Lexus LBX (2023) review: Small and luxurious
► Smallest Lexus ever
► LBX is based on the Toyota Yaris Cross
► Hybrid competitor only for Audi Q2, DS 3…
The all-new LBX is the smallest Lexus ever and is expected to become Toyota’s luxury brand’s biggest seller in the UK. It forms the bottom rung of the Lexus crossover ladder that rises through the UX, NX and RX to the RZ. It competes with existing rivals including the DS 3, Audi Q2 and Mini Countryman, and future rivals including upcoming small SUVs from Alfa Romeo and Volvo. Premium crossovers are the target, not objectively similar but less luxurious cars like the Renault Captur.
It’s aimed at attracting people who have never before considered a Lexus, who are downsizing from their current Lexus, or who want a second car and enjoyed their big Lexus so much that they want a small car, too.
It is based on the Toyota Yaris Cross, using a version of the same chassis and a variant based on the same engine, but with many changes. The body has also been significantly redesigned, and the equipment level is higher.
The UK is expected to get its first deliveries in spring 2024, but orders can be placed now and the online configurator is active. Prices start at £29,995 for the Urban model and rise to £40,545 for the all-wheel drive version in Takumi Design trim. All-wheel drive is only available with Takumi and Takumi Design. The original Limited Edition is £39,995.
In addition to the standard three-year warranty, any LBX serviced at a Lexus dealer will be covered for up to 10 years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first.
What versions of LBX are there?
The LBX has a 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine with an electric motor powered by Toyota’s “self-charging” (i.e. non-charging) hybrid technology. It differs from the version used in the Yaris Cross in several aspects, including the use of a balance shaft designed to make it smoother.
The front wheels are driven via a CVT automatic transmission. An all-wheel-drive version will also be available, but Lexus expects that to account for a very small number of sales.
Together, the gasoline engine and electric motor produce a maximum power of 134 horsepower and 137 pound-feet of torque. This gives a 0-62mph time of 9.2 seconds (or 9.6 seconds for the heavier all-wheel drive version). The official combined fuel consumption figure is 61.4-62.7mpg, and CO2 emissions are 102-108g/km. (In both cases, the numbers are slightly worse with all-wheel drive.) The hybrid system uses surplus electricity to power an electric motor that can take on some of the load from the gasoline engine, or electric motors in the case of an all-wheel drive system. All-wheel drive version.
There are initially seven trim levels available in the UK. The entry level is the Urban, which includes a 9.8-inch touchscreen, 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera and LED headlights.
Next is Premium, which features heated front seats, rear privacy glass, additional safety equipment, automatic wipers, and ambient cabin lighting. Premium Plus adds 18-inch wheels, a power sunroof, and a head-up display.
The Premium Plus Design features different wheels, two-tone paint and different upholstery.
The Takumi gets a significant audio upgrade, to a 13-speaker Mark Levinson system (although note that this reduces boot capacity by a few litres), leather seats, a power driver’s seat, multi-colour ambient cabin lighting and adaptive high-beam headlights.
Takumi Design uses two-tone paint and more luxurious upholstery. Topping the range is the Original Edition, which gets everything, including 18-inch matte black alloy wheels and a copper paint finish, which is not available, but is limited to 250 cars in the UK.
What’s it like inside?
Up front, the LBX is reasonably roomy and comfortable, with well-shaped seats, good views out, and a slightly higher driving position than that of the hatchback. There’s a central touchscreen with many functions, but it also has a few physical controls – for the heater, for example.
The cabin design is fresh and efficient, not particularly luxurious or modern. Depending on your specification level, there will be varying degrees of suede or leather-like upholstery and upholstery. The materials used are sturdy and reasonable, and in some cases they look much better than they feel to the touch.
In the back there isn’t much room for adults or taller children. The back seat has three seat belts, but you wouldn’t want to travel far with five on the LBX. The lack of legroom encourages passengers to sit upright, highlighting the lack of headroom in the back.
The luggage compartment volume is 402 litres, or 317 liters for all-wheel drive versions. The rear seat is split 60:40 and can be folded to expand the boot space to 994 litres.
Lexus has added various reinforcements and sound deadening materials designed to reduce the level of noise entering the cabin. Acoustic glass is used on the front and side.
What’s driving like?
We drove two versions of the front-wheel-drive LBX. Aside from the differences at the end, the more basic model had a B mode on the gearshift, to improve battery recharging on the move, while the top-spec version had what Toyota calls a sequential Shiftmatic system, allowing the driver to adjust the force of engine braking. In six steps, which is a bit like changing gears in a manual car. This system also offers an S mode, for more playful shifts. (It’s a step-down CVT, so there are no actual gears, but it’s designed to feel and look closer to a conventional gearbox than a traditional, whine-prone CVT.)
Both also have Eco and EV modes. Eco is for quiet cruising. An electric car (available when the battery is sufficiently charged and your speed is low enough) uses the e-motor only, so you may want to use it while driving near schools, for example. In default Normal mode, the vehicle automatically fills up with whatever power source (engine, e-motor, or both) is most suitable for the performance you demand and the available charge.
Changes between power sources are generally so smooth and unobtrusive that you often wouldn’t even know them if it weren’t for the helpful animation that pops up, although when the engine fires up after a period of electric-only operation you do notice.
A quick look at the 0-62 mph acceleration time will make it clear that this is no rocket vehicle. It’s lively enough to avoid blocking traffic, but there’s nothing sporty about this economy-oriented engine. The brakes are good, both in terms of their power and feel, and the steering is pleasantly precise. The ride quality is generally good, but it cannot avoid bumps and bumps and large potholes.
Verdict: Lexus LBX
The LBX is a comfortable car to drive and live with, but it completely lacks the X-factor that should come with the Lexus badge, especially considering that the price is rather high.
It’s classy and fairly comfortable, it steers well, feels well made and should offer decent economy. It’s also well equipped, with some very advanced features available at the top of the price list. But when it comes to cars from Europe’s premium manufacturers, let alone relative newcomers like DS, they need to offer something special, which they fall short of.
For some, especially those with previous experience owning a Lexus, the name, warranty and dealer network will be reason enough to buy an LBX over, say, a Mini. But for us, it doesn’t stand out in a crowded market.
You can see why Lexus created the LBX: Looking for new ways to continue its impressive sales growth with SUV leadership, it’s now building an SUV for a slightly different group of potential buyers. But the end result falls strangely between two seats because it’s not quite a Lexus, in terms of luxury and sophistication, while being too expensive for what remains at heart a perfectly decent Toyota.