Not familiar with the Lexus NX 300h? Here’s some background. The Lexus NX lineup arrived in late 2014 and picked up momentum, managing to sell nearly 44,000 vehicles in 2015.
That makes the NX the fourth best-selling Lexus vehicle and the second most-popular Lexus SUV, trailing the ever-popular RX model.
With seating for five, the NX competes with luxury vehicles as diverse as the Acura RDX, the Audi Q5, the BMW X3 and the Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class. There is clearly a huge taste for small SUVs and Lexus’ new model offers many reasons why it continues to entice nearly 4,000 buyers each month.
Here are five reasons why you should consider the NX if you’re in the market for a small crossover SUV.
Reason #1: People like the NX models
When the Lexus NX first arrived, Lexus predicted the vehicle would sell approximately 2,000 units each month. Given the 4,000 unit average cited above, this new small crossover has found a ready audience.
You have two NX choices: the turbocharged NX 200t that starts at $34,965 or the more expensive hybrid Lexus NX 300h model that starts at $39,720. I’ve tested the hybrid Lexus NX 300h twice now, and it’s a nice, small SUV.
My test model arrived in striking Blue Vortex Metallic paint and immediately turned heads, though what I like best about the NX is the interior. The seats on my test model were comfortable. Importantly, they were heated and cooled and I used both modes since I was testing the car during early spring when Utah’s weather can turn from the upper 30s to the high 70s within the same day. Like all Lexus vehicles, the materials and feel of the cabin imbue a sense of quality and excellence — significantly more so that what you’ll experience in the similarly sized Toyota RAV4, which is a cousin to the NX models.
My kids liked the rear legroom. I was liked the decent amount of storage space behind the rear seats. I’ve now grown accustomed to the touch pad that controls the Lexus Remote Touch Interface and find it more accurate and easier to use than the old mouse-like system you can still find on some Lexus models.
Overall, it’s easy to see why the NX has exceeded sales expectations.
Reason #2: 33 MPG in combined driving
In terms of horsepower, the NX 300h is no match for the BMW X3, Audi Q5 or Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class. These vehicles all make between 258 and 280 horsepower while the hybrid-powered NX 300h makes a relatively paltry 194 horses. However, if driving green is important to you, you’ll be glad to know the NX 300h meaningfully improves the poor fuel economy of many small SUVs.
The 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and a nickel-metal hydride battery pack that powers an electric motor combine to average 33 mpg in combined driving. That’s 31 mpg on the highway and an impressive 35 mpg in the city. If you do most of your driving around town, the hybrid is a smart choice. I averaged 32 mpg during my week behind the wheel, an improvement of two miles-per-gallon compared to last time I tested the Lexus NX 300h.
Reason #3: Bold design in the Lexus NX 300h
The one area of the NX that earned mixed reviews from friends and family is the design. While it absolutely reflects the current design trends within the Lexus lineup — sharp creases and the big, bold grille — it’s not a look people who favor rounded designs will adore.
After testing the NX 300h twice and seeking input from casual observers each time, my sense is that younger drivers like the look a whole lot more than older drivers. Case in point: a 70-year-old friend who has exclusively bought Lexus vehicles for the last 20 years said, “I can’t imagine driving a Lexus that looks like that.” Meanwhile, a 30-year-old friend said, “I love the size, the look, the lines. The NX is my favorite small SUV design.”
So there you have it. Where you fall on that age spectrum will likely determine how much you like or dislike the look of the NX. The good news for Lexus is that it appears they’ve accurately matched the car’s design to their target audience.
Reason #4: A Top Safety Pick+
The Lexus NX earned a “Top Safety Pick+” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) after scoring “Good” ratings in all IIHS tests. It also earned a five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). That’s good news because it means the car should do a good job protecting family and friends in an accident.
My well-equipped test model included nearly every safety feature you could wish for in a small SUV, including eight airbags, a standard backup camera and seatbacks and headrests that are proven to reduce the severity of whiplash-related injuries. It also included optional features like a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure alert, and a pre-collision system with dynamic radar cruise control. If you have the means to upgrade to secure all the safety features, by all means, do so.
Reason #5: Recommended by Consumer Reports
Lexus consistently makes the most reliable vehicles on the planet. Build quality is excellent and the vehicles rarely have issues. As a result, nearly every Lexus vehicle earned Consumer Reports’ “Recommended” rating for 2016. Though the NX models have been on the market less than 18 months as I’m writing this review, they are performing remarkably well. Consumer Reports predicts that reliability and dependability for new models is “excellent.”
Of course, your experience may vary and you’ll be glad to know that Lexus backs NX buyers with a four-year/50,000-mile warranty and a six-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty. If you choose the NX 300h, the hybrid system includes an eight-year/100,000-mile warranty.
Certainly more luxurious than the RAV4
I tested the Lexus NX 300h and Toyota RAV4 in back-to-back weeks. It was a great opportunity to test these two closely related vehicles side by side and after a week driving both, I’ll choose the NX model. However, I will likely choose the NX 200t versus the NX 300h simply to save money on the overall cost and for a more vibrant driving experience.
The fit and finish of the NX is demonstrably better than the RAV4. The NX’s engine is more powerful though the RAV4 outperforms the NX 200t in terms of fuel economy. The RAV4 also tops the NX in terms of cargo capacity. Price is a big difference. The base 2016 RAV4 starts at $24,350 while the base Lexus NX 200t starts at $34,965. Meanwhile, the top-of-the-line RAV4 Limited Hybrid starts at $33,610 while the Lexus NX 300h with all-wheel drive starts at $42,260. Obviously, you pay more to get more and if I can afford the upgrade, I’ll choose the Lexus. But don’t discount the RAV4, which is also an excellent choice.