Lexus NX VS Mazda CX-5
- Long electric range
- Flexible drive modes
- Excellent interior overhaul
- Feels much bigger than outgoing car
- Ride not as good as RAV4 relation
- Fast but doesn't feel sporty
- Stylish design is ageing well
- Not a boring SUV to drive
- Most safety stuff appears on the cheapest model
- Where is our hybrid?
- Non-touchscreen tech feels old school
- Range-wide pricer increases are never fun
For Lexus. a lot is riding on the new NX. It's one of the brand’s most important models, playing in the key mid-size SUV space, and it brings with it a lot of new technology and design elements for the historically conservative maker.
The key one we’re looking at here is the first ever Lexus plug-in hybrid, and the most expensive NX model ever, the 450h+.
The question is: Should you pick this one over the brand’s renowned 350h hybrid variant, and how does it compare to its luxury PHEV peers?
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Premium Unleaded|
Let's get this out of the way early: Mazda's new CX-5 isn't actually all that new.
But has it done enough to stay relevant in Australia's biggest new-car segment? Let's find out, shall we?
|Engine Type||2.2L turbo|
The NX 450h+ is a leading example for plug-in hybrid models. It’s a big ask for a buyer to switch to this technology at a correspondingly higher price, and others could follow the example set by this car as it nails the brief for core offerings.
It has a long range, charges relatively quickly, and the hybrid system is easy to use, yet is also customisable to allow keen users to extract the most out of the technology.
The NX does all of this whilst also being a big step forward for the brand in terms of its interior design, technology, and features.
What remains to be seen is if there’s a big enough target market for PHEV tech when Lexus sells an even easier-to-use standard self-charging hybrid version.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. That's clearly Mazda's approach to the CX-5, which is no longer the newest kid on the block, but remains a strong option in the segment.
The cabin tech and the lack of electrification options certainly carbon-dates it, but the drive experience and style are still very much up to the job.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with meals provided.
The design of the new NX is perhaps the thing I love the most about it. I was no fan of the prior model, which seemed a pretty average re-imagining of the previous Toyota RAV4 on which it was based. This new one, though, is a stratospheric leap into the future.
It thoroughly owns its appearance inside and out, leaving hardly a hint that it might share its underpinnings with the RAV4, and moving the Lexus brand forward in so many ways.
It has a newfound imposing stance thanks to its significantly expanded dimensions, with the signature Lexus descending roofline, massive wheels, and expansive grille.
While I wouldn’t call it ‘elegant’ it’s certainly contemporary, with the contours running down the bonnet, and particularly the ones surrounding the rear wheel arch cutting strong, post-modern lines.
It looks distinct, and importantly, far more resolved than its predecessor, to my eyes for the first time truly earning its place as a Lexus.
Interesting touches this time around also include the typeface across the rear, and sharp LED light clusters front and rear.
If you agree the exterior is an impressive step forward, wait until you see the inside. Lexus has clearly re-thought its entire approach to interior design, with the dash a clean slate exercise.
Immediately dominating the design is that massive touchscreen, which has an entirely new and much easier to use interface. Some clear thought has also been given to ergonomics, as, despite its size, even the furthest elements are easy to reach for the driver. And the clumsy touchpad interface which plagued the previous car has finally been consigned to the bin.
There’s also no doubt the NX reaches into the premium realm, with soft touch materials and tasteful grey finishes everywhere. There are even some clever elements, like a padded leather strip running alongside the centre stack for the driver’s knee, and largely tasteful application of piano black finishes.
The digital dash and wheel design is aesthetically pleasing, while maintaining a driver-oriented approach, which can sometimes feel a bit lost on some other new designs which replace an indented cluster with a single continuous panel for the dash and multimedia functions.
There’s also a distinct lack of buttons to clutter up the design, which ties into the practicality of the space which we’ll look at next.
Short answer? If you like the outgoing CX-5, you're going to like this one, too. And if you don't? Well you're bang out of luck.
Me? I'm in the former camp. The CX-5 was, and thus still is, a handsome and understated offering in the mid-size SUV space, somehow managing too look smaller, sportier and a little more polished than some of its key rivals.
This is the Where's Wally of design updates, though. You'll find the changes in a new-look grille, which has a new textured design that's intended to look and feel more three-dimensional.
The lights, front and rear, have been tweaked to better match the incoming the CX-60, too. Oh, and there's some body-coloured or gloss-black – depending on the trim – elements, too.
We also welcome a new trim level, the Touring Active, which includes some bright green grille and interior elements, and a new colour in Zircon Sand.
Inside, it's largely business as usual, too. There's new and more supportive seat materials, and wireless charging across some grades, but that's it really.
Still, I'd argue the CX-5's cabin is ageing like a fine wine rather than a glass of milk, and it still fills plenty polished and premium inside – even if the tech offering (led by the 8.0-inch central screen which is crying out to be made touch sensitive) is starting to feel a little off the pace.
The NX is much bigger than before, meaning it has a lot more cabin space, but what cabin space is on offer is also more efficiently used.
A prime example is the centre stack and armrest console. The latter is simply huge and features the brand’s signature top with a trick hinge so it can be opened both ways.
The lack of clumsy controls featured in previous cars, as well as a tidy fly-by-wire shifter, means a lot more space in the centre console for two huge bottle holders.
Under the climate controls is a neat, floating, wireless charger, which slides back into the dash to reveal yet another large storage area and 12V power outlet. Front passengers can also make use of a choice of USB 2.0 or USB-C for connecting to the multimedia suite. Nice.
Moving onto the touch panel itself, and the basic dual-zone climate functions are controlled via big shortcut touch units, as well as the smart inclusion of physical dials for temperature. There’s also a physical dial for audio volume in the centre, and shortcut buttons for instant de-fogging. Smart.
There are big bottle holders with a small bin in the doors, and the space on offer for front passengers is great. The seating position is quite high, but the excellent seat trim which Lexus has built a reputation for is still present. The F-Sport seats in this variant offer unexpectedly good side-bolstering, too.
The rear seat continues with the lovely seat trim, and the 60/40 split backing has two states of recline.
The space offers plenty of room for my 182cm tall frame, featuring ample airspace for my knees and head. Oddly though, it doesn’t feel as big as its Toyota RAV4 relation.
This could merely be perception, as the interior trim consists of dark leather with dark headlining and a deep tint for the rear windows.
For storage, pockets feature on the backs of the front seats, alongside a decent bottle holder in the doors and an armrest console with two more.
Amenities include dual adjustable air vents with a lock-off (but no independent third climate zone), as well as dual USB-C outlets and a 12V socket.
Finally, there’s the boot. Volume is decent, with 520 litres on offer. The loading lip and floor is quite high, though, and it’s notable that 60 litres have been lost to this car’s design when compared with the RAV4.
It fits the three-piece CarsGuide luggage set with a little space to spare, but the luggage cover had to be removed to accommodate the height.
Under the boot floor there is no room for a spare, but a small storage cutaway, perhaps for your charging cables, as well as a tyre repair kit and a compartment which houses the 12V battery.
The Mazda CX-5 range stretches 4550mm in length, 1840mm in width and around 1680mm in height. It rides on a 2700mm wheelbase, and has been pretty cleverly packaged to deliver enough cabin and boot space to satisfy most people.
Speaking of which, the (auto-opening in some trims) boot opens to reveal a usable, though not massive, 438 litres with the rear seats in place, and that number swells to 1340 litres with the back pews folded flat, with both those numbers measured in VDA.
Backseat riders will find enough leg and headroom to stay happy, especially if they're my height, 175cm, or less. But the way the centre console and rear tunnel cut into the middle seat's leg room means its pretty much ruled out for adult riders.
I do love the pull-down divider's hidden USB charge points and twin cupholders in all but the base model, and the rear-sear air vents.
Elsewhere, you'll find the usual accompaniment of bottle and cup holders, as well as twin ISOFIX attachment points, one in each window seat in the back.
Price and features
The NX 450h+ is the most expensive NX ever, wearing a before on-roads price-tag (MSRP) of $89,900. It’s some $6000 more than the well-received NX 350h 'self-charging' hybrid and offers a huge battery with an unusually long range for a PHEV.
We’ll look a little more closely at the detail behind that in a moment, but you should also know that in the context of its PHEV competition the value equation is not as alarming as it first seems.
Standard equipment is also excellent, with the NX range a huge leap forward for Lexus, the 450h+ only being available in the top F-Sport trim.
This includes a brand new and enormous 14.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and built-in nav, an 8.0-inch digital instrument cluster, head-up display, wireless phone charger, 14-speaker premium audio system, full synthetic leather interior trim, dual-zone climate control, power adjustable front seats with heating and ventilation, keyless entry and push-start ignition, 20-inch alloy wheels, colour-matching F-Sport bodykit, fully adaptive LED headlights, and a power tailgate.
Adding further value on top of the standard F-Sport equipment mentioned above, Lexus throws in the sunroof, heated steering wheel, and digital rear-view mirror which are optional lesser variants.
It doesn’t end there, though, with the NX featuring the full suite of active safety items offered by Lexus, as well as a particularly large hybrid battery (18.1kW) which allows a claimed NEDC range of 87km.
It also throws in the polite inclusion of a Type 2 to Type 2 charging cable, which you’ll need to charge up at public AC locations.
So yes, the 450h+ is the most expensive NX ever made and will still be too tall an order for many, but it’s actually a lot better value than it first seems in the context of its rivals.
There has been some juggling of the CX-5 range for 2022, which has now resulted in five trim levels, four engine options, two fuel types and two transmissions offered across the CX-5 range, with prices spanning $32,190 for the entry level Maxx manual – or $2k more for the automatic – and $53,680 for the top-spec Akera auto. And to save you doing the math, that means prices are up somewhere between $800 and $1300 across most of the range.
The Maxx cars deliver things like 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, black cloth seats, an 8.0-inch central screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a six-speaker stereo and leather on the steering wheel and shifter.
Maxx Sport models than add LED fog lamps, dual-zone climate, sat nav and hidden USB charge points in the pull-down seat divider in the back.
Next up is the Touring, which will give you keyless entry, a wireless charger for you mobile, front parking sensor and a neat boot floor which can be reversed when you’re carrying muddy gear for easier cleaning.
New for this update is the Touring Active, which seeks to up the style a bit with 17-inch alloys finished in a grey metallic, gloss-black side mirrors and Maztex seats with fluoro-green accents in the cabin and on the body work.
Still with me? Don’t worry, we’re almost there. Next comes the sporty-looking GT SP, which adds 19-inch alloys, a cool looking gloss-black treatment to the mirrors and grille, a black interior trim, a sunroof and powered boot, heated front seats, and a 10-speaker Bose stereo. You also get Mazda’s clever Adaptive Front-Lighting system, which turn with the vehicle to ensure the road ahead is always illuminated when cornering.
Finally, there’s the top-tier Akera, with it silver 19-inch alloys, ventilated Nappa leather front seats, adaptive LED headlights, and a second 7.0-inch screen.
Mazda CX-5 2022 Price List:
|Maxx 2.0-litre petrol FWD||Manual||$32,190 (+$800)|
|Maxx 2.0-litre petrol FWD||Automatic||$34,190 (+$800)|
|Maxx Sport 2.5-litre petrol FWD||Automatic||$37,990 (+$1300)|
|Maxx Sport 2.5-litre petrol AWD||Automatic||$40,490 (+$800)|
|Touring 2.5-litre petrol AWD||Automatic||$42,390 (+$900)|
|Touring Active 2.5-litre petrol AWD||Automatic||$42,680|
|Touring Active 2.2-litre turbo-diesel AWD||Automatic||$45,680|
|GT SP 2.5-litre turbo-petrol AWD||Automatic||$48,790 (+$1100)|
|Akera 2.5-litre petrol AWD||Automatic||$50,680 (+$1100)|
|Akera 2.5-litre turbo-petrol AWD||Automatic||$53,680 (+$1100)|
|Akera 2.2-litre turbo-diesel AWD||Automatic||$53,180 (+$1100)|
Engine & trans
Okay, this is where it gets tricky. You ready? The Lexus NX 450h+ has a combustion engine up front. It’s a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine producing 136kW/227Nm which runs on the Atkinson cycle, meaning it sacrifices some power in favour of efficiency.
The idea is that the slack is taken up by the electric motors, of which this car has two. It has one more powerful unit on the front axle, producing 134kW/270Nm, and a second unit on the rear axle facilitating the all-wheel drive system, producing 40kW/121Nm.
The electric motors are, in fact, the same ones used in the ‘regular’ 350h hybrid, however the higher voltage 18.1kWh battery pack in the 450h+ allows a full range of motion in the fully electric driving mode, up to 135km/h without any assistance from the combustion engine.
Combined power is rated at 227kW, but no system peak torque figure is given. Lexus claims the NX 450h+ will sprint from 0-100km/h in just 6.3 seconds.
There are four engines on offer here, and we’ll pop the details down below. But what you really need to know is that the pick of the bunch is the punchy 2.5-litre turbo, which is such a good fit for this vehicle. It pairs exclusively with a six-speed automatic and AWD, and it's a peach.
Elsewhere, you’ve got a choice of petrol or diesel, manual or automatic, and two- or all-wheel drive. Choices, choices, choices. There are plenty of them here.
Mazda CX-5 2022 engine options:
|2.0L Petrol||Power: 115kW @ 6000rpm||Torque: 200Nm @ 4000rp||Driven wheels: FWD||Fuel use: 6.9L/100km (combined)|
|2.5L Petrol||Power: 140kW @ 6000rpm||Torque: 252Nm @ 400rpm||Driven wheels: FWD/AWD||Fuel use: 7.2L-7.4L/100km (combined)|
|2.5L Turbo-petrol||Power: 170kW @ 5000rpm||Torque: 420Nm @ 2000rpm||Driven wheels: AWD||Fuel use: 8.2L/100km (combined)|
|2.2L Turbo-diesel||Power: 140kW @ 4500rpm||Torque: 450Nm @ 2000rpm||Driven wheels: AWD||Fuel use: 5.7L/100km (combined)|
The 18.1kWh battery pack which features in the NX 450h+ grants it an unusually long range for a PHEV, at a claimed 87km. This is to the more lenient NEDC testing cycle, however, and in our real-world driving the car reported around 62-65km of pure electric range at close to 100 per cent charge.
That’s still the longest real-world range of any PHEV I’ve tested, which bodes well for the usefulness of this system.
Unlike some PHEVs, the NX 450h+ has flexible options for controlling the drivetrain. The car defaults to EV mode, but with a flick of the switch it can be driven as a parallel hybrid (like any other Toyota or Lexus hybrid system) which does a great job of maintaining the battery level.
Or you can switch to charge mode, which constantly runs the engine using excess idle power to charge the battery.
The only thing I wish you could control here is the regenerative braking, which has a single mild state of tune. The ability to control it with the paddle-shifters would make for a more efficient EV.
Claimed fuel consumption for the 450h+ is just 1.3L/100km, and after my testing, covering several hundred kilometres in a few drive modes, on the freeway and around town, I came to a final figure of 3.9L/100km.
That's pretty good, but if you were able to make more use of the EV drive mode, it could easily be less.
In terms of charging, the NX uses a European-standard Type 2 charging port. Importantly, the NX can charge at a rate of 6.6kW, double that of many PHEVs.
This means despite a relatively large battery you can get to 100 per cent charge on a public AC charger from the reserve level in just 2.5 hours. A more realistic proposition for those who only have on-street or apartment parking and cannot charge at home.
Total range can theoretically be in excess of 1000km with a full charge and tank of fuel. The NX takes 55L of fuel but notably requires mid-shelf 95RON premium.
Non-turbo vehicles are equipped with a 56-litre tank, while the turbocharged models nab and extra two litres for 58 in total. There’s no electrification on offer in the CX-5 family, and with petrol prices increasingly horrific these days, that’s also something that weighs on your mind.
The good news is that petrol-powered examples of the CX-5 run on the cheapest 91RON fuel. The bad news is that with no electrification on offer (like hybrid or PHEV), and fuel prices reaching skyward everyday, there's no real way to mitigate those costs.
We were putting the 2.5-litre, turbocharged models to harder work than they would normally be subjected to, but we also retuned fuel use figures north of 10.0L/100km. And on today's prices, that means $21 every 100km.
The NX feels entirely different from the previous model. The new car feels bigger, wider, heavier, almost as though you’re driving the previous-generation RX, a full size up.
It’s also a completely different beast from the RAV4 on which it is based. Visibility is still excellent with expansive glass on all but the rearmost window, while the refreshed cabin design feels spacious but more luxurious, too.
The steering is heavy, regardless of drive mode, making the NX feel substantial, but not inconvenient or artificial, with some organic feedback letting you connect with the road.
The hybrid drivetrain is the real star of the show, however, with Lexus putting its decades of experience on full show.
The car defaults to EV priority mode, moving primarily as an electric car at up to freeway speeds without needing the combustion components.
In hybrid vehicle mode, the components (which are the same as the standard hybrid, anyway) do an excellent job of mimicking the series/parallel drive of other Lexus and Toyota hybrid models.
The key brilliance of this system is how drive to the wheels is managed by the transmission, so it is imperceptible to the driver when the engine is assisting (aside from distant noise at higher loads).
The mastery of this tech is such that it is still the leading hybrid drive on the market for smooth power transfer.
The NX also has a charge mode, where it will operate primarily as a combustion vehicle with less electrical assistance. The idle time from the engine is used to charge the battery via the transmission.
While it’s not an efficient way to use the energy, it may be useful for where you want to maximise the amount of energy saved during a freeway trip in order to have a full charge for emissions free motoring at your destination.
The only area of drivetrain customisation I wish the NX had is in regeneration. The stock regen tune is quite mild, so I feel as though it could get even more range out of EV priority mode if you were able to maximise this.
The NX is also quite fast in a straight line, with Sport and Sport+ modes allowing you to eke otherwise hidden performance out of the electric motors.
Raw acceleration does make the 6.3-second claimed 0-100km/h time feel like a realistic proposition, but I wouldn't put this SUV in amongst its performance rivals.
While its electrified straight-line performance is impressive, the each-way suspension tune and weight of 18.1kWh of batteries leaves a little to be desired on the handling front.
This car feels its weight in the corners and comes with a fair bit of body-roll to keep it out of the same league as German sports machines like the GLC53 or BMW X3 M40i.
The suspension tune was another source of disappointment. For context, the ride is generally very good, but I found the large wheels, low profile tyres, and new adaptive suspension package give the NX a ride with a harsher edge than I was expecting.
This is perhaps more notable because its RAV4 relation is particularly good for ride comfort. Seems odd that the relatively affordable Toyota-branded SUV rides with more grace than its Lexus luxury equivalent.
The same goes for road noise. Not bad, but it could be better on coarser chip surfaces, where you can hear the difference the big Lexus wheels and low-profile rubber makes.
Where does that leave us? This is a more luxury-oriented model when it comes to its ride and handling than some of its price-equivalent sporty rivals, but leans into its electric features to provide a customisable platform for energy-efficient adventures.
It’s silky smooth around town but leaves you with the confidence to have some battery left at the end of your trip without making it too complicated. I’d argue the ingredients on offer here are what more manufacturers should be combining to get people into PHEVs.
Who says that buying a family SUV means waving goodbye to any sense of driver enjoyment from behind the wheel?
Mazda has done a stellar job of making the updated CX-5 feel connected to the road below it, sit nice and flat through corners, and – with the right drivetrain equipped – deliver enough lusty grunt for easy overtaking or simply shortening the distance between bends.
It's no performance car, and nor is it trying to be, but it's also not some big and boat-like SUV that tips and rolls through bends and disconnects the driver from the experience.
Instead, it sits somewhere in the middle of those two polls, offering a firm-ish but comfortable enough ride in town, and a sense of athleticism when you're outside the city limits.
One of the focuses for Mazda this time around was on the NVH (how much of the outside world enters the cabin when you're the road), and while I can't offer up a direct comparison with the outgoing model – it's been too long since I've driven one – I can report that this new car is mostly quiet and comfortable, even at speed, with very acceptable levels of wind and road noise in the cabin.
That sense of smoothness is helped along by really predictable steering, and a fairly seamless gearshift from an automatic 'box that swaps its cogs quickly and without much fuss.
So, more of the same really from the CX-5. But to be fair, that's not a bad thing here.
As the top-spec car, the NX 450h+ comes with the full suite of modern active safety, including freeway speed auto emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, a new intersection assist feature, a new emergency steering feature, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, road sign assist, safe exit warning, and panoramic reversing camera.
It also packs a whopping 10 airbags alongside the standard array of brake, stability, and traction controls, as well as dual ISOFIX and three top-tether child seat mounting points across the rear row.
At the time of writing, the NX was yet to receive an ANCAP safety rating.
Even the cheapest Mazda CX-5 gets blind spot monitoring, a driver attention alert, forward collision warning with AEB front and rear, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, active cruise, a reverse camera, rear parking sensors and rear cross-traffic alert.
Springing for the Touring Active adds front parking sensors and a head-up display with traffic sign recognition, while the GT SP adds Mazda's Adaptive Front-Lighting.
The entire CX-5 range wears a five-star ANCAP safety rating, but was last tested back in 2017.
Lexus offers a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty but goes one step further for its hybrid and electric models to offer an industry-leading 10-year/unlimited kilometre warranty for the high-voltage battery components.
Service costs are very competitive for the luxury market, too, with every NX costing just $495 a year for the first three annual visits.
Good value considering the PHEV is more complicated compared to standard combustion variants.
Specific ownership boons offered to buyers of the PHEV model include complementary home installation of an AC charging terminal, alongside a three-year membership to the Lexus Encore Platinum service.
Benefits include invites to various events and discounts with partnered venues and fuel stations. But perhaps most importantly, access to the 'Lexus on Demand' service which lets users swap their car for another model for up to eight days at a time.
This is a fairly generous ownership initiative which keeps Lexus ahead of its luxury rivals.
The Mazda CX-5 is covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty - which is about middle of the road by today’s standard. You also get capped price servicing, and a trip to the dealership will be required every 10,000kms.
You can expect to pay around $350 for each of the first five services.