New Lexus LBX 2024 review: a small hybrid SUV that fails to stand out

The new Lexus LBX has some plus points, but ultimately there are rivals that offer more for less

3.0 out of 5

It feels plush enough when you climb aboard, too; the core architecture looks slicker and better integrated than that of the Yaris Cross, and there are top-quality, stitched materials and dense foam padding in key areas. 

The infotainment system is nicely positioned and has a crisp display, plus there are physical controls for heating and ventilation directly beneath it. Plenty of main controls, such as the stubby gear selector and door buttons (instead of regular handles) feel suitably high grade. But it’s not flawless – the mechanism on the central sliding armrest feels a bit cheap, for example – but it’s probably premium enough.

The on-road experience is solid too, though ultimately it lacks any standout attributes. That is to say that Lexus’s claim that the car can run for 50 per cent of the time on electricity around town seems valid enough to us; on the brand’s test route in Valencia, we found it nippy enough to dart in and out of rush-hour traffic, with a little more instant punch than we’re used to feeling in the likes of the Yaris and Yaris Cross. 

The low-speed ride is typical TNGA fare; firm but controlled, and rarely uncomfortable. The steering is perhaps a teeny bit heavier than we’d like, and the self centring a little strong, but it’s accurate and makes it easy to place such a compact vehicle in tight city streets.

Things don’t fall apart completely on faster roads, either. Body control is, if anything, better than it needs to be, and while sharp, high-frequency inputs can still hit the dampers sufficiently for jolts to enter the cabin, in general the LBX strikes a good balance between composure and comfort. 

There’s not much benefit to pushing on, though; chuck the car at a corner and it just settles dutifully. Any bite, verve or genuine crispness is smothered and softened by a mixture of traction control, stability control, a braking set-up designed to reduce nose pitch, and the distant murmurings of the CVT transmission. It’s fine, safe, secure – just not much fun.

Now, the latest iteration of the hybrid powertrain is much improved over its predecessors, and is impressively smooth at feeding in petrol power when you push the car beyond what the electric bits can do. But once you’re at that point, a patient approach is best, because overly aggressive throttle inputs send the revs rising, accompanied not by a four-cylinder drone but rather a gurgling reminder that this is the first Lexus to feature a three-cylinder motor.

Behave yourself and this shouldn’t be too much of an issue, though; the system generally keeps revs pretty low unless it’s pushed hard, and once you’re up and running, the LBX is both comfortable and refined – only a bit of wind noise from around the side mirrors spoils things at a motorway cruise.

Sadly, if the front cabin experience is a notch above many small SUVs, the rear seats are hardly a triumph. It’s cramped back there, so anyone six feet tall will struggle for foot space, knee room and head room – more so, we’d suggest, than in ‘aspirational mainstream’ rivals like Peugeot’s latest E-2008, or even the Fiat 600 or Jeep Avenger. The Toyota feels narrow, too, so while there is a middle seat, three adults would struggle to fit in the second row.

Much like with so many MINIs, we could see this space being used more frequently as a convenient dumping ground, for shopping and general clutter, than for carrying people. Should owners want or need to use the boot, they’ll find it surprisingly deep – especially on front-drive versions, which have a capacity of 402 litres. A four-wheel-drive car can have as little as 315 litres. But the floor can’t be adjusted for height, so you’ll always have a hefty lip to load heavy items over, and there’s not a single hook to hold a shopping or takeaway bag – only some tiedown anchors in the floor.

Lexus can’t be accused of scrimping on standard equipment with the LBX, however. The range starts with Urban, which brings 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights with auto high beam, a seven-inch digital instrument cluster, dual-zone air conditioning, front and rear parking sensors with a rear-view camera, plus Lexus’s very decent Link Connect 9.8-inch infotainment system.

Moving up to Premium brings heated front seats, synthetic-leather upholstery, a wireless smartphone charging pad, rain-sensing wipers and extra safety kit, while Premium Plus adds a larger digital instrument panel, a powered tailgate, a head-up display, extra USB ports, and 18-inch alloys.

Range-topping Takumi comes with semi-aniline leather seats, parking assist, an impressive 13-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, LED fog lights, power adjustment on the driver’s seat and interior ambient lighting. These top two versions can also come with a ‘Design’ suffix that means posher upholstery, machined 18-inch wheels, and a contrast roof colour.

Specs look generous, then – but they ought to, for this is not a cheap car. An LBX Urban will set you back a whisker under £30,000, and by the time you get to the Premium Plus edition that we’re trying here, you’re looking at £34,495 – which is the thick end of nine grand more than a mid-spec Yaris Cross, and £3k up on what Peugeot will charge you for a GT-spec 2008. From our perspective, that looks a chunky uplift for a premium badge.

Model: Lexus LBX Premium Plus
Price: £34,495
Engine: 1.5-litre 3cyl petrol hybrid
Power: 134bhp
Transmission: CVT automatic, front-wheel drive
0-62mph: 9.2 seconds
Top speed: 106mph
Economy: 60.1-64.2mpg
CO2 emissions: 100-107g/km
Dimensions (l/w/h): 4,190/1,825/1,560mm
On sale: Now

Source: Read Full Article