As the tussle between fuel cell vehicles and bigger, simpler battery-electric cars plays itself out over the coming years, kerb weight may well prove to be one of the hydrogen car’s trump cards. Compared with the all-new, all-electric SUVs from the likes of Jaguar, Audi and Mercedes, the Nexo is light: 1852kg as tested, rather than the 2.3 tonnes that those all-electric opponents weigh.

It’s a shame, then, that the Nexo so clearly isn’t tuned for a bit more dynamism or agility, because there would appear to be no reason that it couldn’t be. The car’s handling does little to inspire or excite but equally little to offend. To drive, it feels, almost to the last detail, like the undemanding, ever-filtering, ever-secure, equally blameless and charmless luxury car of the future. But while competent and drivable, it’s also predictably anodyne and about as sterile and short on character as you might expect of a car that has been designed to leave absolutely no trace of its presence behind it.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
Suspension absorbs the transmission bumps with suppleness and doesn’t crash or clunk, maintaining good directional stability

The car steers through a smallish wheel and an averagely paced rack that feels light at the rim but does at least remain faithful and consistent in its loading during harder cornering. Handling is obedient and wieldy enough when negotiating junctions, roundabouts and tighter bends and doesn’t play any dynamic tricks to conceal its size or bulk when cornering more quickly – but nor does it really need to. Body roll is present but far from punishing. Grip levels are high enough to make for a secure hold on the road and assured motorway stability.

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By and large, the Nexo handles like it might be the most normal, upmarket mid-sized SUV you’ve ever driven, although you might have to remind yourself that you’ve actually driven it. Which, under the circumstances and after the decidedly less normal-feeling Mirai and Clarity FCV, is well worth a nod of approval from us.

Despite its raised ride height, the Nexo coped slightly better with the Millbrook Hill Route than the last hydrogen fuel cell car we road tested, the softer and more boat-like Honda Clarity FCV. You wouldn’t say it revealed previously undetectable depths of grip and handling composure, but it tolerated higher cornering speeds and a more aggressive driving style than you may expect of an eco-conscious option.

The car can be hustled into an apex fairly keenly, and although it rolls a bit en route, it doesn’t do so to the detriment of stability or steering precision. Mid-corner grip is assured enough to allow you to accelerate through that apex and well before taking all of the lateral load out of the front tyres.

The stability electronics are always on and always a factor in producing what limit handling security the car has – but you wouldn’t call them particularly intrusive.

COMFORT AND ISOLATION

Slightly flat seats and a ride that’s only averagely quiet and settled would be our main criticisms of the Nexo here. It remains a deal calmer and more relaxing than the average SUV in any case, because its powertrain is mostly very quiet and its cabin otherwise well sealed. You’d still be likely to get into one from almost any combustion-engined car, in other words, and feel like you’d taken a sizeable leap forwards in on-board well-being, but perhaps not a quantum one.

The Nexo certainly conjures that futuristic sense of calm better on smooth, well-surfaced dual carriageway than on a lumpy, bumpy B-road. Uneven stretches bring a distinct sense of under-dampedness from the car’s primary ride; and so, in what might be a misplaced attempt to produce greater rolling comfort, the Nexo actually becomes less comfortable as a result of its initially permissive close vertical body control.

It doesn’t heave or pitch like an old-school 4x4, or even get close to doing so. Nor does that vertical excitability translate into the sort of lateral fussiness that can readily cause head toss in cars with a higher ride height, thankfully. The Nexo simply struggles to cope with compressions and crests taken at and around the national speed limit quite as well as you’d like of a £65,000 luxury SUV.

Motorway driving over longish distance is relaxing thanks to a good lane keeping assist system. The Nexo’s other active safety gadget is a camera system called Blindspot View Monitor, which seemed to most testers simply to repeat the view you get in the driver’s door mirror on the digital dashboard display when you indicate to change lanes.

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