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The Top Gear car review:Lexus NX
For:Price, looks, interior quality, tech gadgets like wireless phone charger
Against:Ride quality, handling, hybrid engine, no diesel option
300h 2.5 SE 5dr CVT
What we say:
A car with an identity crisis - can't decide if it wants to be a refined urban cruiser or a sporty SUV
What is it?
It’s Lexus’s attempt to take on the established Germans in the premium compact SUV class. Think BMW’s X3 or Audi’s Q5. It’s a competitive sector and one that Lexus is hoping the NX will make a real dent in so that it can keep Western European sales ticking along nicely. Which makes the decision not to put a diesel in it strange. Engines are limited to petrol – either a 2.5-litre hybrid or a 2.0-litre turbo – and neither is much of a real-world competitor for the best diesels. Mind you, it’s a unique looking thing and Lexus has thrown lots of tech at it.
Most NX’s sold in the UK will be the hybrid but it’s difficult to see why. It’s the 2.5-litre engine with a CVT gearbox and the combination isn’t a pleasant one. As with most CVTs, it makes the engine drone on like an accountant discussing tax law, and the electric aspect of the hybrid isn’t beefy enough to power the NX at anything other than walking pace. The turbo is more interesting. It’s a brand new lump producing 235bhp and 258lb ft and, crucially, is mated to a new six-speed gearbox that, dare we say it, almost gives the NX a bit of character.
Not that the driving experience can match it. The ride is way too firm, even in standard guise, and the steering is dead, so the NX has a weird combination of not being sporty and not being comfortable. It’s the worst of both worlds.
On the inside
Here’s where the NX excels. Build quality is impressive, and the leather-lined dash is a particular highlight. The design across the dash matches the swishes and swoops of the exterior, and overall it’s a decent place to sit.
It’s practical, too. There’s plenty of room for those in the back, and despite costing similar money to the Range Rover Evoque, the NX’s boot is significantly larger. You can even opt for power-fold rear seats back there.
In terms of powertrain choice, here’s where the NX starts to make more sense, at least if you’re a company car driver, because a CO2 figure of just 117g/km is mighty impressive, especially for a car that weighs 1,785kg and has four wheel-drive. The 55.4 combined mpg figure is equally good, but in reality you won’t get anywhere near that. We rarely saw more than early 30s on our test route – diesel rivals will trounce that. Still, at least it’s priced competitively. The hybrid starts at a tempting £29,495 and most trim levels get decent kit: the SE contains pretty much all you need, Luxury and Premier are borderline decadent. However, we’d avoid the F Sport as it a) makes it pricier and b) ruins what little ride quality the NX has in the first place.