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Lexus NX


Kia Sorento

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

Kia Sorento

How do you make something that was already great even better?

I'm only asking because the last Kia Sorento had very few faults, and this new one arriving must have set Kia’s engineers a bit of a challenge. Could they improve the little bits that needed fixing while leaving everything that was good about the Sorento alone? Or would tinkering with the winning formula take some of the shine off Kia’s large SUV?

We headed to the launch of the new Sorento to find out.

Safety rating
Engine Type3.5L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency10L/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.


Kia Sorento7.8/10

The Sorento was always great, and Kia could have easily just released an updated car with a new bumper and called it a new model. But the brand has instead jumped in and fixed a few issues that needed addressing, like the ride, the smaller display and the (lack of) safety features.

Now you have an SUV that’s just as practical and good value as the last one, but also one that drives better and is safer, too.

The sweet spot in this Sorento range for me is the SLi petrol. For just $4000 more than the base price this grade comes loaded with features and includes proximity unlocking, auto tailgate and the Harman Kardon stereo.

Would you pick Kia Sorento over a Mazda CX-9 or Toyota Kluger? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

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).


Kia Sorento7/10

If you can spot the difference between this new Sorento and the previous one, write in and we’ll give you a hat. That is, if we have any left. Which we probably will because we have a lot of hats, and because the differences aren’t too easy to spot.

Look, I’ll even give you a clue; the grille is glitzier, the headlights have been redesigned and so have the taillights, the rear bumper has been restyled and all grades now have a chrome exhaust. All grades have new wheel designs, too.

Less boxy than Toyota’s Kluger and more curvaceous than the blade-sharp design of the Mazda CX-9, the Sorento is a good-looking large SUV that has a tough and premium presence on the road.

That premium feel continues into the cabin, with dark textured materials and an excellent fit and finish.

The cockpit isn’t the most modern (compared to, say, the CX-9), but the new eight-inch screen is on the bigger side by current standards, even if its setting and the controls and dials around it are beginning to date. 

You can have your Sorento in any colour as long as it’s grey. Okay, that’s not true, there’s also 'Gravity Blue', 'Snow White Pearl' and 'Clear White', joining a trio of greys; 'Silky Silver', 'Metal Stream' and 'Platinum Graphite'.

The Sorento’s dimensions have changed slightly – this new one is longer by 20mm, now 4800mm end-to-end. The height has stayed the same at 1690mm with roof rails, and its width is still 1890mm. 

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.


Kia Sorento8/10

The answer is very. Both head and legroom in the front is excellent, even in sunroof-equipped models, and at 191cm I can sit behind my driving position with about 40mm of space between my knees and the front seatback. 

Headroom in the second row is good, but the same can’t be said for the third row which has limited headspace for me - although legroom can be made better because the second row seats slide forward on rails. That said, I could set the seats - the third row, second row and front row - and sit in them all with a little breathing room. 

With all seats up, though, there’s just 142 litres of room left for luggage. That was enough to fit two airline overhead luggage cases, but if you have a big family and you’re heading away on holiday, you’ll need to invest in a roof pod. A genuine 450-litre Kia pod for the Sorento costs $995.42.

With the third row folded flat the luggage capacity increases to 605 litres, which sounds enormous, but the Mazda CX-9’s is 810 litres.

Cabin storage is great with two cupholders in each row. There’s two large storage trays in the back row, too, plus there’s a giant centre console storage bin big enough to hide a small backpack, great under-dash storage in front of the gear shifter and big bottle holders in all doors.

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.


Kia Sorento8/10

There are four levels in the Sorento line-up. It starts with the petrol Si, which lists for $42,990 ($45,490 for the diesel), then steps up to the Sport for $44,990 (the diesel is $48,490), the SLi for $46,990 ($50,490 for the diesel), and the-top-of-the-range (and diesel-only) GT-Line for $58,990.

Prices have increased over the previous Sorento, with the GT-Line now $500 more expensive, the SLi price is up by $1000, the Sport (which used to be the SLi Limited) is up by a $1000 and the Si petrol is $2000 more.

Those prices are pretty much bang-on what Mazda is asking for the CX-9, what Toyota wants for its Kluger or what Hyundai is asking for its Santa Fe.

A $60k list price is a decent chunk of moolah to hand over, but if you have a look at the specification sheet it’ll take you about 1.5 seconds to see that the entry grade Si comes loaded with features and possibly everything you’d want anyway, so there is really no need to bother with options.

The Si has the same eight-inch display that comes standard across the range, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and a six-speaker stereo with digital radio. There’s also nav, a reversing camera, dual-zone climate, auto headlights with LED DRLs, roof rails, a rear spoiler and 17-inch alloy wheels. 

The Si also comes with a barrage of new advanced safety equipment which you can read all about below.

The Sport is the Si but with 18-inch alloys and leather seats. Then stepping up into the SLi adds a 10-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, proximity unlocking, auto tailgate, powered front seats, tinted rear glass, alloy pedals, LED taillights, alloy treadplates and faux-wood trim on the centre console.

The GT-Line is swamped with even more features. Things like heated front and rear seats, panoramic sun roof, 360 camera, LED ‘bending’ headlights, a heated steering wheel, window sunshades in the second row, dual chrome exhaust and 19-inch alloy wheels. None of it is necessary, but all of it is nice to have.

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. 


Kia Sorento7/10

Simple – two engines: a diesel and a petrol. The diesel is a turbo four cylinder which makes 147kW and 441Nm, while the petrol is a V6 which makes 206kW and 335Nm.

The petrol Sorentos are front-wheel drive and the diesels are all-wheel drive. There’s no manual gearbox but the six-speed automatic transmission from the old car has been replaced by an eight-speed unit. 

The 3.5-litre V6 petrol is a new engine (the previous one was a 3.3-litre unit).

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.


Kia Sorento7/10

The petrol engine is thirstier than the diesel, but not by as much as I’d have expected. We drove both on similar roads at the launch of the new Sorento and the V6 was using an average of 9.5L/100km according to the trip computer after crawling through Sydney’s urban streets, then onto highways before climbing the winding roads into the Blue Mountains. That’s lower than the 10.0L/100km that Kia reckons the V6 should use in combined driving conditions. 

The diesel engine was using an average of 8.2L/100km on mainly country roads. Remember, though, that the diesel is an all-wheel drive. Kia says 7.2L/100km is the official fuel figure.

Then from Katoomba in the Blue Mountains to Sydney airport, the V6 petrol used an average of 7.8L/100km.

You should also know that even though the V6 is bigger than the previous one it only drinks 0.1L/100km more fuel.

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.


Kia Sorento8/10

The previous Sorento had a comfortable ride, which was probably a bit too ‘floaty’ for my liking and the steering felt overly light. Those issues have been rectified in the new Sorento, with suspension adjustments that have reduced body roll in the corners while still keeping the ride super comfy, and new steering which feels a little heavier and more accurate.

I had the chance to spend time in the Si petrol, SLi Petrol and the GT-Line diesel.

I’m a fan of that V6 petrol. The response from the engine is instant, while the power and torque feels abundant. The diesel takes a moment to deliver the grunt and doesn’t run as smoothly as the petrol.

Here’s something a bit unexpected; I found the seating position in the base spec Si better than the top grade GT-Line. The manually adjustable seats in the Si could be set lower, while the power adjustable ones in the GT-Line weren’t quite as flexible.

The Sorento is one of the best seven-seat SUVs in this price range to drive. Easy to pilot, plenty of grunt and with good visibility all around.

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.


Kia Sorento8/10

The Sorento scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2015. This new version comes with more advanced safety equipment such as AEB, lane keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control – these are standard across the entire range, too.

The GT-Line comes with more equipment, such as rear cross traffic alert, blind spot warning, and a 360-degree view camera.

If the Sorento was to keep up with rivals like the CX-9, it really needed this advanced safety gear fitted across its range. It's great to see Kia has responded to this need. 

You’ll find three top tether anchor mounts and two ISOFIX points for child seats across the second row only.

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.


Kia Sorento9/10

The Sorento is covered by Kia’s seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. There’s also seven years of capped-price servicing. Servicing is recommended annually or every 15,000km.

The diesel is capped at $403 for the first service, then $471, $465, $664, $454, $570 and $482 for the seventh. The petrol is cheaper to maintain with prices capped at $349 for the first, then $415, $405, $544, $393, $505, and $417.