Lexus NX

Compact SUV is impressively comfortable and refined

6.9
wowscore
This is the average score given by leading car publications from 9 reviews
  • Bold looks
  • Smart interior
  • Low hybrid running costs
  • Bumpy ride
  • Not great to drive
  • Expensive
 

£30,995 - £45,245 Price range

 

5 Seats

 

35 - 56 MPG

Review

Based on the Toyota RAV4, the NX is the baby crossover of the Lexus range. Wrapped in a body first seen as the Lexus LF-NX Concept, the NX gives quite the first impression. It comes with a petrol-electric hybrid too, to start with.

Loaded with tech and a high quality interior, the NX is Lexus’s attempt to take on the premium small SUV class, but there are some pretty big names to take on here. Has Lexus got it right first time?

Cheapest to buy: 300h SE hybrid

Cheapest to run: 300h SE hybrid

Fastest model: 200t F-Sport petrol

Most popular: 300h Luxury hybrid

The RAV4 upon which the NX is based is a very roomy car, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that there is loads of space for four adults inside the NX. The middle rear seat is narrow, so a fifth occupant will have to be reasonably close friends with the others.

There’s a reasonable boot, at 475 litres. With the rear seats folded down – which, with the electric folding seat option, you can do from the driver’s seat – there’s 1,520 litres on offer.

Critics say it’s a well-made and pretty high quality interior too. The centre console apes the front end – a bold and refreshing design. Materials are good and there’s loads of kit on offer, though it’s a little disappointing that satnav is only an option until the top spec Premium model.

There’s not a lot of praise for the way the NX drives on any front – those expecting a Lexus-like wafting experience will be particularly disappointed. The ride is always on the harsh side of firm, but better on motorways than it is around town, where it will clatter along the usual rubbish we call roads in a most unhappy fashion.

It doesn’t equal a decent trade for a sporty cross-country driver’s car either. The Lexus stays relatively flat and composed in corners and the steering is accurate, if lifeless.

Reviewers recommend avoiding the higher specification models with adaptive dampers and leaving Sport Mode well alone. This seems to be the way to make sure the ride is acceptably firm rather than unpleasantly so.

Lexus won’t offer a diesel with the NX, so efficiency-minded buyers can opt for the NX300h hybrid, a 2.5 litre petrol with an electric motor attached. You’ll have seen this combination before in other Lexuses – the IS and GS have both used it – but in the NX a second motor is attached to the rear axle to provide four-wheel-drive.

The base “S” trim is two-wheel-drive only though and without the extra weight of the additional motor it returns the best emissions and economy figures, at 56.5mpg and 116g/km – extraordinary for a 197hp, 1.7-tonne SUV. The four-wheel-drive models see a dip to 54.3mpg and 121g/km, which means they’re a road-tax band higher in band D.

All hybrid models show the same on-paper performance stats – 0-60mph in 9.3 seconds and a top speed of 112mph. All have CVT automatic gearbox – a bit like that in a scooter.

Reviewers are not fans of the CVT, as it’s quite droney and not a lot of fun when changing speeds, but it is remarkably hushed at steady speeds. It will also run short distances on electric mode alone, but most writers agree that you’ll probably not see the claimed fuel economy figures easily.

Fans of more conventional powertrains can select the NX200T, which comes equipped with a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol. The 235hp unit accelerates the NX to 62 from rest in 7.1 seconds via the six-speed automatic gearbox. This unit is unlikely to find many homes in the UK, however, as many buyers will be put off by the mediocre 35.8mpg fuel efficiency and 183g/km CO2 output.

Euro NCAP hasn’t yet got its hands on an NX to stuff it into a wall, so there are no official crash safety ratings yet. However, the largest part of the knobbly bits of the Lexus derive directly from the Toyota RAV4, tested in 2013 to garner five-star rating. You shouldn’t expect any significant deviation from the results.

The NX comes with plenty of safety kit at any rate. All models get adaptive cruise control and pre-crash collision mitigation systems in addition to the expected array of airbags.

There’s no really easy way of saying this, but the NX starts at nearly thirty grand and pushes up to £43k, before options are selected.

That’s a very large sum of money, considering the Toyota RAV4 upon which it is based tops out at £29k. But Lexus is a prestige marque and the interior is several large strides ahead of the Toyota’s in quality. Aside from the curious omission of sat-nav until top-spec models, the equipment is pretty impressive too.

The initial run of hybrids will only cost £30 per year to tax, and that’s far lower than rivals manage. However, you’re not especially likely to see the mid-50s fuel economy that Lexus claims.

Conclusion

Lexus could be onto a winner here, if it focuses the NX’s ride and handling. At the moment most reviews agree that it’s too firm for town use and not rewarding or communicative enough for the fun stuff and it falls between the two stools as a result. This gives rival offerings from BMW, Audi and Land Rover the edge on driving experience alone.

In all other departments, the NX is a real contender and it’s one of the sharpest-looking cars not only in this sector but in any sector.

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