In a world dominated by compact SUVs it was inevitable that Lexus would enter the fray. Cue the arrival of the NX300h, a compact luxury SUV but with a twist.
The clue to Lexus’ focus with the NX300h is in the name. That little h stands for hybrid and represents the combination of a standard 2.5-litre petrol engine and two electric motors to give what Lexus claims is a perfect blend of performance and economy.
This powertrain can only be described as seamless. The transition from electric-only to petrol power is imperceptible in city driving and the petrol unit remains whisper quiet at almost any speed. It only makes itself known when you’re heavy with your right foot – then the petrol unit gets vocal, combining with the electric motors to put 196bhp onto the road through all four wheels via a silky E-CVT transmission.
Lexus claims the hybrid setup is good for 54mpg but during its time with us, the NX300h managed a faintly disappointing 35mpg. Not terrible for a car this size but not remarkable either.
On the road the NX300h is as civilised as you would expect from the Japanese firm. You glide along in a hushed world with little wind or tyre noise. Stay gentle with your right foot and that remarkably refined powertrain is virtually silent.
It’s clearly a car set up for comfort rather than thrills – there’s little feeling from the steering and there’s a fair bit of lean when cornering. Even in the sharper Sport mode it’s not a car that encourages energetic driving. However, for nipping to the golf club or motorway cruising it’s a calming, comfy place to be.
Where it’s not so calm is on the design front. While telling a Q5 from a Macan from an XC60 is tricky the NX300h stands out instantly. From the angular grille backwards the car is a riot of deep slashes and razor-sharp creases. The overall effect is striking and slightly deceptive. Even up close it manages to look smaller than it really is.
This is only emphasised when you climb in. Driver and passengers have plenty of leg, head and shoulder room and four adults will have no trouble getting comfortable. The only area where it falls down is the boot. While it might seem like the ideal car for a golfing foursome to take off in for a weekend, once you’ve got a couple of golf bags in there, you’ll be struggling to fit a lot else.
As is to be expected of a Lexus, the interior is a cosseting place to be. At every trim level the NX300h is well-appointed, featuring dual-zone climate control, high-quality media/phone/nav system and a raft of driver and safety aids. Our mid-range Luxury model added keyless entry and start, heated leather seats and a reversing camera. Further up the range and an internet connection and a heads-up display can be yours as well.
It might not be a ‘driver’s car’ and may fail to meet the lofty economy claims, but, for those who want an easy-going and supremely smooth drive that stands out from the crowd in the golf club car park the NX300h is spot on.
Engine: 2.5-litre petrol, two electric motors, combined 196bhp
Transmission: E-CVT driving all four wheels
Performance: Top speed 112mph, 0-62 9.2 seconds
Economy: 54.3mpg combined
Emissions: 121 g/km