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Lexus NX


Hyundai Santa Fe

Summary

Lexus NX

It’s only taken nearly 15 years, but Lexus has become a fully accepted prestige brand in Australia – it outsells Jaguar, Alfa Romeo, Mini, Porsche and Peugeot. And the NX mid-sized SUV is far and away the most popular Lexus model. 

I’ve tested the hybrid version of the NX – the 300h - in the F Sport grade. It’s unique because mid-sized petrol-electric prestige SUVs in Australia are rare on the ground. 

So, are the benefits of a hybrid just fuel-saving ones and, are there disadvantages to one? Also why would you buy an NX over a rival from BMW, Audi, Volvo or Benz which cost about the same price?

Read on to find out what I found out.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.5L
Fuel TypeHybrid with Regular Unleaded
Fuel Efficiency5.7L/100km
Seating5 seats

Hyundai Santa Fe

Good timing. Why? Well if you had bought a Santa Fe halfway through 2020, you’d now be driving around in the old one. 

See, Hyundai has just updated the Santa Fe and it’s not a small revision, it’s a pretty significant overhaul which has added a new look, new features, new and refreshed engines and new safety tech. I’m here to tell you all about it.

And I should know, because not only did I go to the Australian launch of updated Santa Fe, where I drove it on beautiful country roads but I also lived with it in Sydney on awful traffic-choked roads.

I drove it in the rain, battled for spaces in multi-level car parks, did the preschool run, the swimming lessons dash, ferried home small trees and cow manure in it (don’t tell Hyundai) and then turned it from a Santa Fe into Santa's sleigh when we did the Christmas presents shopping in it.

Anyway, there’s a lot to tell you. Ready? Let’s go.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.2L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency6.1L/100km
Seating7 seats

Verdict

Lexus NX7.4/10

The standard of the SUVs in the mid-sized premium segment is so high – high in terms of features and tech, high for practicality and comfort, but also high for the way they drive, and this is an area in which the Lexus NX300h F Sport falls short. At the same time, apart from the much pricier Volvo XC60 T8, it’s the only hybrid among its rivals and the fuel saving is not to be dismissed. Still this is a premium good-looking package at a great price.

Would you choose a Lexus NX300 over, say, a BMW X3, Mercedes Benz GLC or Volvo XC60? Tell us what you think in the comments below.


Hyundai Santa Fe8.1/10

The previous Santa Fe was outstanding among its rivals and this new one in most ways is even better. Yes, I didn’t find the new Santa Fe quite as engaging to drive as the outgoing one, but it’s comfortable and easy to pilot, plus the new features, tech and safety equipment, along with increased practicality make the new version better overall than the old one.

The sweet spot in the range is the Active grade which comes with a proximity key, dual-zone climate control, leather seats, the high mounted centre console and privacy glass without the price tag of the Elite or Highlander.

Design

Lexus NX

You’d be fibbing if you thought there wasn’t anything interesting about the design of the NX300h F Sport. Whether you think it’s good looking is another thing altogether, but I happen to reckon it is. I do like that Darth Vader grille, those LED headlights, the side profile and even the back with its egg-splat style tail-lights (very Toyota though).

The F Sport grade brings that expensive cheese-grater-made-of-Onyx-look to the grille, angry looking bumpers, LED indicators that light up in the direction you’re turning, and 18-inch alloys with a smokey-looking finish.

The only outward indication this is a hybrid is the badging.

The NX300h F Sport’s insides go beyond interesting into the realm of intriguing, with that enormous centre console that will make any front seat hankypanky impossible, to the dash puckered with switches and buttons, then there’s that layered trim: a combo of leather and a fish-scale looking material, there’s the F Sport steering wheel, F Sport pedals and scuff plates and F Sport seats.

There are things that confuse me like the tiny padded pull out mirror near the centre console, things that seem out of place like an analogue clock in a high-tech cabin, and things that annoy me like the seat position memory buttons that hide under the armrest in the door and can’t been seen or reached properly unless the door is open.

The NX300h F-Sport’s dimensions show it to be 4640mm long, 1645mm tall and 1845mm wide (not including the mirrors).


Hyundai Santa Fe8/10

This updated model looks so different from the front that we were stopped in a car park by another family in a Santa Fe who asked if this was the new-generation car. 

The answer is no, but it’s a really big update which has added a new rectangular grille, inset LED headlights, T-Shaped LED running lights and new tail-lights which are now joined by a horizontal reflective strip.   

This generation Santa Fe has always been a good looking mid-sized SUV and the new face lands a punch filled with attitude. 

It’s interesting that this grille is a departure from the Y-shaped frame used across the brand’s range during the past decade and if I didn’t know better it could be a glimpse of the changing face of Hyundai.

The Santa Fe isn’t huge, but you should check to see if it’s going to fit in your garage. A glance at the dimensions reveals it’s grown in length by 15mm and now measures 4785mm end-to-end. With roof rails the Santa Fe stands 1710mm tall and it’s 1900 mm across.

From the outside all Santa Fes look pretty much the same, but inside there are two quite different cockpits. Look at the images of the entry-grade Santa Fe’s dashboard, now look at the Highlander’s. Yep the entry grade Santa Fe doesn’t get the ‘floating’ high-mounted centre console which is on all the other grades above. 

That’s a shame, as the new centre console not only looks great but puts the buttons for climate and media within easier reach. The shifting buttons on the raised centre console also look beautiful – the entry-grade misses out on this, too.

Still, the cabin, even on the entry-grade car, is a premium feeling place with the layered effect to the design of the dash we first saw in 2018 when this generation Santa Fe was introduced. The range-topping Highlander goes ‘next level’ with Nappa leather seats and the virtual instrument cluster.

The Highlander is the grade I spent the most time in and while the cabin looks posh, the interior feels tough. Our car had the 'Camel' Nappa leather, but the Highlander also can be had with black Nappa leather at no extra cost. The standard black suede headliner is also a nice touch on this grade.

The entry-grade Santa Fe has black and grey cloth upholstery (see the images), the Active gets black leather, while the Elite comes in a choice of black or 'Cognac' leather.

There are eight exterior paint colours. The two standard ones are: 'Glacier White' and 'White Cream.' The premium colours are: 'Typhoon Silver', 'Magnetic Force', 'Phantom Black', 'Taiga Brown', 'Rain Forest' and 'Lagoon Blue.' 

Practicality

Lexus NX

Well, it’s snug inside the NX300h F-Sport. That beefy centre console means room is tight in the footwell for the driver, especially with the foot-operated park brake. Meanwhile in the back seat my legs touch the seat-back when I sit behind my driving position (I am tall at 191cm, though), but headroom even with the optional sunroof (or moonroof, as Lexus calls it) is good.

Two cupholders up front, two in the back and bottle holders in all the doors, storage space inside is excellent – particularly the centre console storage bin which is deep and wide, has two USB ports and the Qi charging pad. There is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and that media controller is challenging to use.

Boot space is 475 litres, which is small compared to the 550L luggage capacities of the GLC, X3 and Q5.


Hyundai Santa Fe8/10

I think the Santa Fe can pull off a better balancing act than its mid-sized SUV rivals of being practical while still being stylish.    

There are seven seats as standard and yes that third row isn’t big enough for me, but I’m 191cm (6'3") tall and I can sit behind my driving position in the second row with even more room now in this updated version. Headroom in the second row is also excellent – even with the sunroof.

My six-year old son had no issues climbing in and out of the second row, and those wide opening rear doors offered plenty of space for me to get in and fasten him into his car seat.

The front passenger seat has a power adjustment on the side of the bolster for rear passengers to move it back and forth. Parents beware: kids will be drawn to this and small fingers might get squashed if they play with it.

Boot space with the third row in place remains the same at 130 litres, but with those back seats folded there's 24 litres more space now with a luggage capacity of 571 litres.

The handsfree tailgate opens just by standing next to it with the key in your pockets which sounds brilliantly convenient but there were times when it opened when I didn’t want it to and was just walking past.

Cabin storage is good with cupholders on either side of the third row, two in the second row and another two up front.

There’s a large centre console storage box and medium sized door pockets. And under the floating centre console (on the Active grades up) is an area large enough to stow a small backpack

The upright design of the wireless phone charger with its little trapdoor is ingenious. All Santa Fes come with the wireless charger, plus two USB ports for the second row and two more up front.

There’s dual-zone climate control, and that means no temperature setting for the second row, although there are directional air vents in all three rows.

Price and features

Lexus NX

Guess what? You’ve saved a few thousand already by not buying this car this time last year. That’s because NX300h F Sport was previously only offered in all-wheel drive, but the added two-wheel drive version gives you a lower entry point into the F Sport grade, at $63,300.

So, while the all-wheel drive version still exists - and costs $67,800 - this front-wheeler gets all the same features for less moolah.

That said, buying the hybrid version comes at a $2500 premium over the regular F Sport two-wheel drive (which has a 2.0-litre turbo engine - more on that below). 

Coming standard is a 10.3-inch display with sat nav and 360-degree camera, 10-speaker stereo with digital radio and CD player. There’s also a wireless phone charger, 10-way power adjustable seats (heated and cooled), paddle shifters, power tailgate and proximity unlocking.

The mouse pad-style controller for the screen is so hard to use I avoided it whenever possible, it’s something Lexus must change… please.

But please don't change the little valet kit which is stored in the boot - see the images.

Our test car was fitted with the Enhancement Pack 2 which costs $6000 and adds a moonroof, 14-speaker Mark Levinson audio, and head-up display. The premium paint (Sonic Quartz) costs $1500.

As for how the features and price compares with its rivals, well there aren’t any other hybrid mid-sized luxury SUV competitors to list, only combustion-engine ones such as the $70,900 Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d, the BMW X3 xDrive 20d for $68,900, an Audi Q5 2.0TDI for $65,900 or the Volvo XC60 D4 Momentum for $59,990. Notice how I chose diesels - there are petrol equivalents of those, too. But if you've got 50 per cent more budget, you could look at the pricey Volvo XC60 T8 plug-in hybrid.

At the time of writing Lexus was offering a driveaway price of $64,673 on the NX300h 2WD.


Hyundai Santa Fe9/10

The entry-grade Santa Fe is now simply called the Santa Fe and the petrol version costs $44,700. Then, there’s the Active for $48,300, with the Elite next up at $54,300, and at the top of the range is the Highlander for $61,700. These are the prices for the petrol variants, and diesel versions are $3500 more for each. 

Santa Fes with a petrol engine are front-wheel drive and the diesel-powered versions are all-wheel drive.

New features on the entry-grade Santa Fe include: super bright LED headlights (the previous entry-grade non-LED headlights were really dim), there’s the 8.0-inch screen (an inch bigger than before); and there’s a wireless charger now. 

The rest of the standard features list includes cloth seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, air con, leather steering wheel, drive modes, rear parking sensors, roof rails, a rear-view camera and 17-inch alloys.

There’s also new safety tech which I’ll cover in the section below.

Stepping up to the Active adds 18-inch alloy wheels, leather seats, a proximity key, front parking sensors, rear privacy glass, dual-zone climate control, puddle lamps, electronic child locks, rain-sensing wipers and power folding mirrors. 

The Active also gets new stuff in the form of paddle shifters, plus a raised centre console with gear shifting buttons (and a terrain mode control). 

The Elite sits above the Active and scores new equipment such as 20-inch alloy wheels, a 10.25-inch media display, and a Harman Kardon stereo. This is on top of its previous standard features such as sat nav, digital radio, power driver’s seat, power tailgate, luggage net and rear door blinds.

The top-of-the-range Highlander gets the most new stuff. There are 20-inch alloy wheels (19-inch on the old car). Also new is the Nappa leather interior, the 10.25-inch media screen, a Harman Kardon stereo, and a 12.3-inch fully digital instrument cluster and remote smart parking assist. 

That’s on top of other standard equipment such as the panoramic sunroof, head-up display, heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel and heated rear outboard seats, plus LED tail-lights.

All Santa Fes come with seven seats, too. 

Is it good value? The prices have gone up a smidge, but the value is outstanding.

Rivals include the Mazda CX-8, Nissan X-Trail, Skoda Kodiaq and the Kia Sorento.

Engine & trans

Lexus NX

The NX300h F-Sport is a petrol-electric hybrid, but not the plug-in kind – there’s no charging port, just batteries which are recharging through regenerative braking.

The engine is a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol which makes 114kW and 147Nm. The electric motor is a 105kW/270Nm unit.

Let’s not forget we are reviewing the front-wheel drive version of the NX300h F-Sport. There’s an AWD version, too.

The transmission is an automatic - a continuously variable transmission (CVT),  and I’m not a fan of them - but the Toyota/Lexus versions seem to be the better ones. 


Hyundai Santa Fe8/10

You can choose between a diesel or a petrol engine to power your Santa Fe, and a hybrid powertrain is coming soon.

The petrol is a refreshed version of the previous 3.5-litre V6 making 200kW/331Nm, while the 2.2-litre diesel is new and produces 148kW/440Nm.

Also new is the eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission found in the diesel variant. It’s a wet-clutch type of DCT and it’s smooth and quick.

The V6 has a regular eight-speed automatic.

The hybrid power train arriving in 2021 looks to be promising and it'll be all-wheel drive.

Fuel consumption

Lexus NX

Lexus will tell you the NX300h F Sport will only use 5.6L/100km after a combination of urban and open roads, but my mileage according to the trip computer was 8.7L/100km which considering most of that was city driving is very impressive. Also pleasing is that despite this being a prestige car it’ll run on 91 RON, an X3, Q5 or GLC will turn it’s nose up at that stuff. Snobs.

This is the biggest drawcard for buying the hybrid. The fuel saving isn’t huge in the way a plug-in hybrid can be, but you’ll save money if you drive conservatively.


Hyundai Santa Fe8/10

Hyundai says that after a combination of open and urban roads the V6 petrol should use 10.5L/100km. That’s pretty thirsty.

The diesel engine goes through less, even though it’s powering all four wheels. Hyundai says the mileage after the same sort of combination of roads should be 6.1L/100km. 

I covered 174 km in my fuel test of the diesel Highlander and the trip computer said I used an average of 8.1L/100km.

A hybrid variant makes so much sense on an SUV which is likely to spend a lot of time in urban and suburban settings and we're expecting it to be highly fuel efficient. 

Driving

Lexus NX

Lexus has made improvements to the suspension set up of the NX300h, but it seems the changes haven’t gone far enough, and the ride comfort and handling is lacking compared to other mid-sized premium SUVs.

A CVT transmission is awesomely fuel-efficient but even with six steps ‘built’ into it, it doesn’t forcefully engage drive to the wheels the way a torque converter transmission, manual gearbox or dual-clutch auto does. The result is disappointing acceleration and an engine which sounds like its revving too hard.

Heavier-than-it-should-be steering, a steering wheel which I find flat and uncomfortable to hold, poor visibility through the rear window and a not the best pedal feel under my feet topped off a unimpressive driving experience.

There are some saving graces though – the well-insulated cabin is tranquil, the brake response is excellent, and there’s something special about travelling in bumper to bumper traffic just on silent electricity alone.


Hyundai Santa Fe8/10

This generation Santa Fe came out in 2018 and since then I’ve covered thousands of kilometres in all grades in every engine variant. I’ve also driven and tested its competitors and it has stood out from them in terms of how good it is to drive. 

Not many of its competitors were able to offer the combination of connection, comfort and easiness which the Santa Fe offered.

For this updated Santa Fe only the diesel variants were available to drive at the Australian launch and I tested the top-of-the-range Highlander and the entry-grade Santa Fe. 

To me this new Santa Fe rides more comfortably than that previous model, but offers less of that connected feel that made the outgoing car feel planted and sporty. This may be down to a different suspension set-up. 

Hyundai told us that for this new Santa Fe, rather than have an Australian-specific suspension set-up (as with the previous car), this new one has a global, one-size-fits-all tune. Hyundai still had an input, but the tune isn’t exclusively for Australia.

Yup, the last Santa Fe was so good that this new one has big shoes to fill, and to me it can’t quite match its predecessor’s all-rounder driving qualities.

Still, the new Hyundai Santa Fe is better to drive than almost all of its competitors, with good engines and transmissions, great visibility, and ease of control which makes it a breeze to pilot anywhere from dirt roads and motorways to car parks.

Safety

Lexus NX

The October 2017 update of the NX300h also saw an upgrade in its safety equipment and that meant it achieved the maximum five-star ANCAP rating. The F Sport grade never used to have AEB, but the update added it across the range, plus it was improved to include pedestrian detection. 

All grades now come with blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and the F Sport has been given adaptive high beams with 11 independent LEDs.

For child seats you’ll find three top tethers across the rear row (two in the outboard seat-backs and one mounted on the roof), along with two ISOFIX points.

You’ll find a space saver spare under the boot floor.


Hyundai Santa Fe8/10

For a car that’s not a new-generation model there’s been a lot of changes and this goes for the safety tech as well.

Previously, all Santa Fes came with AEB, effective from 10-65km/h  for pedestrian and cyclists, and up to 75km/h for cars. Now there’s a 'Junction Turning' function from the entry-grade up. 

This means that when you’re turning right at an intersection with your indicator on the Santa Fe will brake to avoid a collision with an oncoming car, cyclist or crossing pedestrian.  Also new from the entry-grade up is lane following assist.

The Highlander is also given new safety equipment in the form of a blind spot view monitor, and parking collision avoidance

All Santa Fes have adaptive cruise control, and rear cross traffic alert with braking and lane keeping assist.

For child seats there are two ISOFIX points and three top tether mounts across the second row.

A weakness in an otherwise outstanding array of safety equipment is the curtain airbags which don’t completely cover those third-row windows. The Kia Sorento also has this gap in its defences.

Here’s some good news. In a world of space saver spare tyres becoming the disappointing norm, it makes this reviewer’s day knowing Hyundai has made a full-sized spare wheel standard across the Santa Fe range. The spare is located under the car.

The Santa Fe has a maximum five-star ANCAP rating, but this was awarded back in 2018 and these days the standard to get full marks is higher.

Ownership

Lexus NX

The NX300h F Sport is covered by Lexus’ four-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 12 months or 15,000km. There’s no capped-price servicing program but Lexus says you can expect to pay nothing for the first service, $720.85 for the second, $592.37 for the third and $718 for the fourth.


Hyundai Santa Fe8/10

The Hyundai Santa Fe is covered a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty

Servicing is recommended every 12 months/15,000km and the pricing for the V6 petrol is capped at $399 for each service for five years while the diesel is $459 for the same time.