The 2019 Lexus NX is an attractive and modern-looking small crossover with exterior styling that has aged well and a demeanour that’s a great fit for urban lifestyles. There’s just one problem: Some elements of the interior design and technology features have not kept up with the competition, and the price advantage of the NX over its German competitors isn’t so great – for now, at least – that those shortcomings are only magnified. However, buyers may still be wooed by good fuel economy and desirable safety features.
Although the current NX is on the older side, having gone on sale five years ago, its active, angular lines, and aggressive front end have held up well. It still looks ready for an upbeat urban lifestyle. The optional Circuit Red interior and chrome sport pedals that are available with the trio of optional F Sport packages are gorgeous. Really, the only turn-off is the outdated and busy centre stack design, which no amount of bright red leather can gussy up.
On the safety front, the NX has a lot going for it. The Lexus Safety System+ suite is standard and includes collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure alert with steering assist, and automatic high-beams. Models built after January 2019 also receive a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). There are, however, some desirable features that are extra-cost options, like blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
For the urban or suburban family of four, the size and maneuverability of the NX make it a natural choice. At a length of 4,640 mm, it’s slightly smaller than most of its competition, which is a nice attribute in tight streets and parking lots. The trade-off is that its cargo capacity, at 500 L with the rear seats up, is on the smaller side as well. With the seats down, that grows to 1,545 L, though they don’t fold especially flat.
User Friendliness: 7/10
Although the touchpad interface for the infotainment system is better than the moving pointer system still in use in some Lexus products, it’s only marginally so. Locating and moving the pointer on the screen relative to where your finger lands on the pad is not especially intuitive. The many buttons on the centre stack take some time to wrap one’s head around, too. The feature that is done well is the optional head-up display, which presents a variety of information clearly and concisely.
In the context of the luxury market – apart from the aforementioned safety features – the NX falls into the category of “not bad but not great”. All-wheel drive is standard, as are heated front seats and outboard mirrors. Adding 18-inch wheels or a heated steering wheel requires paying for a package (though the latter is not as unusual as it ought to be in luxury vehicles), and heated rear seats are unavailable altogether. Apple CarPlay can be equipped, but it costs extra; Android Auto compatibility is coming on the 2020 NX, but it’s not available on the 2019 model. And adding CarPlay makes feature packaging confusing: There are more than a dozen packages to be sorted through on the online configurator, which feels like a lot of work.
The NX 300 puts out 235 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque at 1,650 rpm from its turbocharged 2.0L I4 – numbers that look a little better on paper than they play out in practice. This engine and its six-speed automatic gearbox are at their best when they’re running at about 2,500 to 3,000 rpm on the highway and are already prepared to respond to a punch on the throttle. From a stop, this car is a little more sluggish than it ought to be.
All aspects around comfort are very good for the size, although these specific seats are available only with an F Sport package. That said, the ride is smooth and the interior is quiet, and the seating positions feel spacious enough relative to the car’s size.
Driving Feel: 8/10
This is a nice little crossover to get around in. Steering is speed-sensitive and appropriately direct, and the F Sport adaptive suspension keeps the car feeling stable and dynamic while smoothing out the bumps in the road nicely.
Fuel Economy: 7.5/10
The NX’s fuel numbers come in slightly lower than the luxury segment average at 10.7 L/100 km in city driving, 8.5 on the highway, and 9.7 combined. My observed number was a bit higher at 11.2 L/100 km, but I did far more city driving during this week and was in a hurry to get everywhere, it seemed, so I found this to be acceptable. If fuel economy is a concern, paying the $7,200 premium for the hybrid powertrain might be a workable option.
The Lexus NX 300 could be a great buy if the price gap between it and its German competitors were a little bit wider. As it stands, the base price of an Audi Q5 or a Mercedes-Benz GLC is within $5,000, which is a spread that most aspirational buyers entering the luxury space can afford to cover.
From an urban appeal standpoint, the Lexus NX is positioned excellently. Where opportunity exists is to simplify packaging, improve on the technology offerings where several competitors are also lagging, and add in some features that buyers don’t expect to have included at this price point. With those changes, the NX – which will be built in Canada after its next generation launches in a couple of years – could easily edge its way forward within its segment.
|Peak Horsepower||235 hp @ 4,800 rpm|
|Peak Torque||258 lb-ft @ 1,650 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||10.7/8.5/9.7 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||500 / 1,545 L seats down|
|Model Tested||2019 Lexus NX 300|
|Price as Tested||$59,475|
$13,250 – F Sport Series 3, $12,725; FS3 Seat Package, $525