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Lexus NX


Mazda CX-8

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

Mazda CX-8

Everybody wants an SUV these days, so to cater to a quickly growing and diverse audience, car brands need to offer more than just the usual small, medium and large varieties.

Enter Mazda's CX-8 SUV, which slides in between the CX-5 and CX-9, offering  the seven seats of the latter in a footprint closer in size to the former.

It’s a neat trick that Mazda pulls off, but are there any compromises to packaging, quality, value or comfort as a result? We spent some time in the new 2021 CX-8 Touring SP to find out.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.2L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency6L/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.


Mazda CX-88.3/10

Mazda’s updated CX-8 doesn’t really change much from the previous model, but it didn’t really need to fix what wasn’t broken.

The added Touring SP grade offers another choice for buyers who might be after some more upmarket features without the usual associated costs, while the Asaki LE’s captain’s chairs are genuinely a great feature.

The practical space and handsome looks are also big points in its favour, and even if the petrol engine can run out of huff towards the top end, the CX-8 remains a solid choice for those after a family hauler.

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).


Mazda CX-88/10

The CX-8 clearly belongs in the Mazda SUV family, wearing the same understated yet elegant design language found on the smaller CX-5 and larger CX-9.

In fact, the CX-8 can be a little hard to differentiate from either of its siblings from a distance, so if you like what Mazda has done with its crossovers, you’ll like the look of the CX-8.

Personally, I like the styling of the CX-8, with its sleek headlights and taillights adding a bit of aggression to the aesthetic, while the chrome-trim found on the grille and window surrounds adds a touch of class.

The 19-inch wheels found in the more expensive grades do look much better than the 17-inch units on the Sport and Touring, however, and fill the wheel arches much better.

Our Touring SP also sports a number of blacked-out elements on the exterior to set it apart, including around the grille, the windows and the wheels.

We think it looks great, especially when contrasting against our test car’s Polymetal Grey colour, but we will point out that higher grades like the GT and Asaki nab a new grille that looks much more upmarket than the one fitted here.

It’s not just the outside that will be familiar to Mazda customers, as the interior mirrors much of the CX-5 and CX-8 as well.

Everything is laid out in a clear and easy to use fashion, and controls and ergonomics are spot on for the driver.

The Touring SP scores a number of nice touches on the inside, too, including suede accents and red-stitched highlights that do a lot to elevate the standard black-cloth interior.

Out test car is also fitted with an 8.0-inch multimedia system, but having experienced the larger 10.25-inch unit of higher grades recently, the bigger version is a vast improvement in terms of looks.

Overall, the CX-8 plays it a little safe with design, but it still  looks distinct and upmarket, like all Mazda SUVs

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.


Mazda CX-89/10

Measuring 4900mm long, 1840mm wide, 1725mm tall and with a 2930mm wheelbase, the CX-8 is classified as a large SUV, but its width is actually the same as a one-size-smaller CX-5.

The length is closer to a CX-9, while the wheelbase is identical to its larger sibling, which means the CX-8 offers the practicality and space of a seven seater, but is easier to manoeuvre around town.

From the front seats, the cabin feels light and airy, thanks to a large glasshouse, while storage options extend to large door bins, a deep centre-storage cubby, two cupholders and a small tray for your phone/wallet.

The second-row seats also offer plenty of room for adults and will even slide forward and recline to get into the perfect position.

There is plenty of head and legroom, even for those sitting in the middle seat, but shoulder room can be a little compromised.

For those that seldom use the second-row middle seat, the Asaki LE features two captains’ chairs that are much more comfortable for adults, and even features ISOFIX and top-tether points for child seats.

In the second row, there are small door bins, a fold-down armrest with cupholders and air vents with climate controls, while the Asaki LE scores its own unique centre console with functions for seat heating.

The second-row doors are also a bit bigger than a CX-5, making ingress/egress to the third row a little easier, but it also means it can be trickier to get in and out of tighter parking spaces.

But if you are considering a CX-8, it’s probably because there is a third row of seats, and they are just what you’d expect.

It’s a little cramped in seats six and seven for my six-foot-tall frame, but there is decent legroom if the second-road seats scooch up a little.

Children shouldn’t have a problem being comfortable back there though, but charging points are only available on higher grades.

The boot of the CX-8 can swallow a decent amount of volume with all seats in place (209L), enough for a medium-sized suitcase and more than enough for some groceries or school bags.

Fold the third-row flat and that expands to 775L, making it easier to haul a whole family's luggage for a holiday.

Tucked underneath the boot is also a space-saver spare wheel for a little peace of mind on long road trips.

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.


Mazda CX-89/10

Mazda’s CX-8 has changed a lot since it was first introduced to local showrooms in mid-2018.

Back then, it was a diesel-only range, available in two grades, but now Mazda Australia offers the CX-8 across five trim levels, two engine choices and front- or all-wheel drive, for a total of 11 variants.

Opening the range is the Sport grade, available in petrol front-drive and diesel all-wheel-drive forms for $39,990 before on-road costs for the petrol and $46,990 for the diesel AWD.

The Touring is also available in petrol FWD and diesel AWD versions, priced at $46,790 and $53,790, while new for 2021 is the Touring SP, which builds on the second-to-bottom grade for an extra $1000.

Meanwhile, the GT trim is a diesel-only affair, in front ($59,290) and all-wheel-drive ($64,290) flavours.

The diesel-only Asaki tops the CX-8 line-up, in FWD ($62,790) and AWD ($66,790), but Mazda has also introduced the new Asaki LE range-topper that bumps up pricing to $69,920.

We’ll dig into the engine specs a bit further down, but standard equipment is impressive, thanks to the likes of tri-zone climate control, a head-up display, and an 8.0-inch multimedia system with satellite navigation, digital radio and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto support.

Less impressive on the base Sport grade are the 17-inch wheels and black-cloth interior, but a sub-$40,000 seven-seat SUV needs to make compromises somewhere.

Stepping up to the Touring adds more upmarket features such as keyless entry, push-button start, power-adjustable front seats, heated front seats and leather interior.

Our test car, the Touring SP, differs thanks to red-contrast stitching for the interior, suede accents for the seats and dashboard, and heated rear seats, as well as blacked-out exterior elements (more on that below).

The GT grade scores a larger 10.25-inch multimedia system, wireless smartphone charger, powered tailgate, wood interior trim, sunroof, 10-speaker Bose sound system and steering wheel paddle shifters.

Finally, the Asaki nabs a 7.0-inch driver display, Nappa leather interior, cooled front seats and a heated steering wheel, while the Asaki LE swaps out the second-row bench seat for two heated captain’s chairs and a bespoke centre console with cupholders and USB ports.

No matter how you slice it, this is an impressive equipment list, on any grade you go for, but we will point out that prices are up this year (from $80-$1350) across the line-up.

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. 


Mazda CX-88/10

Our Touring SP petrol is powered by a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which drives the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.

The petrol engine outputs 140kW at 6000rpm and 252Nm at 4000rpm for a zero-to-100km/h run in a  lethargic 10.9 seconds.

Opting for the diesel does liven things up a little, with the 2.2-litre turbocharged unit delivering 140kW/450Nm at 4500rpm and 2000rpm respectively.

And depending on configuration, FWD or AWD, the oil-burning CX-8 can reach triple-digit speeds in as little as 9.6s.

A third-row of seats is not light, of course, with our Touring SP grade tipping the scales at just under 1800kg, while the Asaki LE weighs in at a positively porky 1977kg.

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.


Mazda CX-87/10

The CX-8 in front-drive petrol form will return an official fuel-consumption figure of 8.1 litres per 100km, while opting for a diesel  will lower that to 5.9L and 6.0L/100km for front and all-wheel-drive versions.

In my brief time with the Touring SP petrol, I averaged 9.4L/100km, mostly due to remaining in the inner-city and lugging around baby paraphernalia like a pram and car seat. Oh, and a baby.

The start-stop engine technology does help keep consumption down, but the near two-tonne kerb weight (1799-1978kg) doesn’t  help fuel economy.

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.


Mazda CX-88/10

From the outside, you’d be forgiven for thinking the CX-8 is a CX-9, but behind the wheel there is no doubting its smaller dimensions and unique selling point.

With the CX-8 being as wide as a CX-5, it makes manoeuvring through the tight inner-city streets of Melbourne a breeze.

In our time with the car, we never turned down a tight laneway with cars parked on both sides and panicked about squeezing through with our mirrors intact.

This also helps with navigating streets shared with cyclists , with the CX-8 remaining comfortably in its lane at all times.

Our Touring SP grade was fitted with the 140kW/252Nm 2.5-litre petrol engine, which does an admirable job at moving the near-two-tonne car to city speeds, but struggled a little as the speedo climbed towards 100km/h.

This is especially evident in some freeway on-ramp situations that require you to get up to speed to merge, with the engine feeling out of breath – and even a bit coarse – towards the top-end of the rev range.

Luckily, peak torque is on tap from fairly low down, so when navigating the CX-8 to the supermarket or shopping centre, it is a delight to cruise from traffic light to traffic light.

We also sampled the diesel-powered Asaki LE recently, which offers up noticeably more pep thanks to its turbo-diesel engine's 140kW/450Nm – which matches the BT-50 workhorse’s 3.0-litre unit.

The diesel engine is no doubt a better option for those that take long road trips or frequent the freeway, and also stands the CX-8 even further apart from the turbo-petrol-only CX-9.

As with other models in its stable, Mazda has nailed the driving position and feel with the CX-8, with the driver’s seat offering heaps of all-round visibility, enough adjustability to get comfortable, and a steering wheel that serves up subtle cues as to what is happening on the road.

Don’t get us wrong, the CX-8 isn’t as engaging or sharp as an AMG SUV, but it’s certainly one of the better mainstream SUVs for fun and feel behind the wheel.

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.


Mazda CX-89/10

The Mazda CX-8 was awarded a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating from its test in mid-2018, with notably high scores for adult and child occupant protection.

As standard, the CX-8 is fitted with crucial safety systems that you would want in a family car, such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert with automatic braking, a reversing camera, traffic-sign recognition and rear parking sensors.

Stepping up to the Touring grade adds front parking sensors, while the Asaki nabs a surround-view monitor – both features that are nice to have, but not essential.

According to ANCAP, the CX-8’s AEB system is operational from 4-160km/h and is deemed ‘good’ for overall performance, while its lane-keep and lane-departure tech works from 60-180km/h and was given a ‘marginal’ grade.

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.


Mazda CX-88/10

Like all new Mazda’s sold in 2021, the CX-8 comes with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, with roadside assist over that period.

Scheduled service intervals for the CX-8, regardless of petrol or diesel, are every 12 months or 10,000km, whichever occurs first.

Some rivals like the Hyundai Santa Fe need servicing every 12 months/15,000km, so those who like to rack up the mileage in a year need to take note.

The cost of servicing over five years works out to be $2057 for the petrol engine and $2237 for the diesel, which averages out to about $411 and $447 per annum respectively.

Maintenance costs are a little on the expensive side for the CX-8 when compared to something like the Toyota Kluger, which asks $200 for every 12 month/10,000km service in the first five years.