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Lexus NX 2020 review: 300h F Sport

The Lexus NX 300h F Sport scores a number of, well, sporty exterior touches like 18-inch wheels.

Daily driver score

3.5/5

Urban score

3.5/5

Having been on the market since 2014, the NX mid-size SUV quickly shot up the Lexus sales charts to become the brand’s most-popular model.

The SUV-hungry Australian market ate up the premium crossover, which also had the distinction of offering a hybrid powertrain.

In 2020 though, with SUVs popping up left, right and centre from premium and mainstream brands, can the NX still hold its own as an inner-city cruiser?

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The Lexus NX mid-size SUV range kicks off at $55,700 before on-road costs for the base 300 Luxury 2WD, but our NX 300h F Sport AWD test car carries a $68,700 pricetag.

Of course, the price goes up due to the petrol-electric hybrid engine (more on that below), all-wheel-drive set-up and sporty appointments of the F Sport grade, but the list of standard equipment is sizeable.

From the factory, our test car is fitted with privacy glass, roof rails, auto-dipping and heated side mirrors, 4.2-inch driver display, keyless entry and push-button start, dual-zone climate control, wireless phone charger and powered tailgate as standard.

The Lexus NX mid-size SUV range kicks off at $55,700 before on-road costs. The Lexus NX mid-size SUV range kicks off at $55,700 before on-road costs.

F Sport grades also score unique 18-inch wheels, a lowered ride-height and sports bodykit, as well as a bespoke leather shift knob, steering wheel with paddle shifters, seats, and interior trim.

Speaking of seats, the front pair are heated and cooled, and also feature electronic adjustment with memory function.

Handling multimedia duties is a 10.3-inch widescreen that outputs to 10 speakers dotted around the cabin., Digital radio, satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto support and a DVD player can be found within the multimedia system, which is controlled by a central touchpad or via voice commands.

Handling multimedia duties is a 10.3-inch widescreen. Handling multimedia duties is a 10.3-inch widescreen.

The only option ticked on our car is the Titanium premium paint. The only standard colour for the NX 300h F Sport is Onyx (black), with all other colour options incurring a $1500 penalty.

Of note, Lexus keeps the sunroof and colour head-up display on the options list.

While the 300h F Sport might be close to the top-end of the NX hierarchy (only cheaper than the Sports Luxury trims), its $68,700 asking price is comparable to base grades of key German rivals, such as the Mercedes-Benz GLC ($67,400) and BMW X3 ($68,900) that are rear-driven and offer less equipment.

Is there anything interest about its design?

Lexus might have been known for drab and dowdy styling in the past, but the NX’s sharp aesthetic is head turning and attention grabbing in all the right ways.

Though the NX first hit Australian showrooms in 2014, after six years we reckon it wouldn’t look out of place strutting down a catwalk, and can easily hold its own in the design department against the likes of the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC.

From the front, you can’t miss the trademark Lexus spindle grille, which, with its trapezoidal shape, gives the illusion of a wider and more aggressive car.

The NX’s sharp aesthetic is head turning and attention grabbing in all the right ways. The NX’s sharp aesthetic is head turning and attention grabbing in all the right ways.

The high-set, slender headlights also gives the NX a wide stance, while the sweeping daytime running lights and sharp bumper design give the impression that the NX is cutting through water.

In profile, the NX is characterised by a strong shoulder line, chiselled lower doors and narrow glasshouse, while the black plastic wheelarch cladding hints at its SUV status.

The black trim detailing on the tail-lights almost make it look like the NX has narrowing cartoon eyes from the rear, but the subtle diffuser and large bumper soften its look a little.

If you can’t tell, we dig the aesthetics of the NX, especially the subtle exterior features such as crystal-like front foglights and the unique side mirror design.

The NX’s cabin oozes luxury, class and quality. The NX’s cabin oozes luxury, class and quality.

Step inside and those neat little design touches continue.

From the almost folded fabric-like design of the door trims to the soft-touch surfaces throughout, the NX’s cabin oozes luxury, class and quality.

The centre stack shape mirrors the front grille’s trapezoid shape, while all the buttons and switchgear have a nice heft and weight to them, and are laid out in an easy-to-use, ergonomic fashion.

Sure, look a bit closer and you might see some carryover items from lower-end Toyota models, such as the cruise control stalk but, be honest, if we didn’t point it out, would you have even noticed?

How practical is the space inside?

Measuring 4660mm long, 1870mm wide, 1645mm tall and with a 2600mm wheelbase, the NX puts it foot firmly into the mid-size SUV class.

Front occupants can easily get comfortable thanks to seats with a wide breadth of adjustment, while drivers also get a telescoping steering wheel that automatically raises when the car is turned off for easier ingress/egress.

Generous door bins up front will swallow large water bottles and any other paraphernalia, while two deep cupholders are found between the driver and front passengers.

If you want to tuck any items out of sight though, the glovebox and centre console bin will do the job, but there is also a hidden compartment where the driver’s touchpad palm rest.

Front occupants can easily get comfortable thanks to seats with a wide breadth of adjustment. Front occupants can easily get comfortable thanks to seats with a wide breadth of adjustment.

Lift up the flap and your precious valuables can be hidden away, but look underneath the flap and it doubles as a handheld mirror to check you don’t have any food in your teeth before a date.

The outer two second-row seats offer ample room for six-foot-tall passengers, and – even with the front seats in our preferred position – there is plenty of legroom in the back.

Like most vehicles, the middle seat is a bit compromised, but in the NX it feels especially narrow and uncomfortable.

This isn’t helped by the middle seat’s seat belt, which comes down from the roof and intrudes well into the backrest of the neighbouring seat when not in use.

The outer two second-row seats offer ample room for six-foot-tall passengers. The outer two second-row seats offer ample room for six-foot-tall passengers.

It makes loading the NX full of passengers tricky as there is a bit of shuffling around to get all the belts in place and passengers comfortable.

Our advice? Use the NX as a four-seater and just fold down the centre armrest, which also exposes two cupholders, for extra comfort.

Other rear seat amenities include air vents and storage pockets in the doors, the latter of which will accommodate water bottles or small items.

Open the boot and the NX will swallow 475 litres of volume, which can expand to 1520L with the rear seats folded down.

  • Open the boot and the NX will swallow 475 litres of volume. Open the boot and the NX will swallow 475 litres of volume.
  • This can expand to 1520L with the rear seats folded down. This can expand to 1520L with the rear seats folded down.
  • The NX’s boot won’t close with a large- and medium-sized suitcase sat side-by-side. The NX’s boot won’t close with a large- and medium-sized suitcase sat side-by-side.
  • But has no problem with smaller cases. But has no problem with smaller cases.

Boot space is down on its rivals, with all of the German models offering at least 550L of volume.

In real-world terms, this means the NX’s boot won’t close with a large- and medium-sized suitcase sat side-by-side, but has no problem with smaller cases.

Boot space might be lacking in the NX, but the hybrid system’s batteries have to go somewhere, and at least Lexus offers up two big bag books and tie-down points.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

Propelling the Lexus NX 300h F Sport is a petrol-electric mild-hybrid powertrain, combining a 114kW/210Nm 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine with two electric motors – 105kW/270Nm unit for the front axle and a 50kW/139Nm unit for the rear wheels.

Propelling the Lexus NX 300h F Sport is a petrol-electric mild-hybrid powertrain. Propelling the Lexus NX 300h F Sport is a petrol-electric mild-hybrid powertrain.

The total system output is measured at 147kW, which is sent to all four wheels in our test var via a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).

The zero-to-100km/h acceleration takes 9.2 seconds thanks to a fairly hefty 1895kg kerb weight.

How much fuel does it consume?

Official fuel consumption figures for the Lexus NX 300h is 5.7/ litres per 100km, though we managed a 7.6L/100km figure in our week with the car.

Our driving consisted exclusively of inner-city driving for groceries and just two trips down the freeway upon collecting and returning the car due to Melbourne’s lockdown rules.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

All Lexus NX grades carry a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, applicable to all variants of introduced from October 2017 onwards.

As the NX was tested on ANCAP’s old standards, it scored 35.39 out of a possible 37, dropping only 1.61 points in the frontal offset test for ‘acceptable’ protection of the driver’s chest and feet, and passenger’s lower legs.

All Lexus NX grades carry a max.imum five-star ANCAP safety rating. All Lexus NX grades carry a max.imum five-star ANCAP safety rating.

Like all NX models sold in Australia, our car came with the brand’s Safety System+ suite, which includes autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning.

Other safety tech in our F-Sport grade includes hill-start assist, automatic headlights and adaptive highbeams, while eight airbags, seatbelt pretensioners and a tyre pressure warning system are found throughout the local NX line-up.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Like all new Lexus vehicles, the NX 300h F Sport comes with a four-year/100,000km warranty, along with roadside assist over the same period. A six-year anti-corrosion is also part of the aftersales assurance package.

Scheduled service intervals are every 12 months/15,000km, whichever comes first.

The first three years/45,000km of scheduled servicing is capped at $495 for each annual service, which falls under the brand’s Encore service that also entails pickup and delivery of the NX, loan car, and wash and vacuum.

Lexus ownership also means owners will be access to exclusive events, dinners and drive days, as well as promotions from partner hotels.

Although servicing costs are relatively cheap for the first three years, Lexus’ four-year/100,000km lags behind luxury brand leaders Mercedes-Benz and Genesis, who both offer five-years/unlimited kilometre assurances.

What’s it like to drive around town?

Though the Lexus NX might look sporty and dynamic from the outside, don’t be mistaken into thinking Lexus’ mid-size SUV is anything other than a comfy cruiser.

Steering remains light and lifeless in its default ‘Nomal’ drive mode, but even in ‘Sport S’ and ‘Sport S+’, weighting feels artificial and numb.

What this means is that the NX 300h F Sport is a joy to manoeuvre around town at low speeds, but is found lacking when the speedo climbs and the roads get a bit twisty.

Likewise, a stab of the throttle is met with a spike in revs and engine noise as the powertrain switches from its electric motor to internal combustion engine, but the expected thrust-burst never comes.

CVTs are generally tuned for better fuel economy, not a sporting drive, so it makes sense that the NX is a little more hesitant and lethargic to get up to speed, but the transmission does suffer from that ‘elastic’ feel where it can be slow to ‘shift up’ if it thinks you are wanting a sporty drive.

Don’t be mistaken into thinking Lexus’ mid-size SUV is anything other than a comfy cruiser. Don’t be mistaken into thinking Lexus’ mid-size SUV is anything other than a comfy cruiser.

However, these shortcomings are especially evident when stacking it up next to the new Toyota RAV4 hybrid.

The NX is underpinned by Toyota’s MC platform, shared with the old RAV4, whereas the fifth-generation mid-size SUV that launched in 2019 is updated with a TNGA platform.

Much of our aforementioned criticisms in driving dynamics and snoozy drivetrain are fixed, or at least alleviated, in the latest Toyota RAV4, so here’s hoping the next-gen NX rumoured to break cover soon will be a welcomed step forward.

And while the current Lexus NX is certainly not the last world in SUV driving dynamics, it’s not trying to be.

As a daily runabout for the family, the NX is comfortable and predictable – just what some families might be after.

While the current Lexus NX is certainly not the last world in SUV driving dynamics, it’s not trying to be. While the current Lexus NX is certainly not the last world in SUV driving dynamics, it’s not trying to be.

The suspension does a great job at soaking up road imperfections and little bumps you might find on your journey, helped by the comfy seats and great interior sound insulation.

What is noticeable though, is overcoming large bumps or any change in elevation at speed, where the NX 300h’s hefty weight means it takes just a touch longer to get settled again.

The cabin also feels a bit fussy from the driver’s seat, with the multimedia especially being fiddly and hard to navigate when on the move.

We reckon a rotary controller like those found on a BMW, or even better multimedia software as seen with a Benz, could go a long way in fixing Lexus’ multimedia woes.

Having said that, the system is compatible with Android Auto, and is laid out well on the widescreen, so you could easily forgo the annoying touchpad and janky software for a better experience.

The Lexus NX 300h F Sport is both a comfortable and luxurious family hauler that is held back by just a few things.

Of course, gripes like the underwhelming dynamics might not be an issue for all, but the less-than-stellar fuel economy (for a hybrid, at least), disappointing practicality and fiddly multimedia will affect all potential buyers.

However, this is balanced out by loads of equipment and premium appointments for a reasonable price, which should put the Lexus NX on your shopping list if you are keen for an inner-city premium SUV cruiser.

$66,152

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.5/5

Urban score

3.5/5