The Lexus NX competes against the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Range Rover Evoque, among others. Unlike its rivals, though, it's not available with a diesel engine; instead, buyers can choose between a petrol-electric hybrid with two- or four-wheel drive, and a 2.0-litre turbo petrol model with four-wheel drive as standard.
The NX is also the first Lexus hybrid SUV certified to tow, although you’ll need to go for the four-wheel-drive version and accept a comparatively low towing capacity of 1.5 tonnes.
- Latest deals: Check Lexus NX lease prices
Matches the best in class
The NX is a commodious beast, matching the BMW X3 for boot space and beating the VolvoXC60. What’s more, while the boot floor is some way off the ground, at least there’s no additional lip to haul your bags over. Under that floor is a space saver spare wheel.
Dropping the rear seats requires you to go around to the doors and pull a lever on the side of the seat base, at which point the backrests fold in a 60/40 split to give a completely flat extended load bay.
The NX scores extra points for rear-seat passengers by not having a lump in the middle of the floor. There’s just enough room for three adults, and headroom is plentiful.
Up front the NX makes up for its small door bins with a big glovebox, two cupholders and another large storage compartment under the armrest.
Quiet around town, but the ride could be better
One of the first things you notice when you climb into the NX is how comfortable the seats are. Combined with a good driving position, with plenty of adjustment for the seat and steering wheel, plus a commanding view over traffic, you can be sure that long journeys will be completed with no aches or pains.
Go for the hybrid version (badged NX300h) and the car can be run at low speed in pure electric mode - a serene experience, even if it only lasts for a maximum of a mile. However, while the petrol engine cuts in smoothly, it is a fairly vocal partner when you accelerate hard.
At a steady motorway speed engine and wind noise are minimal, although poor road surfaces roar noisily through the NX’s interior.
The suspension is also a mixed bag, coping well with small bumps, but feeling overly firm when you encounter anything bigger. In particular, potholes tend to jolt through the car with a bang or a creak.
Dashboard layout 5/10
Not the easiest to use
With lots of different layers and no shortage of digital displays, the NX’s dashboard is certainly different. The downside is that some of the systems are complicated to use. The satnav is a prime example, requiring a combination of twists, pushes and pulls of one control knob to enter a destination (the touchpad which replaces this control knob on more expensive models is even more difficult to master).
Unlike the BMW X3, the NX also misses out on shortcut buttons where you can save your most frequently used functions. But its interior does feel just as well built.
Easy to drive 4/10
Parking can be tricky
Toyota, which owns Lexus, has more experience of mass-produced hybrid cars than any other manufacturer, and it shows in the way the NX300h makes such minimal fuss about its technology. Just press a start button, slot the standard automatic gearbox into Drive and off you go.
However, the NX also has a few issues. For a start, visibility isn’t great, with large pillars either side of the windscreen making it difficult to see out of junctions, and further blindspots over your shoulders where the bodywork meets the small rear screen.
In addition, if you’re just cruising and all of a sudden want full power (for an overtake, say) there’s a half-second delay between pressing the accelerator and the car responding.
Finally, braking performance from very low speeds is slightly unpredictable, a push of the pedal doing very little until all of a sudden the brakes bite and you come to an abrupt stop. This can make parking quite a jerky affair (thankfully a reversing camera is fitted as standard).
Fun to drive 3/10
Doesn't encourage enthusiastic driving
While it is fine for town driving, when the time comes to see what the NX has got to offer on a twisting country road you’re going to be disappointed. Part of the problem is the E-CVT automatic gearbox, which holds the engine at high revs when you accelerate hard.
While the steering feels reasonably well weighted at low speed, and stable on the motorway, it isn’t quite as consistent in how the weight builds through faster corners or roundabouts.
Driven quickly the suspension also struggles to cope with controlling the NX’s weight, the body leaning over in corners and shuffling awkwardly over bumps.
Lexus has an excellent record here
The NX is too new to have been included in the annual JD Power customer satisfaction survey, but Lexus has consistently performed well over the last 10 years, and it finished joint top in 2014.
If there’s a slight disappointment it’s that the three-year warranty that Lexus provides is limited to 60,000 miles, whereas BMW offers three years of cover, no matter how many miles you do.
The hybrid components in the NX300h model are covered for five years or 60,000 miles - whichever comes first.
Fuel economy 7/10
Good around town, less so on the motorway
On paper the NX300h fares well, returning up to 56mpg in EU fuel consumption tests. And around town, where its electric motor can be used to maximum advantage, the Lexus is more efficient than its diesel rivals. However, that is turned on its head in motorway driving, where the hybrid system isn’t at its best.
All in all, you can expect to see economy of between 30-40mpg from the NX300h in mixed driving conditions.
Great for company car drivers
While the hybrid drivetrain gives the Lexus NX a power advantage over a similarly priced BMW X3, it doesn’t equate to any more performance. The NX300h is, however, a good option for company car drivers, thanks to CO2 emissions of just 116g/km for the two-wheel-drive version or 121g/km for the all-wheel-drive models, and Benefit-in-Kind tax ratings of just 16 and 17 per cent respectively. That’s class leading for an SUV.
The NX is fitted with eight airbags as standard, including one for the driver’s knees. Upgrade from entry-level S specification and you also benefit from four-wheel drive. All models feature adaptive cruise control that can maintain a safe distance from the car in front, or even bring the car to a complete stop if it senses a collision is imminent.
The full suite of safety systems includes lane keep assist, blind spot monitors and a rear cross parking alert that uses radars to scan left and right behind you when reversing out of a parking space, but in order to have these you have to opt for the top-level Premier specification.
Even so, it's no surprise that the NX scored top marks from the safety experts at Euro NCAP.
Standard spec 8/10
Worth upgrading to get four-wheel drive
If you're not bothered about having four-wheel drive, then you can save some money and go for the entry-level S model, which still comes with alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control a DAB digital radio and electrically folding door mirrors.
Upgrade to SE and the inclusion of a second electric motor on the rear axle to make the car four-wheel drive also means you can tow up to 1,500kg, and keep toasty warm in the process thanks to the addition of heated seats.
Luxury spec is our favourite, because it turns the seats from cloth to leather and includes parking sensors front and rear, while F Sport adds stiffer sports suspension and a wireless phone charger.
The top-of-the-range Premier model includes items such as a heated steering wheel and ventilated front seats, as well as the full array of active safety systems.
Our favourite version
NX300h Luxury, list price £35,245
Options you should add Lexus Navigation (£995) and metallic paint (£645)
The verdict 7/10
The Lexus NX300h makes a compelling option for company car drivers, who could no doubt overlook its shortcomings to benefit from the savings they’d make. For private buyers, however, the BMW X3 remains the most complete car of this type.