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.
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.
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.