Lexus hybrid crossover’s NXt move
- Credit: Lexus
Lexus is looking to make the most of the growing interest in hybrids by refreshing its NX 300h. Motoring editor Andy Russell finds out if this crossover ticks the boxes.
The H word is entering more drivers' vocabulary as they consider switching to hybrid power so little wonder hybrid pioneer Lexus has tweaked its big-selling models to keep them fresh against newer rivals.
Launched in 2014, the NX crossover is a key player for Lexus, beating expectations and accounting for one in three sales in Europe while wooing new customers to the brand. With hybrid SUVs still few and far between in a market dominated by diesel, Lexus is looking to make the most of that NX 300h selling point.
Looks and image
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The NX's bold, sharp styling is a standout feature and the revised model is even edgier with a new trademark spindle grille, revised front bumper, new alloy wheels and new LED headlamps now with automatic high beam and, on top models, adaptive high beam as part of the now standard Lexus Safety System+. It also includes adaptive cruise control and features to keep the car in lane, brake automatically to avoid or lessen the effect of a collision and recognise road signs.
New LED rear light clusters complete the makeover.
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Inside, to improve the quality feel, the NX gains a bigger central multimedia screen and revised switches.
Under the bonnet
Hybrid is the only option now the 2.0-litre turbo petrol has been dropped.
The hybrid has a 2.5-litre petrol engine and an electric motor on each axle, to give four-wheel drive which engages automatically when needed, on all but entry-level SE which also offers a front-wheel drive with just one electric motor.
You can use the continuously-variable transmission's six set ratios manually via the lever or paddles behind the steering wheel - preferable for serious acceleration rather than a big roar of revs when you press the throttle and wait for the CVT gearbox to react.
Switch from eco or normal driving modes into sport, which also replaces the eco gauge with a rev counter, and the NX delivers on the promise. There's also an electric vehicle EV mode for short distances on battery power alone at urban speeds.
I averaged 40mpg but this hybrid really pays dividends in urban traffic.
How it drives
Revised suspension improves stability and is generally a fine blend between ride and roadholding.
It cushions passengers from feedback from poor road surfaces but, being on the firm side, potholes send a shudder through the cabin.
The handling is more reassuring than rewarding, making good cross-country progress, with body roll kept in check, but the steering is light and lifeless.
Space and comfort
The cabin has an upmarket, premium feel and enough space for four large adults to travel in comfort with decent rear legroom and no transmission tunnel hump in the way.
The hybrid battery means the boot floor is quite high, making the load bay shallow, borne out by a 475-litre cargo capacity and there is some underfloor storage for small items. Rear seats backs split and fold 60/40 to give 1,520 litres.
At the wheel
I like the cockpit-like driving position with the high centre console and clear instruments that are easy to take in.
The multimedia screen, now nearly 50pc bigger at 10.3in, high up on the centre fascia is a big improvement but, despite an all-new, larger touchpad, it is difficult to use accurately on the move and not the most responsive system.
A simplified grade structure sees SE followed by Luxury and Premier, running alongside more dynamically-styled F Sport and F Sport Premier Pack.
All justify their price with exceptionally high levels of standard equipment and creature comforts.
The NX 300h's big selling point is that it's a hybrid, so won't suit everyone, but if you're in a dilemma about the future of diesel it's an attractive alternative.
SPEC AND TECH
Price: Lexus NX 300h Premier £44,395 (range from £34,895)
Engine: 2,494cc, 153bhp four-cylinder petrol engine and electric motors on each axle, giving a combined 195bhp, mated to CVT automatic gearbox
Performance: 0-62mph 9.2 seconds; top speed 112mph
MPG: Urban 53.3; extra urban 55.4; combined 54.3
CO2 emissions: 121g/km
Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 25pc (2018-19)
Insurance group: 33E (out of 50)
Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles
Will it fit in the garage? L 4,640mm; W (including door mirrors) 2,130mm; H 1,645mm