Lexus UX 300e review

Lexus UX 300e review

Lexus was a part-electrification pioneer when it launched the RX400h self-charging hybrid SUV way back in 2004.

However, it’s taken until now for the premium car maker to bring its first all-electric vehicle – the UX 300e – to market.

Consequently, it’s a little late to the party, joining the likes of the similarly sized Kia e-Niro, Hyundai Kona Electric and Peugeot e-2008, to name but a few.

Lexus UX 300e review

Starting at £41,745, the Lexus has an official range just shy of 200 miles (190-196 miles, depending on the wheel size) and looks much the same as its hybrid sibling (priced from £29,955).

“Compact, classy, comfortable and economical, it’s engaging to drive, distinctive and oozes badge appeal,” was our conclusion when we reviewed the regular UX (Urban Crossover) in 2019.

In fact, our only gripes were the CVT gearbox (short doses of uncomfortably high revs on hard acceleration) and the infotainment screen which is accessed via a fiddly touchpad down beside the gear selector.

Lexus UX 300e review

The infotainment system is much the same in the UX 300e, but going all electric means there’s no need for a CVT because it’s a one-speed like all EVs, so the new model is a smoother operator.

For now there’s just one power option and three trims levels. A 201bhp e-motor and 54.3kW battery pack combine to power the front wheels and it’s good for a 0-62mph sprint time of 7.5 seconds.

The UX 300e can be fully charged at home in just over eight hours or via a 50KW public charger (up to 80%) in as little as 50 minutes.

Lexus UX 300e review

Naturally, it’s also (modestly) charged on the move via regenerative braking (the levels are controlled via steering wheel paddle shifters) which converts much of the energy lost while decelerating back into stored energy in the car’s battery.

Talking of charge, we found the UX’s real world range to be closer to 170 miles, though this figure will always depend on driving style, terrain, whether you use items such as the heater and the outside temperature.

To look at, the sleek electric UX is definitely one of the most stylish compact SUVs available.

Lexus UX 300e review

In fact, it looks like no other car in its class with bold, sculpted lines, a full-width rear lightbar, roof spoiler and that unmistakable Lexus mesh front grille.

Slightly lower than most competitors and sporting a coupe-like profile, it’s full of innovative features including wheel arch mouldings which not only protect the bodywork, but also have a secondary aerodynamic function, just like the rear lights and the special alloy wheels.

Inside, it oozes class. There’s plenty of room up front, though it’s not as spacious in the rear as some rivals, no is there much space to stick your feet under the front seats, thanks to the batteries below.

Lexus UX 300e review

Luggage capacity is a useful 367 litres (more than the hybrid UX) expanding to 1,278 litres with the rear seats folded.

The cabin itself is stylish, beautifully finished and very Lexus with superb attention to detail. Up front it’s very driver-centric with the instrument panel, switchgear and infotainment screen subtly angled away from the passenger.

Despite its batteries, the UX 300e feels light on the road and even swifter than the official acceleration figures suggest. In fact, in the wet, the traction control system struggles to stop the front wheels spinning if you really go for it.

Lexus UX 300e review

There is a Sport mode, but the difference isn’t that dramatic, and while body control in faster corners is fairly good, the overwhelming sensation is one of comfort and refinement, which again, is very Lexus.

Like many electric cars, the brakes aren’t massively responsive, though the steering is light, making it easy to drive around town.

The 300e is packed with safety and driver assistance systems, and when the hybrid UX was tested by Euro NCAP in 2019 it achieved a maximum score of five stars.

Lexus UX 300e review

And for extra peace of mind, it comes with the standard Lexus three-year/60,000 mile manufacturer warranty for the car, plus an eight-year/100,000-mile battery warranty.

Perhaps the 300e’s biggest challenge is its price point and range. For instance, it costs significantly more than the e-Niro and Kona Electric (which both have a range closer to 300 miles) and is even nudging the bigger Ford Mustang Mach-E and Tesla Model 3.

Verdict: Refined, comfortable and offering a premium experience, the all-electric Lexus UX 300e is a class act. With a range best suited to urban ownership, it’s easy to drive and stands out from the crowd, but it’s also up against some serious competition.

Seat Leon e-Hybrid review

SEAT-Leon-e-Hybrid

We’re already big fans of the fourth generation Seat Leon. In our 2020 review, we concluded that it’s “one of the most accomplished family hatchbacks on the market, offering affordability, economy, tech, refinement, space and driving pleasure”.

Fast forward to 2021 and the petrol and diesel models have been joined by a plug-in hybrid, delivering a potential 235mpg with CO2 emissions as low as 27g/km.

Using pretty much the same tried and tested system also seen in the Audi A3 40 TFSIe, Volkswagen Golf GTE and Skoda Octavia iV, a 1.4-litre petrol turbo engine is mated to a 12.8kWh battery and 85kW e-motor, giving a useful combined output of 201bhp, resulting in a 0-62mph time of 7.5 seconds and a 137mph top speed.

SEAT-Leon-e-Hybrid

Most importantly of all for some (especially if you use your car locally or have a modest daily commute), it can run electric-only for up to 36 miles.

In other words, as with all PHEVs, the Leon e-Hybrid offers an introduction to EV driving, without the range anxiety – the perfect stepping stone between the internal combustion engine and going 100% electric.

Apart from the extra fuel flap (for plugging into a charger) and modest badging, externally it looks much the same as a regular Leon – which is no bad thing, because it’s a stylish car.

SEAT-Leon-e-Hybrid

Open the hatch, and there’s more hybrid evidence. The Leon e-Hybrid has a supermini luggage capacity of 270 litres (down 110 litres on the standard petrol or diesel), because the hybrid battery pack takes up extra space. On the plus side, there’s a useful 1,191 litres when the rear seats are folded.

The cabin in unaffected, which means there’s room in the back seats for adults to sit comfortably. It’s generally well designed, and quality is good, but not outstanding. There are some soft-touch surfaces high up in the cabin, but – as you’d expect at the more affordable end of the market – there’s a lot of scratchy hard plastic lower down.

At launch there are five trim levels (FR, FR First Edition, FR Sport, Xcellence, Xcellence Lux) with price points between £31,835-£35,060. While this is competitive in its sector, it would be great if all manufacturers could start bringing the start price of PHEVs down closer to £25,000.

SEAT-Leon-e-Hybrid

That said, it’s generously equipped with 17-inch alloys, automatic headlights and wipers, a wireless phone charger, drive modes and safety features such as Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) all standard.

Goodies further up the range include adaptive cruise control, heated front seats and steering wheel, keyless entry and start, a digital driver’s display and tinted rear windows.

All models also get a flash 10-inch infotainment system, which gives the dashboard a more minimalist look, but the touchscreen contains a little too much basic functionality for our liking – even the temperature controls are integrated.

SEAT-Leon-e-Hybrid

The e-Hybrid starts up in electric mode and stays that way until the battery pack is flat. However, the engine will kick in if you floor the accelerator or you switch to hybrid mode, which combines petrol and electric power for better economy and battery life.

Like all PHEVs, it can also recharge via regenerative braking, which slows the car down and collects energy to charge up the battery and increase the vehicle range. That said, the most effective way is to plug it in at home overnight or use a public charger (both 4-5 hours).

With electricity costing around a third of petrol per mile, that’s cheap motoring. Add tax savings for business drivers and other perks such as lower Road Tax (VED) and exemption from the London Congestion Charge, running a plug-in hybrid makes sense.

SEAT-Leon-e-Hybrid

In the real world your fuel consumption will depend on a number of factors, such as whether you start your journey with a full battery charge, the temperature, your driving style, and the types of roads your encounter.

Seat quotes potential fuel economy of 235mpg, but the reality is that once you’ve used up the battery charge, you can end up with fuel economy comparable to a diesel (50-60mpg) – lower on long journeys.

SEAT-Leon-e-Hybrid

On the road, the e-Hybrid accelerates briskly and the switch from electric to engine power and vice versa is seamless.

Naturally, it’s almost silent when running in pure electric mode, while the 1.4-litre petrol engine is generally refined, but becomes a little more vocal when pushed.

SEAT-Leon-e-Hybrid

The ride is on the firm side, but not uncomfortably so, allowing it to stay composed and relatively flat in faster corners. It’s no hot hatch, but more spirited drivers can select Sport mode for a little extra fun.

It feels light and agile on the road, there’s plenty of grip and the steering is sharp. The six-speed DSG automatic gearbox fitted to our test car is one of the best, though not quite as punchy through the gears as we’d like.

It’s safe too – the e-Hybrid received a maximum five-star safety evaluation rating from Euro NCAP, just like its regular petrol and diesel stablemates, with AEB standard across the range and other driver assistance aids including Cruise Control and Lane Keep Assist available.

Verdict: Stylish, safe, economical, easy to drive and well equipped, the all-new Seat Leon e-Hybrid is a welcome addition to the plug-in hybrid family hatchback scene.

Seat UK

SEAT-Leon-e-Hybrid

Dacia Sandero review

Dacia Sandero review

Brace yourselves badge snobs, you’re in for a shock. You see, we’ve just driven the all-new second-generation Dacia Sandero and it’s something of a revelation.

Priced from just £7,995, the Sandero is still the UK’s most affordable new car, yet the latest version sports fresh new looks, a jump in quality, more tech and it drives surprisingly well.

What’s more, it offers supermini space for significantly less than the cheapest city car on the market, plus low depreciation.

Dacia Sandero review

Based on the same platform as the impressive Renault Clio (the French car giant has owned Romania’s Dacia brand since 1999), it’s no surprise that the Sandero is a much-improved car.

The shape may be familiar, but it’s much sharper than the outgoing model with horizontal Y-shaped daytime running lights that flow into the chrome bars of Dacia’s corporate grille, a moulded bonnet and new rear lights.

It’s both longer and wider than its predecessor, which has boosted space inside the cabin and in the boot. There’s now 328 litres of luggage space (1,108 litres with the back seats folded) and there’s plenty of room in the rear for adult passengers.

Dacia Sandero Stepway and Dacia Sandero

As before, you can choose between the standard Sandero or the Sandero Stepway which has a more rugged appearance, a raised ride height and clever roof rails which cleverly convert into a roof rack to carry loads up to 80kg.

The Sandero is better equipped too. Entry-level Access models come with LED headlights, front electric windows and a phone docking station. Mid-range Essential gains air-conditioning, cruise control and remote central locking, while the range-topping Comfort gets electric rear windows and an 8.0-inch central infotainment touchscreen.

The cabin generally is more appealing than before, but it’s still fairly basic with hard plastic surfaces. That said, the seats are comfortable, the driving position is good (avoid Access trim which has no height-adjustable driver’s seat), while visibility is average for its class.

Dacia Sandero review

Powered by a range of three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol engines of varying outputs (64bhp and 80bhp), plus a 99bhp Bi-Fuel option which can run on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) as well as regular unleaded and is capable of more than 800 miles of range when both tanks are full.

We tried the Bi-Fuel Sandero in top-grade Comfort specification, which is capable of up to 52.3 mpg (petrol) or 39.8mpg (using LPG which is around half the price of unleaded).

Emissions are 123g/km for the petrol engine and 109g/km when operating on gas. With a 0-62mph time of 11.6 seconds, it’s no hot hatch, but quite adequate for everyday driving. It’s also smooth and refined for its size.

Dacia Sandero review

It comes with a six-speed manual gearbox (the base level 64bhp engine only gets a five-speeder), which works well. The ride isn’t the most sophisticated, but it’s perfectly comfortable, while the handling is composed, if on the soft side.

We also tested the Sandero Stepway in top-of-the-range Prestige trim, which came with an 89bhp petrol engine and six-speed CVT automatic gearbox.

For us, the bigger-selling Stepway variant doesn’t just win on looks, but it also offers a more engaging drive. The automatic gearbox is just the job, especially for easy city driving, and it offers fuel economy of up to 45.6mpg with CO2 emissions as low as 139g/km.

Dacia Sandero review

So, the reality is that despite its headline-grabbing entry-level price point, there are lots of reasons to avoid the smaller engines and lower specs, meaning your end purchase is likely to cost between £10-15,000.

Still, even in that price bracket, the Sandero siblings easily undercut other (base-level) superminis.

Dacia Sandero review

The only fly in the ointment is when it comes to safety. Euro NCAP awarded the Sandero a disappointing two stars out of five.

Among the criticisms was that the car’s radar-only Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) system reacts to other vehicles, but lacks the capability to prevent crashes with pedestrians or cyclists.

Euro NCAP also criticised the Sandero for not being available with active lane-keeping assistance.

This safety rating shouldn’t be a deal-breaker though because the tests were carried out after the more stringent safety regime was introduced in 2020. A year or two ago, the Sandero would have been a high-flier. Dacia also deserves praise because AEB is standard across the range.

Verdict: Overall, the Dacia Sandero and Sandero Stepway represent fantastic value for money – compelling, no-nonsense propositions, offering practicality, comfort, low running costs – and now some much-needed kerb appeal.

Dacia UK

Dacia Sandero review

Alpine 110 review

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