearly Non-Descript: -1 No cabin color contrast in F-Sport. Mesh pillar and headliner; Inboard shin bruising sharp under dash cowl.

HOW “APP” -LICABLE: center dashtop 10.3″ HD LCD split pane navigation infotainment screen; enlarged infotainment Remote Control Interface touchpad with haptics, dedicated switches; Adaptive voice command hands-free communications; voice guidance GPS HDD Navigation; Brassy, not bassy 380 watt, 8- speaker CD, HD-Radio, FLAC decoding streaming audio; Siri Eyes; Apple CarPlay;

+1: Display touch pad w/ gestures & haptic feedback; Soothing blue infotainment screen background w/ touch cursor populating menu overlay;

+1: Free Enform 2.0 wireless device Apps = HD Doppler weather, real-time traffic, Amazon Alexa, Slacker, I-Heart, Destination search, Sports, Fuel Prices, Stock values;

-1: Pocket radio-style front center armrest part concealed audio system dials.

Subscription based: Sirius XM radio (90 days trial); Lexus Enform Connected telematics: 12 mos. security, 3 mos. Remote  (incl. Amazon in-car delivery) & Concierge trial; Verizon hot spot (1 year / 4 GB trial).

+/-: no Android Auto

USB x 4, 12V x 2 (including cargo bay); +1 Qi wireless charging.

HOW MUCH: $41,285 = 2019 Lexus UX 200 as tested suggested price.

WHAT’S MISSING: AWD option (avail. only w/ hybrid UX 250h model); Shallower underdash corner (bruised shins = witnesses).

ANY COMPETITION: Audi Q3: +1 space, power, AWD; BMW X2: +1 space, power, AWD;  Infiniti QX30: +1 power, road clearance, avail. AWD;  Jaguar E-Pace: +1 space, power, Mercedes-Benz CLA 250: SEE Infiniti QX30

BOTTOM LINE: Luxurious personal crossover, spares some cute and ute, co-existing perfectly well with narrow and tight urban quarters.

(Contributing Editor: Tomasz Paluch)