The Surprising Luxury of Lexus’ LBX: A City Car You Never Knew You Needed

A “Compliance Car” is a vehicle designed not to be sold in large quantities but to satisfy rules around range-wide consumption. For instance, makers of enormous, gas-belching trucks may have to offer a thrifty, gas-sipping ride to balance out the emissions numbers. One infamous example is Aston Martin’s Cygnet, a rebadged Toyota iQ with a luxury interior that sold for three times the iQ’s price. Now, imagine a company chose to make one of those vehicles intentionally. That’s the best way to describe Lexus’ new LBX, a small but luxurious, Europe-exclusive city car that you’ll love sitting in while waiting in traffic.The LBX is a subcompact car based on the same underlying platform as Toyota’s Yaris Cross. Lexus is keen to point out that this isn’t a rebadge, and that the luxury automaker has refined every facet of its design. The wheelbase is longer and wider, the powertrain smaller and faster, with luxury kit everywhere you look. The combined total output is 136 DIN hp, fitting for a car designed to sit in traffic. But Lexus piqued my interest in this car by claiming that its new hybrid system offered “powerful acceleration like that of a battery electric vehicle.” It thrives in cities, darting around corners and diving into tight spaces. However, its performance diminishes on the highway. Inside, it’s roomy up front but cramped in the rear, with excessive technology for a car intended for short journeys. The base model costs £29,995 (around $37,700) in the UK, while the fully-specced model is £40,545 (around $50,870). Given this, I can’t see a world in which people would line up to buy a car that’s over-equipped and over-specced for its intended environment.