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Upscale, Downsize – Lexus UX 200/Volvo XC40

Test drive: Lexus UX200

When it comes to cars, many people are more impressed with a luxury brand name than the vehicle itself. A fact that makes the affordable Lexus UX 200 kind of appealing.

This subcompact crossover, the smallest and least expensive model to wear the big Lexus “L” on the grille, comes equipped with many of the automaker’s trademark qualities baked in. Interior design and materials are both top-notch, and the standard equipment list includes many advanced safety features along with comfort and convenience items.

There are several notable nits to pick here, however. A center console-mounted touchpad, used to select items on the 7-inch display above the dash, can be a tad frustrating to use. The UX 200’s diminutive dimensions also make for a cramped back seat and smallish cargo area.

In my week behind the wheel, I found the 169-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine gave the Luxury trim level decent, if unexciting, performance. (If you do lots of driving, check out the much more fuel-efficient UX 250- hp hybrid version). Likewise, handling isn’t exactly sporty, but the UX feels nimble in everyday motoring.

All of which make the Lexus UX 200 a stylish way to move through our status-conscious world.

Test drive: Volvo XC40
The Volvo XC40 is perfect for urban jaunts.

Let’s face it: The days of the SUV as rugged adventure machine are largely behind us. Today, it’s crossovers like the Volvo XC40 that are ideally designed to help us cope with the rigors of navigating our urban jungle.

A gutsy 248-hp engine gives the subcompact XC40’s top T5 model I drove lively performance. The downside, of course, are fuel economy numbers that lag behind some similarly sized crossovers.

Inside, the upscale cabin offers everything you’d expect from a luxury marque like Volvo. Not surprisingly, the XC40 doesn’t disappoint on the safety front either, with advanced technology that includes automatic emergency braking and anti-whiplash front seats.

There are a few missteps, though. Topping that list is a slick-looking infotainment touch screen that requires you to take your eyes off the road to do anything from adjusting the climate control to changing the radio station.

The XC40 is available on a new subscription basis that bundles your car payment, insurance and maintenance for a monthly fee. No matter how you get it, I think you’ll find the Volvo XC40 suited to traversing the wilds of suburbia.

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