Lexus NX Review

Andrew Brady

Written by

Andrew Brady

Lexus NX
Lexus NX

1/10

1 / 10

00/10
heycar rating
"Posh and frugal family SUV"
  • Launched: 2014
  • Crossover
  • Petrol, Hybrid

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Quick overview

Pros

  • Quiet and economical hybrid engine
  • Excellent built quality
  • Spacious and practical

Cons

  • Sluggish CVT gearbox 
  • Feels a bit detached to drive
  • Infotainment system is a faff

Overall verdict

On the inside

Driving

Cost to run

Prices and Specs

Overall Verdict

"According to Lexus, the story behind the name of its new NX is that it stands for 'nimble crossover'. This is, after all, a smaller counterpart to the big Lexus RX 450h that's designed as an alternative to the likes of the Audi Q5 and BMW X3."

Lexus NX right exterior

It's a neat looking design. Lexus says it wanted to give the NX more 'emotional appeal' and while it's far from handsome, those sharp lines work well to create a sophisticated look. The front end echoes the Lexus IS saloon but according to Lexus, 90 per cent of parts used are unique to the NX.


Like all Lexus models, there's no noxious diesel engine in the range. Instead, Lexus offers an NX 300h hybrid that uses a 2.5-litre petrol engine alongside an electric motor. It's designed to be efficient with claimed fuel economy of 54.3mpg in the majority of models and CO2 emissions of just 121g/km.


While it looks good on paper with a total of 195PS and a 0-62mph time of fewer than 9.5 seconds, the NX 300h is hamstrung by its epicyclic CVT gearbox which can make for a noisy driving experience unless you're feather-footed. Even gentle acceleration is accompanied by continuous engine whine. 


This is a shame because acceleration noise aside, the NX is a good SUV. It's incredibly refined, beautifully built and has a superb quality interior. It's also spacious with good room in the back and a decent boot. And as with all Lexus models, standard equipment levels are very high with top models coming with pretty much all the bells and whistles.


The NX is the first Lexus model to feature a Pre-Crash Safety system and Adaptive Cruise Control as standard on all versions. Other firsts for a Lexus include a wireless charging tray for easy charging of smartphones and a new Remote Touch Interface with a touchpad control that replaces the awkward mouse controller. 


An NX 200t model, with a new turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol with 235PS, joined the line-up in 2015 and comes with a six-speed automatic. However, it was later dropped from the lineup.


Looking for the new Lexus NX? You'll need our Lexus NX (2022) review.

Is the Lexus NX right for you?

The Lexus NX is right for you if you’re looking for a posh SUV with build quality to rival a nuclear bunker and an interior that’s spacious enough for four adults and their stuff.


Okay, so the Lexus isn’t an engaging car to drive, but it’s very quiet and comfortable and the petrol-electric hybrid motor fitted to most models means it is also very cheap to run. 


What's the best Lexus NX model/engine to choose?

The Lexus NX is best sampled in basic 300h form. 


That gets you a petrol-electric hybrid engine that’s great on fuel and has decent performance and even the basic model comes with loads of equipment including a fake leather interior, LED headlights, electrically adjustable and heated seats and an eight-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.


What other cars are similar to the Lexus NX?

There are plenty of alternatives to the Lexus NX if you’re planning on buying a mid-sized SUV.


The Mercedes GLC is one such example which has a posh looking interior that puts even the NX in the shade. The BMW X3, meanwhile, is sportier to drive, while the Audi Q5 is more comfortable. All are available with diesel engines that are a better bet then the Lexus hybrid system if you often drive on the motorway. 


Comfort and design

Good all-round visibility

Lexus NX front interior

The Lexus NX has a raised driving position that gives you a clear view of the road ahead and you get a height-adjustable driver’s seat and a steering wheel that moves for rake and reach.

Quality and finish

The interior of the NX follows the same pattern as the IS with a high-quality feel and a sleek design. It's fairly button-heavy and some elements do look a touch dated – the old school digital display for the air conditioning for example – but overall it feels like a luxury vehicle.


The leather finish on top models covers the dash and door tops and has a lovely soft feel to it while the plastics that are used feel solid. Other highlights are the thick metal surround on the air vents and central console plus the neat analogue clock. Like the IS it has the feel of a high-end stereo system.


Infotainment

The Lexus NX comes with a choice of two infotainment screens basic models get an eight-inch display while F Sport models and above get a 10.3-inch display. Both include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto so you don’t have to use the car’s (much improved but still fiddly) touchpad controller. 


There are plenty of advanced systems on the NX including a wireless charging tray on top models. This sits in the cubby that doubles as an armrest between the front seats and lets you charge your smartphone by simply placing it in the tray. There's no need for wires.


The second interesting feature is a head-up display, something we first saw on BMWs. This projects speed data onto the windscreen along with navigation information if you want. It works very well with a clear and sharp display, plus it means you can focus more on the road than looking at your instrument dials.

Space and practicality

There's plenty of space too - this is, after all, designed as a family vehicle. Upfront it's spacious while those in the back get well catered for with plenty of headroom and comfortable legroom. The boot is a good size and user-friendly with a wide opening while top models get an electrically opening tailgate, although like many it can be frustratingly slow.


Overall boot capacity is 475 litres although that's some way behind an Audi Q5 at 540 litres. But on the plus side, all NX models come with a space-saver spare wheel as standard, the competition all make you pay for this as an optional extra or don't offer it at all.


Handling and ride quality

"Like the RX400h and 450h, the NX is available as a four-wheel-drive model that uses an extra electric motor to drive the rear wheels while the front wheels run from the hybrid system. It's an on-demand system so it only kicks in when needed, such as if there's a loss of traction, otherwise the NX 300h runs in front-wheel drive to save fuel."

Lexus NX front exterior

Where the Lexus impresses is with its ride quality. It's incredibly quiet and refined over rough roads with no vibration coming into the cabin. Body control is very good too with very little pitch or roll which means it feels safe and composed through corners. The steering is somewhat artificial but the NX 300h is relaxing to drive albeit not especially involving.


As mentioned, acceleration is sluggish and noisy if the CVT is left to its own devices. Far better to use the paddles to downshift and hold the relevant ratios. The radar cruise control with autonomous braking worked well.


That said, it is not rewarding when pushed to its limits cross-country over a winding A or B road. Instead, it's relaxing driven on the kind of pot-holed, speed-humped, congested suburban roads most of us have to live with.


Engines and gearboxes

As with other Lexus models, there is no diesel available in the NX – instead, there's the choice of the NX 300h hybrid or the petrol NX 200t (which arrived in March 2015 and was dropped a year later). The hybrid model is the most popular and it's the same system that's used in the Lexus IS and RAV-4.


This means a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine alongside an electric motor which combined provide 197PS. That's less than the IS 300h that has 223PS and the NX is around a second slower when accelerating from 0-62mph, taking 9.3 seconds. Yet thanks to 270Nm of torque from the electric motor, which is available from a standstill, the NX 300h pulls effortlessly and keenly away.


Lexus has fine-tuned the hybrid system in the NX to deliver better response and make it better on long inclines. There's a new kick-down function for quicker overtaking using additional electric power while engine speed has been increased relative to the accelerator to create the feeling of a downshift.


The idea is to give a more natural feeling of acceleration but it's somewhat of a mixed bag. As with all Lexus hybrid models, the NX 300h has an epicyclic CVT gearbox and it's this that proves the main sticking point. It's fine at low speeds but, left to its own devices, even moderate acceleration is met with lots of engine noise at a continuous pitch which detracts from the sense of refinement.


Refinement and noise levels

As you'd expect from a Lexus, refinement is excellent with a superbly insulated cabin and hardly any wind or road noise. It's a shame that the excessive engine noise from acceleration ruins things as that aside, this is one of the most refined SUVs around. There's real attention to detail and precision to everything so while it may not have the wow factor, there is no denying the superb quality.


Safety equipment

The NX is the first Lexus model to feature a Pre-Crash Safety system and Adaptive Cruise Control as standard on all versions. Other firsts for a Lexus include a wireless charging tray for easy charging of smartphones and a new Remote-Touch Interface with a touchpad control that replaces the awkward mouse controller. However, it only comes on top versions.


MPG fuel costs

"The NX boasts incredibly low emissions at just 121g/km for the AWD models with official economy of 54.3mpg."

Lexus NX rear exterior

There's an entry-level S model that comes as a front-wheel-drive only and is even more economical with a claimed 56.5mpg and CO2 of 116g/km.


Insurance groups and costs

The Lexus NX sits in insurance groups 27-38 which means it will have broadly similar premiums to the BMW X3 (Group 23–43) and the Audi Q5 (Group 22-44). 


VED

Road tax for the Lexus NX starts costs £860 in year one and £140 thereafter, while if you’re running it as a company car you’ll pay BIK at 37%.


How much should you be paying for a Lexus NX?

"The Lexus NX’s price range from £37,000 for the standard model to £47,000 for the top-of-the-range Takumi car with pretty much all the equipment you could ever need. "

Lexus NX boot open

It’s worth shopping around though, we found a 2019 Takumi car with less than 700 miles on the clock going for just under £40.000. 


Trim levels and standard equipment

NX 300h S models come with 17-inch alloy wheels and LED headlights with daytime running lights on the outside. Kit includes adaptive cruise control, reversing camera, dual-zone climate control, electric folding door mirrors and an infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.  


SE adds all-wheel drive, integrated roof rails, 18-inch alloy wheels with 235/60 R18 tyres, rain-sensing wipers and heated front seats.


Luxury comes with LED fog lights with cornering function, rear privacy glass, heated and electrically adjustable leather front seats, parking sensors, Smart Entry and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.


Premier trim models get 18-inch bespoke alloys with 235/60 R18 tyres and LED high-beam headlights on the outside. Inside, you get auto-dimming door mirrors, driver's seat position memory, a powerful Mark Levinson audio system,Lexus Premium Navigation, a 360-degree panoramic view, lane keep assist, a head-up display, heated steering wheel and a blind-spot monitoring system.


F Sport gains a two-tone paint finish and 18-inch alloys with 235/60 R18 tyres. Inside, F Sport models get heated electric leather front sports seats with lumbar support, F Sport suspension and performance dampers, electric steering column adjust, a powered tailgate and a wireless smartphone charger.


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