Sporting, turbocharged petrol variant of the Lexus NX has style, pace and a premium cabin, but isn't much fun

What is it?

It's a Marmite segment, the sports-SUV class, but whether you love it or hate it, it's increasingly popular, and Lexus wants a slice of the action with its NX200t.

Complete with a new turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol motor and six-speed torque converter automatic transmission, it's almost two seconds faster to 60mph than the hybrid Lexus NX 300h model, but it's also more expensive.

Only available in chrome-bedecked, lavishly-equipped F Sport trim, the 200t costs just over £38,000, which seems remarkably expensive until you consider that a Range Rover Evoque Si4 costs more than £46,000 and a base, four-cylinder Porsche Macan (which we haven't driven yet) won't come with half as much kit but will costs more than £40,000. So you can see what Lexus is trying to achieve here. 

What's it like?

It's really not bad to drive provided you just want a fairly fast SUV and not a fun SUV. The engine is quiet at low revs, while the auto 'box slurs through its changes slowly but smoothly and in normal driving is generally in the right ratio and does what you expect it to.

This, added to progressive throttle and brake response and fairly meaty, predictable steering, makes smooth driving really easy.

Drive with some attitude, though, and it all falls apart. Swing briskly into a corner and you wouldn't really know that the four-wheel drive system is - apparently - sending up to 50% of the drive to the rear axle rather than just to the front.

The NX understeers with gusto, just as if it were front-wheel drive only (which it is in steady-state driving), until you back off the throttle in order to point the nose back in the direction you initially hoped it would be heading.

There's little adjustability or playfulness, and while that steering weight and response is fine in everyday pottering, a string and a cup offers about the same sense of connection. 

Added to this the fact that the engine feels strained and sounds unpleasantly whiney at high revs and that the gearbox struggles to respond promptly in fast driving, it's quickly apparent that the sports element of the NX is really only skin deep.

The ride doesn't help, either. It amplifies high-frequency bumps and ruts, so you get a constant fidget over coarse surfaces and thumps over expansion joints and the like; it's not overly harsh, but it rarely settles. The £750 optional adaptive dampers that weren't fitted to our test car may well improve matters. 

But for its straightforward rev counter, the interior of the NX200t is the same as that of the F Sport version of the NX300h, which means you get a great driving position with electric adjustment and plenty of support from the seat.

There's also adequate space for two adults in the back, a decent-sized boot and a real sense of quality to the cabin, although the layout and some of the materials - including what appears to be starched eggbox cardboard around the steering-wheel audio controls - feel overly fussy.

While you do get plenty of luxury kit included, such as keyless go, front and rear parking sensors and heated seats, adding sat-nav will cost you £995 if you're happy with a rotary-controlled affair. The touch-sensitive pad and nav system shown here is a more expensive £1995 option that also brings extra speakers. 

Back to top

Should I buy one?

You could argue that the NX is unjustifiable as a performance choice thanks to the non-SUV alternatives - Volkswagen Golf R anyone? - that offer a whole other level of performance, entertainment and similar everyday space and practicality for vastly less money. But, clearly, that's comparing apples with oranges, so if you want a top-end, fast SUV, the Lexus looks great and is even reasonably priced next to some rivals.

It's just not enough, though. The Lexus NX200t isn't fun enough to justify the 'sports' tag, and there are better-value fast 4x4s, including the Audi Q3 2.0 TFSI 184, which is a mite slower but also many thousands of pounds cheaper.

Alternatively, if you can afford circa £40,000 for the NX (which it will be after you've added sat-nav), you can probably stretch to £44 for a basic Porsche Macan S, or even an Audi SQ5, which might be a diesel, but it sounds better, is much faster, more fun and comes with everything you could want included.

At least the hybrid NX300h is an impressively cheap company car, but this turbo petrol 200t - good looks aside - is unexceptional in any area. 

Lexus NX200t 

Location Surrey; On sale Now; Price £38,095; Engine 4 cyls, 1988cc, turbo, petrol; Power 235bhp at 4800-5600rpm; Torque 258lb ft at 1650rpm; Gearbox 6-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1735kg; Top speed 124mph; 0-62mph 7.1sec; Economy 35.8mpg; CO2/tax band 183g/km, 29%

Join the debate

Add a comment…
winniethewoo 12 March 2015

to all the design haters...

to all the design haters... it looks much better in the flesh (I would say it looks great), especially in dull colours that tone down the surfacing.
Dark Isle 11 March 2015

Incredibly Ugly

I actually cannot stand the way this car looks. The fact that it's also got a rubbish ride, fussy interior detailing and poor handling just seal its fate.
androo 11 March 2015

What's happened to Lexus?

Lexus were so promising when they launched the LS400. But it's been downhill ever since. Now they're all hideously ugly and rubbish to drive. At least if they were super quiet and had a soft ride there'd be some reason to consider them but they're not even that any more. Why would you buy one?