In-depth reviews

Lexus NX review

The Lexus NX has distinctive styling and a classy, well built cabin, although the driving experience could be better

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

Price
£35,469 to £45,969
  • Eye-catching looks
  • Plush cabin
  • Impressive refinement
  • Poor ride in F Sport version
  • Less fun than a BMW X3
  • No diesels

Featuring bold styling, an upmarket interior and the option of a hi-tech hybrid drivetrain, the NX certainly stands out from the crowd. The quality on show is impressive, with plush materials and soft-touch surfaces throughout.

However, unlike its rivals in this market, the NX is only available with a petrol/electric hybrid drivetrain – there is no diesel option whatsoever, while the conventional petrol NX 200t is no longer available to order. This is the case elsewhere in the Lexus range, and it has its pros and cons.

On paper, the hybrid NX has very low emissions, plus it’s whisper quiet around town and can even run on battery power alone for a couple of miles. However, if you cover higher mileages, a diesel engine would deliver better real-world economy.

About the Lexus NX

Lexus introduced the NX in 2014, so it has been around a while and an all-new NX replacement has already been revealed. The model sits below the larger RX in the company’s range, and goes up against premium SUVs such as the BMW X3, Audi Q5, Volvo XC60 and Range Rover Evoque.

Under its eye-catching exterior, the NX hybrid uses the same combination of a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and an electric motor as the Lexus IS 300h saloon. All variants come with a CVT automatic transmission.

Equipment is very generous, and there are only three trim levels in the current line-up which runs from NX via F SPORT to Takumi. The NX grade is available with front- or four-wheel drive, while the others are 4x4 only. You can spot the NX FWD by its 17-inch alloy wheels, as all the rest come with 18-inch alloys.

Entry models feature an 8-inch display screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus dual-zone aircon and reversing camera, rain-sensing wipers and a full set of LED lights as standard, including sequential indicators. The NX F SPORT comes with a bigger 10.3-inch screen, sports suspension, blind spot monitoring and a series of more aggressive styling tweaks including a blacked-out grille and mirror casings. The NX Takumi flagship version gets upgraded leather upholstery, a 14-speaker sound system, 360-degree cameras, ventilated/heated seats and a Head-Up Display as highlights on a lavish spec list.

A 2017 facelift brought about subtle, rather than dramatic changes to the NX, with tweaked suspension, extra safety kit and an updated infotainment system. Facelifted cars also feature a reworked grille and headlights.

The NX’s appeal lies in its space-age styling and the luxury image of the Lexus brand, but the SUV is also impeccably refined on the move, plus you get a lot of standard equipment for your money, with prices that put more expensive rivals to shame.

However, there’s no diesel engine, and although the hybrid versions have low CO2 emissions for a car of this size, they’re more appropriate for lower-mileage drivers, as motorway use will see economy take a hit. That said, low CO2 figures will help this SUV appeal to company car drivers, as it cuts their annual Benefit-in-Kind tax liability - although pricier plug-in hybrids offered by rivals do much better still.

Engines, performance and drive

Low-speed town driving shows the Lexus NX in its best light; it falls short at higher speeds

As with the styling, the NX’s driving experience is an acquired taste. The hybrid version in particular comes into its own at low speeds because it’s whisper quiet. That isn’t entirely the drivetrain’s doing, as the cabin is very well insulated, so there’s little in the way of wind and road noise at higher speeds.

In the NX 300h, the combination of the hybrid system and the CVT automatic gearbox provides a relaxing yet intensely frustrating ride. For instance, while the Lexus will glide around town in near-silent electric mode if you drive steadily, the battery’s range of around a mile looks poor compared to more modern plug-in hybrid models.

The transmission really lets this car down. If you need to accelerate in a hurry, the CVT auto is quite slow to react and makes the engine rev high, which is really noisy. The same thing happens when accelerating up a long motorway incline, meaning you hear a drone from the engine, which counteracts the quiet nature of the rest of the car.

The conventional - and now discontinued - NX 200t 2.0-litre petrol model has a six-speed automatic gearbox, which is an improvement on the hybrid’s CVT. However, it still isn’t as smooth or responsive as the eight-speed gearbox in the BMW X3, for example. That means the petrol version doesn’t feel as fast as the 0-62mph time of 7.1 seconds suggests.

The rest of the NX driving experience is something of a mixed bag. While the ride is comfortable on the motorway, the suspension feels firm around town and the light controls deliver very little feedback. The NX also lacks the composure and grip of rivals such as the BMW X3 and Range Rover Evoque.

With the exception of the entry-level NX 300h SE model, all versions have four-wheel drive. Despite this, off-road ability is limited. Unlike rival systems, the NX’s four-wheel drive can’t be engaged permanently and there are no driving aids like hill descent control to help tackle tricky surfaces. Most 4x4 competitors offer a range of clever technology to help here.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed 

The NX 300h hybrid model’s forte is low-speed town driving, and if you’re gentle with the accelerator, it can crawl through most stop-start traffic in eerie silence. It never feels particularly responsive, though, as the NX’s rate of acceleration doesn’t match the noise the engine makes as the CVT holds it at high revs.

On top of this, the Lexus’ ability to travel only one mile at up to 30mph on electric power looks a little old hat compared to more modern plug-in hybrid models.

The older petrol-only NX 200t offers a more conventional driving experience. Its combination of 235bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine and regular six-speed automatic gearbox delivers strong acceleration and more relaxed cruising, particularly when overtaking or tackling steep motorway inclines. If you want an NX 200t you'll have to hunt through the second-hand market or ask a Lexus dealer source one through approved-used stock - the company stopped selling the NX 200t in order to concentrate on the more popular hybrid model.

MPG, CO2 and Running Costs

Real-world fuel economy is an issue, but the Lexus NX hybrid has reasonably low CO2 emissions

Unlike rival manufacturers, Lexus doesn’t offer the NX with a diesel engine. Yet on paper, the hybrid models promise impressive fuel economy from an SUV of this size, with up to 39.7mpg from the NX FWD claimed under latest WTLP ‘combined’ driving figures.

However, if you’re a press-on driver doing lots of motorway miles, the combination of the CVT gearbox and a thirsty 2.5-litre petrol engine means consumption can suffer. Only if the hybrid NX is driven in urban areas at relatively low speeds – to make use of the battery – can owners expect to deliver good results and better diesel rivals.

CO2 emissions of 161 - 175g/km under the latest WTLP measures aren’t particularly flattering in the face of the much lower CO2 low numbers recorded by plug-in hybrid SUV rivals, and business users can expect to pay as much company car tax as drivers of non-hybrid alternatives at the top 37 per cent Benefit-in-Kind rate.

VED or road tax rates are not cheap either, with a first year charge of £885 for some models, while you’ll also have to factor in the hefty annual luxury car tax of £480 per year for the following five years if your invoice price goes above £40,000 - so that includes all F SPORT and Takumi versions.

Insurance groups

For the NX 300h hybrids, insurance ranges from group 29 for the entry-level S model to group 33 for the top-spec Premier. The petrol-only NX 200t sits in insurance group 38. The Lexus is about on par with the Volvo XC60 in this respect. It’s cheaper to insure than the BMW X3, which runs from group 30 to group 43, although annual premiums are likely to be lower for the Audi Q5, which spans groups 22 to 32.

Depreciation

Models from prestige brands generally hold on to their value well; large, luxury 4x4s sometimes less so – and that means the NX’s resistance to depreciation is mixed. Its big problem here is its main rivals in the class: demand for the BMW X3 and Audi Q5 is much stronger, and these models tend to retain much more of their price as a result.

Interior, design and technology

You’ll either love or loathe the Lexus NX’s distinctive looks, but there’s no arguing with the generous equipment on offer

The Lexus isn’t likely styled to suit all tastes, but there’s no denying that its daring design attracts attention – it’s very different to the majority of more sedate models in the class. It has a bold mix of sharp creases, curves and chunky SUV styling cues.

All versions get alloy wheels and LED dipped beam headlamps, while SE models add roof rails and Luxury and flagship Premier versions are set apart by smarter silver trim inserts. Yet although the NX looks striking from some angles, its busy lines can also be a little jarring, so it’s very much a matter of personal taste.

Inside, the car is a little more conventional, as the angular theme is limited to the raised climate control panel. In typically Lexus fashion, the materials are of a good quality and everything feels well built. There are some nice touches including a portable vanity mirror on the back of the lid for the middle storage bin, plus a new touchpad control for the infotainment screen.

The NX's 2017 facelift ushered in some subtle stylisitic changes, including new headlights, a revised front grille and some new alloy wheel designs. Given the NX looks more striking than the vast majority of SUVs in the class, Lexus' subtle approach to its update is understandable, though.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

One of the NX’s strong suits is its generous standard equipment. Even entry-level S models include features such as dual-zone climate control, a DAB radio and a USB music connection, as well as Bluetooth and parking aids – and the list of kit only gets longer as you move further up the range. Even so, only top-spec Premium versions come with sat-nav as standard; it remains an option for models lower down the range.

Go for an F Sport-spec NX or above, and you get a neat wireless smartphone charger housed in the lidded armrest between the driver and front seat passenger.

The new touchpad controlling the infotainment screen looks good and is easier to use than versions on older Lexus models. However, it still isn’t quite as accurate or intuitive as the Audi MMI, BMW iDrive or Mercedes COMAND cabin control systems. The 2017 facelift saw the NX's infotainment screen grow from seven to 10.3 inches, though this did little to ease progress through its maze of menus and confusing graphics.

Practicality, comfort and boot space

The NX’s boot isn’t the biggest in its class, but there’s a lot of space in the cabin

As you’d expect from a mid-sized SUV, the Lexus NX features jacked-up suspension and offers a high seating position, so drivers get a good view of the road ahead. There’s also plenty of adjustment in the driver’s seat and steering wheel.

Elsewhere in the cabin, you’ll find lots of useful storage, including some large door bins, a cooled glovebox and a lidded cubby between the front seats. As Lexus includes a button-operated electric handbrake as standard, it has also freed up space on the centre console for a pair of large cup-holders.

Size

The NX is 4,630mm long, 1,845mm wide and 1,645mm tall. That makes it almost exactly as long as the Audi Q5, albeit a little slimmer and lower, yet smaller than the BMW X3 in every respect.

Leg room, head room & passenger space

It’s a strict five-seater, but thanks to the sloping roofline, occupants in the back of the NX don’t get as much headroom as in an Audi Q5 or BMW X3. There’s a decent amount of legroom, though, plus because the floor is almost completely flat, passengers sitting in the middle of the rear bench will be as comfortable as those in the outer two seats.

Boot

Boot capacity stands at a rather cramped 475 litres, although that can be extended to 1,520 litres by lowering the split-folding rear seat. This is often par for the course with hybrids, as the batteries eat into the boot space – and it leaves the Lexus NX trailing key rivals like the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Volvo XC60 for practicality. The only exception is the Range Rover Evoque, which serves up 420 litres of luggage room with its rear seats in place.

The NX stands out with a usefully wide boot opening and a totally flat load area, while F Sport models and above feature a powered tailgate. However, the towing capacity is lower than you’d expect in this class, at 1,500kg across the range. That’s because the Lexus is only offered with petrol or hybrid power; most rival SUVs with torquey diesel engines will have towing limits of 2,000kg and beyond.

Reliability and Safety

The NX has a great record in the Auto Express Driver Power satisfaction survey, where Lexus tops the table again

If the Auto Express Driver Power 2020 satisfaction survey is anything to go by, you can’t do much better than a Lexus which topped the tables as the best manufacturer for customer satisfaction. When scored only for reliability the NX ranked 14th out of 75 cars, behind the Lexus RX at 4th, the Lexus CT at 5th and the Lexus IS at 11th.

The NX's safety credentials are decent too, as it scored a full five stars when it was crash tested by Euro NCAP, thanks in part to the inclusion of eight airbags, stability control and LED headlamps as standard.

Warranty

Although Lexus still provides a standard three-year/60,000-mile warranty for all of its vehicles, it now also offers the opportunity to extend this cover to a ten-year/100,000-mile manufacturer warranty through its 'Lexus Relax' programme. An extra 12-months of cover is included every time you service your car at an official Lexus Centre, up until the quoted ten-year/100,000-mile cap.

Servicing

Lexus is transparent with its servicing costs – they’re all publically available. Perhaps not surprisingly for a premium brand, prices are slightly higher than average, but it’s good to know what you’re getting in advance, and the NX still works out as one of the cheaper models in its class to maintain.

Visit our sister site buyacar.co.uk for the latest deals on the Lexus NX...

Next Steps

Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    300h 2.5 5dr CVT [without Nav]
  • Gearbox type
    Auto
  • Price
    £35,469

Most Economical

  • Name
    300h 2.5 5dr CVT [Premium Pack/Leather]
  • Gearbox type
    Auto
  • Price
    £38,869

Fastest

  • Name
    300h 2.5 5dr CVT [without Nav]
  • Gearbox type
    Auto
  • Price
    £35,469

More on NX

Show me:
New 2021 Lexus NX arrives with firm’s first plug-in hybrid drivetrain
Lexus NX - front action
Lexus NX SUV
12 Jun 2021

New 2021 Lexus NX arrives with firm’s first plug-in hybrid drivetrain

The new Lexus NX 350h features a standard hybrid set-up, while the NX 450h+ gets a plug-in hybrid powertrain capable of 40 miles of pure electric powe…
Used Lexus NX review
Used Lexus NX - front static
Lexus NX
4 May 2021

Used Lexus NX review

A full used buyer’s guide on the Lexus NX covering the NX Mk1 (2015-date)
Front-wheel-drive Lexus NX 300h relaunched
Lexus NX
22 Apr 2020

Front-wheel-drive Lexus NX 300h relaunched

Lexus NX SUV reintroduced with front-wheel-drive after a two-year hiatus, improving fuel economy by around eight percent
Volvo XC60 vs Lexus NX
Volvo XC60 vs Lexus NX - header
Volvo XC60
24 Sep 2019

Volvo XC60 vs Lexus NX

Should you go for mild-hybrid diesel tech with the Volvo XC60, or full-hybrid petrol power with the Lexus NX?
New Lexus NX 300h Sport trim revealed
Lexus NX 300h Sport - front
Lexus NX SUV
22 May 2018

New Lexus NX 300h Sport trim revealed

Racier new Lexus NX 300h Sport unveiled, priced from £36,500 and due on sale next month
Lexus NX 300h 2017 facelift review
Lexus NX 300h - Front Cornering
Lexus NX SUV
21 Nov 2017

Lexus NX 300h 2017 facelift review

Can updates to the Lexus NX 300h save it from mediocrity in a competitive class? We drive it in the UK to find out…
New Lexus NX facelift makes European debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show
Frankfurt - Lexus NX 300h - front
Lexus NX SUV
13 Sep 2017

New Lexus NX facelift makes European debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show

Significant changes to the design, tech and chassis of the Lexus NX compact SUV are designed to help strong sales continue.
New Lexus NX 300h Sport among latest Lexus range updates
Lexus NX Sport
Lexus NX
13 Oct 2016

New Lexus NX 300h Sport among latest Lexus range updates

Lexus has announced a handful of specification changes across its model range, including a new NX 300h Sport model
Long-term test review: Lexus NX 300h
Lexus NX long-termer - final report header
Lexus NX SUV
16 May 2016

Long-term test review: Lexus NX 300h

Final report: Lexus NX SUV impressed with its space-age looks, but fell a little short elsewhere
Lexus NX vs Audi Q5
Lexus NX
22 Apr 2015

Lexus NX vs Audi Q5

Lexus has fitted the NX with a turbocharged petrol engine in the pursuit of performance SUV perfection. Can it beat the Q5?
Lexus NX 200t F-Sport review
Lexus NX SUV
9 Mar 2015

Lexus NX 200t F-Sport review

A good-looking, well-built, refined SUV package, the Lexus NX is better in turbo petrol NX 200t guise but still cries out for a diesel
Lexus NX vs BMW X3
Lexus NX vs BMW X3
Lexus NX
21 Oct 2014

Lexus NX vs BMW X3

Lexus is looking to conquer the compact SUV class with its new NX 300h hybrid. We see how it fares against BMW’s recently revised X3
Lexus NX 300h hybrid review
Lexus NX SUV
26 Sep 2014

Lexus NX 300h hybrid review

Eye-catching Lexus NX 300h hybrid has the look to rival Range Rover Evoque and BMW X3
Lexus NX video review
Lexus NX
23 Jul 2014

Lexus NX video review

The all-new Lexus NX gets concept car looks and rivals the Range Rover Evoque. A new school run favourite?
New Lexus NX 2014 review
Lexus NX SUV
16 Jul 2014

New Lexus NX 2014 review

We take to the road in Lexus' sharp new compact SUV contender. Should BMW and Audi be worried?
Lexus NX price revealed
Lexus NX revealed white front
Lexus NX
23 May 2014

Lexus NX price revealed

Lexus reveals prices for the new NX, with the six-model lineup starting at £29,495 rising to £42,995
Lexus NX 4x4 officially revealed at Beijing Motor Show
Lexus NX revealed white front
Lexus NX
20 Apr 2014

Lexus NX 4x4 officially revealed at Beijing Motor Show

New Lexus NX is set to go on display in Beijing, and will rival the Range Rover Evoque
Lexus NX 4x4 is shaping up to battle Audi Q5
Lexus NX
Lexus NX
8 Feb 2014

Lexus NX 4x4 is shaping up to battle Audi Q5

Exclusive first picture of the new Lexus NX SUV, a £30k crossover on sale in October 2014