2024 Lexus LBX review: Small SUV, premium appeal!

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Entering below the aging UX, the compact Lexus LBX breaks new ground for Toyota’s luxury arm

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In brief


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REVIEW: Lexus LBX

After many years of producing a safe line-up of luxury SUVs and saloons, Lexus is going all-out to diversify its range.

The LC grand touring coupe started the expansion, while the LM people carrier offers something unique in the large luxury car sector. At the smaller end of the market, Lexus is also downsizing with the LBX premium small SUV.

LBX stands for Lexus Breakthrough Crossover, and this is only the second car from the company to feature a three-letter name (the first being the LFA supercar). It’s the Breakthrough part that’s important, because the LBX is the smallest car that Lexus has ever built, but it comes with the premium quality and technology that has made the company’s larger cars popular.

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In Australia, the LBX is a three-model range. The front-wheel-drive entry LBX Luxury is priced from $47,550 before on-road costs, and it takes a $5440 jump to get to the $52,990 LBX Sports Luxury. Making that an all-wheel-drive option adds another four grand for $56,990.

That pricing puts the LBX in the ballpark of small electric SUVs such as the Jeep Avenger ($53,990) and Volvo EX30 ($59,990), but while Lexus is dipping its toe into the EV market with the larger RZ and UX300e, the LBX is a petrol-electric hybrid.

It uses the same running gear as the Toyota Yaris and Yaris Cross, so there’s a 100kW/185Nm 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine combined with a 4.7kW/52Nm electric motor and battery. The LBX is available with front- or all-wheel drive – the latter being a rarity in the small SUV class – with claimed 0-100km/h times of 9.2 and 9.6 seconds, respectively. Fuel consumption is rated at a low 3.8L/100km, its 36-litre tank only requiring 91RON petrol.

The Yaris connection will give you an idea of how small the LBX is. At 4190mm it’s 10mm longer than a Yaris Cross, but a width of 1825mm is a handy 60mm broader than Toyota’s smallest SUV, and the LBX has a wheelbase that’s 20mm longer, too. That means there’s a touch more space in the cabin, but it’s still on the snug side.

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Interior comfort

Up front there’s plenty of room, and the LBX feels just as plush as the company’s bigger models thanks to generous use of premium materials.

The light-coloured synthetic leather of our car felt upmarket (black trim is available at no extra cost), but the man-made trim for the steering wheel was less impressive. While it had the look of leather, there was a slightly oily feel to its texture. There’s centre console storage, but it’s narrow, while the door bins are on the small side, too.

Where the LBX struggles the most is for rear passenger space. Much like the previously mentioned Avenger and EX30, the back seats are only really good for short trips, with the middle seat being no more than a token addition.

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Boot space in the Lexus LBX isn’t dreadful, but at a capacity of 402 litres (VDA), it isn’t much bigger than a conventional hatchback – while the seats-down capacity doesn’t break the 1000-litre mark, at 994 litres.

There is a false floor with extra storage beneath, though, while a powered tailgate is also fitted to Premium Plus models and above.

All versions of the LBX come with a 9.8-inch touchscreen that features navigation, voice control and a (for now) lifetime subscription to connected services. Over-the-air updates are also offered, while wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto allow you to use your own apps instead.

Both models come with a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and head-up display, although the touch-sensitive steering wheel controls used to operate the latter are a little tricky to use. Sometimes the functions unintentionally appear in the head-up display if you skim the controls with your hands, but then you need to use an affirmative double press for them to work.

One useful feature of the central screen is the ability to quickly access often-used functions. The LBX memorises which ones are accessed most frequently, and a press of an on-screen button accesses them. This is particularly handy to deactivate the car’s road-sign recognition software – this beeps every time a road sign is detected and also alerts you when you’ve momentarily crept over the last detected speed limit, even by a couple of kays.

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Other standard kit includes 18-inch alloy wheels, heated and power-adjustable front seats with driver’s seat memory, wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto, an electric tailgate, artificial leather upholstery, 360-degree camera system, and two-tone paint.

Taking that $5440 leap to Sports Luxury adds 13-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, automatic parking system, ‘Ultrasuede’ and leather-accented seats, and active noise cancellation.

Also fitted are the E-Latch doors first fitted to the NX. These need a squeeze of the exterior handle to open in a single motion, which soon becomes second nature. Opening them from the inside requires a certain knack, where you push the door and thumb the release at the same time to open it.

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How does it drive?

On the road, the LBX is comfortable. While it could be easy to dismiss it as a Yaris Cross in fancy clothes, Lexus has put serious effort into delivering a more refined driving experience for the LBX.

The hybrid system is far quieter here than it is in the Yaris or Yaris Cross, with enough sound deadening on board to make the three-cylinder petrol engine almost undetectable when it does fire up. There’s just a distant thrum when accelerating, while no obvious engine noise is present at a cruise.

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The suspension has been given an overhaul, too, and the LBX offers a comfortable ride for such a small car that’s a marked improvement over the Yaris Cross.

The dampers soak up bumps well, and only the biggest thumps are felt in the cabin. It’s much like Lexus’s larger SUVs in this regard.

The LBX isn’t the most involving car to drive, but the steering is direct, and while body roll is noticeable, the car doesn’t feel wallowy in the bends.

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VERDICT

While the LBX feels pretty accomplished as a small premium SUV, its price is going to be a sticking point for some buyers.

If you’re an existing Lexus customer looking to downsize, then the cost won’t be too much of an issue, but look beyond the realms of Lexus, and the LBX is at a price point that matches cars such as the Audi Q3 and new MINI Countryman. The latter is a car that’s only MINI in name these days, which means you get a car with a premium feel like the Lexus, but with a lot more space inside.

Dean Gibson & Auto Daily


2024 Lexus LBX specs

Model:Lexus LBX
Price:From $47,550 before on-road costs
Powertrain:1.5-litre 3-cylinder hybrid
Power/torque:100kW/185Nm + 4.7kW/52Nm
Transmission:e-CVT automatic, FWD / AWD
0-100km/h9.2 seconds / 9.6 seconds
Economy:3.8L/100km
L/W/H:4190/1825/1560mm
On sale:Now

MORE: Lexus LBX official announcement

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Entering below the aging UX, the compact Lexus LBX breaks new ground for Toyota's luxury arm2024 Lexus LBX review: Small SUV, premium appeal!