Lexus NX VS Volvo XC40
- Great styling
- Good standard equipment
- Charming and smart interior
- Very pricey servicing
- Launch Editions limited to small numbers
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.
Read on to find out what I found out.
Read More: Lexus NX 2018 review
Read More: Lexus NX Sports Luxury 2018 review: snapshot
Read More: Lexus NX F Sport 2018 review: snapshot
Read More: Lexus NX Luxury 2018 review: snapshot
Read More: Lexus NX 300 F Sport AWD 2018 review
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Regular Unleaded|
The small SUV segment harbours innovation, eye-catching style and bigger-than-you'd-think cabin space.
The Volvo XC40 delivers on all of those fronts, plus more - this has been widely regarded as a game-changer for the Scandinavian brand: but does it live up to the hype?
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
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.
So, there you go. My socks haven't literally been blown off, but there is no denying this is a very competent entry into the small SUV segment. The Momentum in particular offers a promising, but pleasantly packed, small SUV for the money - though most will likely opt for the sportier R-Design model.
Across the range it is arguably a bit too expensive, particularly the ownership aspect - but unlike some rivals it actually feels like you're getting your money's worth with the Volvo XC40.
Would you choose the Volvo XC40 over its small SUV competitors? Let us know in the comments section below.
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).
I think it's perfect. The more I look at it, the more I struggle to see what I would want to change, because Volvo's designers have absolutely, positively nailed the styling of the XC40.
As the Volvo Cars senior vice president of design, Robin Page, said at the launch of the XC40 this week, the Swedish brand's smallest real SUV offering (we're not counting the V40 Cross Country, here) is like a stylish Prada sneaker, where the XC60 is like a suede shoe that would look okay with jeans or slacks, and the XC90 is the luxury black leather brogue.
It has detailed lines, a bluff and tough front end with the signature Hammer of Thor LED daytime running light inlays, and a bold grille treatment that flows to a square-jawed front bumper.
The scalloped sections in the front and rear doors help ground it, reflecting the ground and the sky to make it appear light on its feet. The two-tone roof finish on the cars at launch - white roof and mint-ish coloured paint for the Momentum; black roof and white paint for the R-Design - make it seem almost like a piece of high-end household furniture.
Mr Page described some elements of the design as "robot-like", and I can see more than a bit of WallE in this vehicle. The tail-lights maintain the same shape we've come to expect of the XC range, but with a scooped bootlid that works to hunker it down. Plus it's 40mm wider at the rear, which is said to help plant it visually.
The boxy exterior is broken up by cheeky touches like the Swedish flag on the front flank. It's playful, and definitely has that youthful appeal that Volvo undoubtedly wants for its entry-level SUV.
If I wasn't sold on the outside, the inside basically did its best impersonation of Bender from Futurama and yelled "shut up and take my money".
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.
It may be the smallest 'proper' Volvo SUV to date, but the XC40 is pretty substantial - in fact, it is bigger than most of its rivals: it measures 4425mm long (with a 2702mm wheelbase), 1863mm wide and 1652mm tall.
That's bigger than many of its direct competitors, including the BMW X2, the Audi Q2 and Audi Q3, the Mercedes-Benz GLA and the Jaguar E-Pace. Only the BMW X1 is a touch longer, and we know that model is a beacon of interior pragmatism.
But the XC40 is not just big on the outside - the space inside is very good. In fact, it could be the best in its class... it's hard to tell without sitting in the competitors back to back, but with my 183cm (six-foot) frame sat behind my own driving position, I had ample space in the second row.
Kneeroom, toeroom and headroom were all exceptional, and the latter is even largely unaffected by the panoramic sunroof fitted to the Launch Edition cars we were driving.
Yep, this doesn't really feel like a small SUV, and it has all the usual must-have items like top tether points, ISOFIX child seat attachments rear air vents, bottle holders in the doors and a flip down armrest with cup holders. The map pockets are mesh numbers, backed by a hard plastic protector so the kids don't damage the fabric on the seat when they're attempting a shiatsu massage with their anxious little feet.
Now, those door pockets are great in the back, and astounding in the front (yes, it is possible to be astounded by door pockets). There are no speakers in the doors - so you get huge door pockets as a result - and the entirety of the pocket is lined with the same carpet that spans the floor of the vehicle, both up front and in the back.
That carpet isn't just any carpet... and no, I'm not referencing the orange colour, which is either ghastly or great, depending on who you ask. The carpet itself consists of 97 per cent recycled plastic, made from repurposed bottles. The other three per cent is dye.
Volvo has thought of some really good loose item storage, enough to make you think they've taken a leaf out of Skoda's book. There are good sized cupholders, there's a 'Qi' wireless phone charger in a cubby that's big enough for a few large smartphones, and there are two USB ports up front and a USB-C port in the back. The centre console bin has an actual bin at the front as well, and it's removable so you can take it out and wash it when you need to.
There are other nice touches such as a big portrait layout media screen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and sat nav, plus it doubles as a display for the reversing camera. You can get a 360-degree surround view camera set-up (standard on Launch Edition models), and every XC40 has a 12.3-inch digital driver info display that helps if feel pretty upmarket inside.
The boot is bigger than many of its competitors, too, with 460 litres of cargo room - and that expands to 1336L with the back seats folded down. And the smart arts continue in the back, with electric seat release buttons for the 60/40 split-fold back seats, and a really smart folding boot floor system that allows you to hook shopping bags on to stop them from flying around. Plus, you get a space-saver spare under the floor.
The top-spec models get a power tailgate, and you can option that on a more affordable version.
Price and features
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.
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.
The Volvo XC40 range comes in two different model grades - the entry-level Momentum and the top spec R-Design. You can get petrol or diesel in both trim lines and like most Euro manufacturers, the standard spec is better than it once was - but there are still plenty of options available.
The T5 petrol Momentum opens the range at $47,990 (all prices plus on-road costs), while the D4 diesel Momentum attracts a bit of a premium, listing at $50,990.
The Momentum grade has standard equipment including push-button start, dual-zone climate control, 18-inch alloy wheels, LED 'Thor's Hammer' headlights with automatic high-beam, auto-dimming mirrors (inside and out), a 12.3-inch digital driver information display, 9.0-inch touchscreen media system with sat nav, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, eight speakers, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and Qi wireless phone charging.
The Momentum models have part-cloth/part-faux leather seat upholstery, along with an electronically-adjustable driver's seat and four-way lumbar support.
The safety story is strong for all models - check out the safety section below for all the details.
The sportier R-Design in T5 petrol guise is listed at $54,990, while the D4 diesel R-Design model is the flagship offering for now, listing at $57,990.
Over the Momentum, the R-Design models add some extra kit for your extra cash.
The most obvious change is the more aggressive R-Design exterior styling including a blacked out gloss grille, black contrasting roof and dual black tailpipes, 20-inch 'diamond-cut' black alloy wheels, plus it rides on the 'sport chassis' with stiffer suspension, and adaptive headlights with cornering beams.
Inside it gets R-Design perforated leather trim on the seats, steering wheel (which also gets paddleshifters), and gear selector, plus it has a black headliner. In addition to electric driver's seat adjustment, R-Design models get electric passenger seat adjust, plus there's full keyless entry, an electric tailgate with gesture function, and ambient mood lighting.
Volvo is celebrating the arrival of the XC40 with a pair of value-packed Launch Edition models - and as nice as they are, they're sold out already.
The T5 Momentum Launch Edition model lists at $52,990, while the D4 version is $55,990. Volvo claims $10,120 of extra value for a $5000 additional cost to consumers.
The Launch Edition version of the Momentum adds LED headlights with active bending beam, 19-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, tinted windows, an alarm, leather trim, heated front seats, electric front passenger seat adjustment, seat cushion extension, power folding backrest and headrest, keyless entry with electric tailgate, adaptive cruise control with semi-automated 'Pilot Assist', semi-automated parking assist, a 360-degree camera, and a 13-speaker harman/kardon premium stereo.
The T5 R-Design Launch Edition model is listed at $56,740, while the D4 R-Design Launch Edition comes in at $59,740. The value-add according to Volvo is $6670, but it costs buyers just $1750.
The Launch Edition version adds (over the regular R-Design) a panoramic sunroof, tinted windows, an alarm, heated front seats, power folding backrest and headrest, adaptive cruise control with semi-automated Pilot Assist, semi-automated parking assist, a 360-degree camera, and a 13-speaker harman/kardon premium stereo.
Engine & trans
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.
There's no real 'entry-level' engine as yet, but a base model three-cylinder version with front-wheel drive is expected at the end of 2019. That's a long while to wait, but in in the meantime, there are petrol and diesel models to choose from.
The petrol is known as the T5, and it's a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder unit with a punchy 185kW of power at 5500rpm and 350Nm of torque from 1800-4800rpm. Those figures put it on par with a Ford Focus ST, and Volvo claims a sprightly 0-100 sprint time of just 6.5 seconds.
The diesel is called the D4, and it's a twin-turbo unit, again with high outputs: 140kW of power at 4000rpm, and 400Nm of torque from 1750-2500rpm. If you're interested, the 0-100km/h time for the diesel is claimed at 7.9sec.
Both engines are teamed with eight-speed automatic transmissions as standard, and both are all-wheel drive, giving these little tykes a point of difference against competitors like the Audi Q2, BMW X2 and Mercedes GLA, all of which have front-wheel drive entry level models.
Unlike some of those other models, though, the XC40 is a bit of a porker - the petrol model weighs in at 1710 kilograms, with the diesel around the 1743kg mark... so it needs the power to get it moving.
The towing capacity across all models is identical, at 2100kg for a braked trailer and 750kg un-braked.
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.
These engines don't prioritise frugality over usability, but they still offer respectable claimed fuel consumption for the class in which they compete.
The petrol is claimed to use 7.1 litres per 100 kilometres, which is fine, but you'll need to use 95RON premium unleaded when you fill up.
The diesel's claimed fuel consumption is rated at 5.1L/100km - again, not setting any benchmarks, but a respectable figure nonetheless.
On test, we saw around 10.0L/100km for the T5 over a mix of some urban driving, a big stint of country driving on twisty and straight roads, and some freeway work, too.
The fuel tank capacity is just 54 litres, so you might find yourself refuelling fairly often as the range isn't exceptionally good.
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.
That's a good start. I mean, the Polestars were fast, but they weren't the last word in dynamism. The XC40 - like I said before - is designed to be a bit more fun, and that translates to the way it drives.
I only had a chance to get behind the wheel of the R-Design T5 model, and I couldn't help but associate this new model as some sort of high-riding hot hatch.
The engine's outputs suggest it could be, and the performance on offer pretty much backs up that notion. In Dynamic mode it offers willing performance, though the eight-speed automatic can be caught out in its quest to lower fuel consumption rather than offer outright edge-of-your-seat performance. But, fear not - there are paddle-shifters that allow you to take matters into your own hands, quite literally.
The steering is pretty quick, which helps separate it from the slowly, slowly approach of the more sedate larger SUVs in the brand's line-up. It is light and accurate, without much feel (it's an electric system, after all), and makes for easy parking, decent high speed direction changes, and good assuredness in the bends.
That comes down to the all-wheel drive system, which helps apportion torque where it's needed because it's an on-demand system. Grip from the Pirelli P-Zero tyres was excellent, too.
Because I was in the R-Design, I had the 'sports chassis' firm suspension - by way of stiffer springs, dampers and anti-roll bars as part of the MacPherson strut front and independent rear end (coil-sprung, unlike the inverted leaf se-tups of the bigger Volvo SUVs). And the result was a ride that wasn't necessarily plush, but nor was it too sharp or abrupt over bumps.
Admittedly, I could feel the lumps and bumps in the road surface as a driver and as a passenger, but I thought it kept in good stead with the persona of this little SUV - something a little bit more sporty than you might expect from Volvo. Especially a Volvo SUV.
That said, I'd give anything to drive the front-wheel drive XC40 three-cylinder on 18-inch wheels and the standard chassis set-up, because it has the potential to be an absolute peach.
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.
The Volvo XC40 is yet to be tested by EuroNCAP or ANCAP, so there's no crash test score to talk about.
But there is plenty of safety equipment fitted as standard - and we're referencing the regular models, not the sold-out Launch Edition versions.
Let's start with seven airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain and driver's knee cover), a reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors. You can option a 360-degree camera if you like, and there's a 'Park Assist Pilot' semi-autonomous parking system available, too.
Auto emergency braking (AEB) is standard, and not only for the front - the XC40 has rear collision warning and braking, too. Plus there's blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, lane keeping assistance, and a system called "run-off road protection and mitigation" that can detect if you veer off the tarmac unintentionally.
All models have cruise control, but you can option an adaptive cruise control system with Pilot Assist semi-autonomous driving.
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.
Volvo really needs to address its ownership costs... these numbers are either the most honest in the premium maintenance world, or the most expensive in the luxury car class.
There's a capped-price service plan available in two different levels - 'SmartCare' and 'SmartCare Plus' - the latter of which includes consumables like wiper blades, brakes (pads and discs) and pollen filters, plus the occasional wheel alignment.
As with the other Volvo models, buyers can choose to opt for a three-year/45,000km plan, a four-year/60,000km plan, or a five-year/75,000km plan. All of them are expensive. Very expensive.
The prices are as follows. SmartCare: three years - $2165; four years - $3320; five years - $4030.
Then there's the SmartCare Plus: three years - $2980; four years - $5160; five years - $6345.
This downside is compounded by the fact there's no special treatment in terms of warranty cover, either. The brand backs its cars with a three-year/unlimited kilometre plan, which is on par for its competitive set.
At least you can get up to six years of roadside assist included at no cost, provided you service your car with Volvo authorised workshops.