CAR REVIEW: Lexus LBX – Not A Lesser Lexus


Now, it’s easy to be cynical, and regard the Lexus LBX as merely a ‘dressed up’ Toyota Yaris Cross. While it is true that the LBX shares many bits with its Toyota sibling, all you need to do is to spend a bit of time with it to see that there are enough differences to make the LBX more than just a simple rebadging job.

Of course, we have to first delve into the reasons for its existence in the first place. Compact luxury cars has been a thing for some time now, and in Singapore especially, where cars often cost the price of a house, a small and relatively affordable car with a premium badge is an attractive proposition indeed. You just have to take a look at the number of BMW 1 Series/Mercedes-Benz A-Class/Audi A3s sold here to get some sense of their appeal, and it’s no wonder that Lexus wants a piece of that action.

Thus, the LBX marks the brand’s tentative steps into the compact entry-level luxury market, and perhaps due to the fact that it is Lexus’ first attempt in this segment, it has probably decided to play it safe and base it on a popular crossover from its parent Toyota.

That does stand in contrast with its German competitors, whose compact luxury offerings generally stand on their own architecture (although the Audi A3 is also heavily based on the Volkswagen Golf), and are often spun off into varying trims and model lines. That’s not to say that Lexus can’t do the same with the LBX, but we don’t really expect to see a high-performance Lexus LBX-F any time soon. Or maybe Lexus might prove us wrong.

Back to the regular car, and again, while the LBX is based on the Yaris Cross, there are definitely major significant difference in the transition from Toyota to Lexus. Certainly, the styling does stand out, with its curvy lines and classy details. The front end features a gentle interpretation of the brand’s ‘Spindle’ grille that doesn’t look overly aggressive, and is matched nicely by the slim lights that give the car a soft but distinctive look. It stands out in much the same way as a soft-spoken and diminutive man in a smart suit would in a world of large alpha males, and is a true breath of fresh air.

The interior though is where the LBX makes you completely forget its Yaris Cross roots, and you can tell that Lexus has made a hell of an effort to level up the car to its rightful place in the premium world. The suede-like material that adorns much of the cabin, such as on the doors, dashboard and seats, is accompanied by classy cooper stitching, and uplifts the ambience significantly. Many of the interior bits and materials would not look out of place on more expensive Lexus models, but there are also elements that make the LBX stand out on its own as well.

The 9.8-inch infotainment screen, set at an angle right in the middle of the centre console, is a departure from the high-set screens of many cars, and notably the ultra-large screens of recent Lexus models like the NX and RX SUVs. It’s actually a refreshing design choice, and proves more ergonomically-sound to use than many other systems, although it may need some getting used to for drivers who prefer their screens higher up the dashboard.

Another noteworthy bit about the LBX’s interior, and perhaps the only part that betrays the car’s Yaris Cross origins, is cabin space. There certainly should be few problems for anyone seated up front, but those in the rear may find legroom to be somewhat tight, especially if you’re of a slightly taller stature. Certainly, this is not a car to ferry large adults on long road trips, but for urban jaunts with small kids perhaps, the LBX should fare pretty well.

Photo credit: Muhammad Mu’tasim

And that brings us to its drivability. Given its compact size, it’s no surprise to find that the LBX is very much at home in the city, with its easy manoeuvrability and peppy nature. But there are also a number of surprises which demonstrates how Lexus has levelled up the LBX from its Yaris Cross sibling.

Photo credit: Muhammad Mu’tasim

The main noticeable difference comes in the form of refinement. While the 1.5-litre engine that’s matched to the hybrid drivetrain can be a bit loud and uncouth in the Yaris Cross, it appears that Lexus has done plenty to mitigate this issue in the LBX. Apparently Lexus made some major engineering enhancements to cut out noise and vibrations from emanating into the cabin. It’s not whisper-quiet like perhaps a top-end Lexus LS limousine, but for the most part it is well-controlled and acceptable for daily driving duties.

Photo credit: Muhammad Mu’tasim

Slightly less noticeable but still significant is how the LBX feels when driven hard. The Lexus does feel slightly stiffer than its Yaris Cross sibling, which translates into a car that’s remarkably composed in the corners, with little body roll, and excellent control. The ride too is also somewhat more compliant than the Yaris Cross, although the occasional stiff bump still manages to make itself known in the cabin.

Photo credit: Muhammad Mu’tasim

Of course, with the hybrid powertrain, you also get the benefit of excellent fuel efficiency, and while the official claimed fuel consumption figure of 3.8L/100km does seem like a fairly high benchmark, with careful driving you can easily reach somewhere close to it, with figures in the low 4s definitely achievable in most daily driving situations.

Perhaps the best way to sum up the LBX is that it’s probably best described as a Yaris Cross but 50 percent better in nearly every aspect, be it quality, refinement or drivability. However, its asking price of S$226,800 with COE (as of March 2024) does seem a bit steep for a car of its size. That said, if you ever wanted a pint-sized Lexus without compromising on the qualities that have been a hallmark of the brand, then the LBX is very much one for your serious consideration.


About Author

Ben Chia is an experienced writer and editor with over a decade's experience in the automotive industry. He holds a deep passion for all things cars, and you can follow him on social media (Instagram/LinkedIn) at @benchiacars

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