Lexus UX 300e (2020 - 2023) used car review

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By Jonathan Crouch

Introduction

The very first fully battery-powered Lexus, the UX 300e, rewards a thoughtful buyer prepared to think a little more laterally. In the segment for fully electric compact-to-mid-sized SUVs, there are cheaper options than this one from the 2020-2023 period, some of which offer greater driving range. But this Lexus has other attributes which might well draw you to it, including admirably few compromises in terms of interior packaging, plus a very high quality feel. Here, we look at the earlier 54.35kWh battery version.

Models

5dr SUV (EV)

History

It's rather surprising that until the launch of this car, the UX 300e, we'd never seen a full-electric Lexus. In 2020, after 15 years of market leadership in making electrified hybrid cars, this was the brand's first full-EV.

At the time of this model's launch in 2020, we'd yet to see the marque's parent company Toyota launch an EV either, though the UX 300e was actually based on a full-electric version of the Toyota C-HR that then was on sale in China. The UX 300e sat on the same GA-C platform as the ordinary self-charging hybrid UX models. The initial model has a 54.35kWk battery option and its driving range wasn't especially eye-catching, but for the right kind of customer, a number of aspects of this car's ownership proposition might be.

The UX 300e sold in this form until Spring 2023, when it was upgraded with a larger 72.8kWh battery and a higher standard of infotainment. It's the earlier smaller-battery model we look at here.

What You Get

Lexus is one of those brands who believe that buyers of full-EV models want their cars to look as 'normal' as possible. So the visual changes that differentiate this UX 300e model from its ordinary UX 250h self-charging hybrid showroom stablemate of the period are minimal. The front features a sleeker bumper with smaller air intakes. And a subtly revised version of this model's signature 'spindle'-shaped radiator grille, featuring aerodynamic shutters which automatically open and close depending on the level of battery charge.

From the side, lower 'Electric' badges are one of the few giveaways to this model's BEV status; that and the fact that it has two 'filler' flaps, one for a Type 2 charger on the driver's side and one for a fast-charge CHAdeMO plug on the near side. Apart from the bespoke badge, there are no differences over the usual hybrid model at the rear, dominated by an LED tail light 'blade' extending the full width of the tailgate, the lamp section in this case made up of an array of 120 LEDs and tapering in the middle to be just 3mm deep at its narrowest point.

Inside, specific UX 300e features are even harder to spot, limited to a bespoke 'drive-by-wire' auto gear selector, branding on the floor mats and badging in the instrument cluster, where you'll also find some EV-specific displays if you look hard enough. Even the central instrument gauge looks much the same as that of the ordinary hybrid model, with its 'charge', 'eco' and 'power' options. Plus in the information display alongside, there are selectable EV options - things like range and your current and average consumption in miles per kWh. From here, you can also select a charging schedule, vary current and the charging limit - and even cool the battery. There's nothing much of note on the 7-inch centre stack screen - just the usual audio, 'phone, apps and climate functions - though it can at least connect through to 'Apple CarPlay'/'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring - which you'll probably need it to do because navigation wasn't standard unless the original buyer opted for the bigger 10.3-inch 'Lexus Navigation' display, which only came as part of an expensive top 'Takumi' Pack'.

Getting in the rear, the door aperture really is rather small - taller folk will risk banging their heads as they enter, due to the re-profiled rear bench - it had to be redesigned to fit the battery underneath. This change didn't compromise rear seat space by very much, but that was pretty tight to start with, exacerbated by the fact that it's difficult to slide your feet beneath the front seats.

Let's finish with some good news. The boot is actually bigger than is the case with the UX 250h hybrid version of this car. Lift the tailgate (it's not powered unless you get the top 'Takumi Pack' version) and a 367-litre boot is revealed, 47-litres bigger than normal (loading from deck to the rather flimsy tonneau cover). The conventional 60:40-split flattens to reveal 1,278-litres of capacity, which isn't enormous but will probably be sufficient for the needs of most likely owners.

What You Pay

Prices for this earlier UX 300e start from around £21,550 (around £23,750 retail0 for a '20-plate base-spec model, rising to around £24,550 (around £26,750 retail) for one of the last early '23-plate models fitted with the smaller 54.35kWh battery. Budget around £700 more for mid-range 'Premium Plus Pack'-spec; and around £1,800 more for a top 'Takumi Pack'-spec model. All quoted values are sourced through industry experts cap hpi. Click here for a free valuation.

What to Look For

Lexus has an unparalleled track record for reliability, and this UX 300e generates a particularly low percentage of warranty claims. We struggled to find any buyers who had a bad word to say about it in our ownership survey. Still, it's worth doing a very thorough check and getting any faulty electrical items fixed under warranty. It's highly unlikely that there will be any (just as well as some of the systems are incredibly complex) but check sunroof and window motors and make sure the leather and paint is in tip top shape. The EV drive system is incredibly tough and we've never heard of a failure. The wheels can be prone to kerbing, so factor in any refurb costs if they've been dented or scuffed.

Obviously, you'll need to check the charging system. If the car won't charge, it could be a problem with your home electrics (or those at the public charge point you're using). Check the charge light to make sure that electricity really is going through the charge port. And make sure there really is charge in the socket you're using to power from - plug something else into it to see - say, your 'phone. If that charges OK, it could be that your charging cable is demanding too much power, so try another power source. Another problem could be that the circuit may have tripped due to a circuit overload. Or perhaps there could be a problem with the charge cable: this needs to be cared for properly. Repeatedly driving over it (as previous owners may conceivably have done) will damage it eventually. Make sure you do a charge-up before signing for the car you're looking at. When you do this, make sure that when you plug in to start the charge cycle you hear the charge port and the cable locking and engaging as they should; that's all part of the charger basically confirming with the car's onboard computer that everything's good to go before releasing power. But if the charging cable fails to lock as it should, then that won't happen. If there is a failure to lock, the issue could be actuator failure, caused by a blown fuse.

Replacement Parts

(approx prices based on a 2021 UX 300e - ex Vat) Lexus parts aren't that much cheaper than those you'd get from the premium German marques, so don't expect big bargains here. A pollen filter is about £15, but can cost up to £50. Wiper blades are in the £11-£17 bracket. Front brake pads are around £43 for a set. Rear pads are around £28 for a set. Front brake discs are about £75 for a set; rear brake discs are about £75 for a set.

On the Road

This is one of those EVs sensibly engineered with a linear-feeling throttle (engineered in this case by two expert Lexus 'takumi' drivers), so the car doesn't lunge forward when you brush the throttle pedal, though it's hardly slow off the mark, 62mph from rest taking only 7.5s. There's no AWD option like there is on a UX 250h, so here a single 201bhp e-motor propels the front wheels, powered by a 54.35kWh battery pack. That lithium-ion package is similar in size to the starting point battery you'd get fitted to most (though not all) direct EV crossover rivals at this price point, but it won't take you as far. With this earlier model, the claimed WLTP-rated figure is 196 miles; think more like 160-170 miles in the real world.

Chief Engineer Takashi Watanabe and his team apparently engineered this car with driving fun in mind, building on inherently strong chassis rigidity and redeveloping the steering and suspension. Even so, this Lexus still struggles to transmit all its torque to tarmac quite as quickly as sometimes you might like, the steering feel remains a bit vague and ride quality over poorer surfaces in models fitted with the larger 18-inch wheel rims isn't quite as smooth as we'd ideally like. What is impressive is refinement. The engineers made sure that the thickness and weight of the battery pack beneath the cabin floor would act as a sound-insulating barrier. And they installed undercovers and wing liners to reduce the noise generated by small stones, dirt, water and the road surface.

What about charging? Well, using a conventional 7kW wallbox and a typical 32A AC 200V supply, the battery replenishment time is 8 hours, 15 minutes. At a DC public rapid charging point of 50kW or more, it's possible to recharge from 0-80% in 50 minutes.

Overall

Obviously, ideally you'd stretch to the later bigger-battery 72.8kWh 2023-onwards version of this UX 300e, but if budget restricts you to this earlier 2020-2023-era 54.35kWh version - or you simply don't need the later car's greater operating range, then there's quite a lot you might like here. Drive refinement, a feature of course of all EVs, has been particularly well perfected here. And there's a beautifully crafted interior, impeccable build quality and a collection of exceptionally helpful dealers to ensure ongoing ownership satisfaction. Plus the convenience of being able to use the 'Lexus Charging Network' can't be under stated.

All of this is added to the usual EV advantages - super-low Benefit-in-Kind taxation rates, low running costs and the kind of future-proofed feel at the wheel that makes you wonder why it's still necessary to burn fossil fuel in a car like this.

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