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May 3, 2021

Review: 2021 Lexus NX 300h

How ever you look at it, the Lexus NX is a product born from “conquest marketing.” The term, which revolves around convincing potential buyers who would otherwise not be your main base, aptly describes who Lexus is going for with this premium compact SUV. Lexus’s expansion has been methodological, if a bit slow. Starting with just one large sedan, the LS and one large SUV, the LX, they’ve expanded to cover the mid-sized segment with the ES sedan and RX SUV as well. But with their rivals from Munich, Stuttgart, and Ingolstadt all going one segment lower, Lexus had to get into the party, and thus, the NX was born.

This isn’t the official Lexus NX origin story, of course, but it could very well be. Born in 2014, as a 2015 model, the NX was developed when Lexus, and its parent company, Toyota was in a state of flux. It was the year when their game-changing TNGA or Toyota New Global Architecture would start rolling out. TNGA, while had numerous benefits in manufacturing efficiency and occupant safety, also promised one thing: making Toyotas and, by extension, Lexus(es), fun to drive. However, because Lexus had to bring in a premium compact SUV to market ASAP, they opted to use the outgoing (read: non-TNGA) RAV4’s bones, instead. That, in all honesty, was a crucial error.

Not that you see it, mind you. The Lexus NX, when objectively looked at, is an aggressively-designed compact SUV. Adorned with a massive grille, pinched in the middle—the Spindle Grille, as Lexus calls it—is love it or hate it. But it, without question, projects a well-defined presence, far removed from the politically-correct, cookie-cutter compact SUVs of late.

Open the door though, and chinks in the Lexus NX’s armor start to appear. Generally, the quality is still pretty good. Panel gaps are tight, the switches all feel solid, and the textures are smartly done. However, compared to Lexus’s interior execution in the IS and RX for example, it is a notch down with some noticeable hard and scratchy plastics adorning the door trims and lower dash.

Ergonomically, the Lexus NX is easy to live with. The seats are comfortable and supportive, perfect whether for getting stuck in traffic or cruising on the expressway. Like the RX 450h, the NX 300h has power adjustment not just for the front seats (they’re ventilated and heated to boot), but also for the steering wheel and even back seats as well (folding is also done with a push of button). Finding the ideal driving position is a cinch, and navigating through the button-filled center console is surprisingly easy.

However, for all of the Lexus NX’s sound ergonomic decisions, one item threatens to bring everything crashing down: the infotainment system. At 10.3 inches, the screen is sizeable, but because it lacks any touchscreen functionality, the only interface is through the touchpad interface. It makes selecting icons tricky, and the lack of any smartphone connectivity (there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto), means having to be cursed with this setup every single day. This persistence on the touchscreen interface also robs it of any usable space for small, loose items, except for the large armrest console. Although, it must be said that the touchpad palm rest does cleverly double as a removable powder mirror.

The cabin is big enough for four adults, and even tall drivers will find plenty of room in the Lexus NX. The power reclining rear seats will make two adults at the back feel lavishly accommodated, and despite finding the traction battery under there, there’s plenty of head- and shoulder room to sit three abreast. The same can be said about the cargo hold which is more than enough for the weekly shopping. The square-shaped opening also means loading golf clubs or other bulky items is easily done.

Without a direct or tangible comparison, most will say that the Lexus NX feels alright. However, compared to Lexus’s other efforts, this SUV comes across as lazy. Naysayers will be quick to point out that this is probably down to the Lexus NX’s age—it was launched some six years back, after all. Still, it would be easy to point out that the Lexus RX was launched in the same year, and that mid-sized SUV still feels pretty good on the road. On the other hand, the Lexus NX, and its previous model RAV4 base feels long in the tooth; it’s due for a full-on Version 2.0 update.

The Lexus NX is supposed to mean, “Nimble Crossover”—a name it fails to live up to. Its handling is disappointing, driving much larger than its size suggests. Go for spirited cornering, and it tends to wash wide early. Try to change directions, and it feels cumbersome and heavy. The steering is also numb, but plenty of play near the center means it can get tiring to drive anything less than glass-smooth asphalt. The regenerative braking also feels more artificial here than in the Lexus RX’s. Refinement though remains a strong suit with just a hint of road and wind noise at high speed.

Perhaps the only saving grace in the Lexus NX’s mechanicals is its gasoline-hybrid engine. Driven in a relaxed manner, and the NX 300h has enough volts for smooth progress, and is sufficiently punchy to nip out into fast-flowing traffic. The best part? It can do almost 18 km/L in the city. It’s more compromised on the open road, however. Ask for a burst of pace, and the CVT pauses before sending the revs sky rocketing. And even then, there’s no way to equate the high revs with any semblance of acceleration.

The Lexus NX is the brand’s first foray into the premium compact SUV space, and there’s no denying that it’s been a huge sales success for the brand. It is, after all, cobbled together for the sake of conquering new customers—an entrant in a white space in their line-up for those who want a Lexus for the sake of the badge. For that sort of customer, this is enough to pass muster. However, for those who know better, Lexus’s apparent rush to put the NX to market means they’ve made the mistake of building it on top of dated bones. Try as they might in covering, updating, and polishing what they could, but its weak fundamentals—ride, handling, comfort—still show. In the end, this is the Lexus for the brand conscious set, but for those who want more depth, it’s best to consider perhaps the Lexus IS, or the RX instead.

2021 Lexus NX 300h

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Ownership 2021 Lexus HX 300h
Year Introduced 2014 (Refreshed: 2020)
Vehicle Classification Compact SUV
Warranty 3 years / 100,000 kilometers
The Basics
Body Type Compact SUV
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/AWD
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 2.5
Aspiration Normally Aspirated
Fuel Delivery EFI, Atkinson Cycle
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 153 @ 5,700 (194, combined)
Nm @ rpm 210 Nm @ 4,200-4,400
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 95~
Transmission CVT
Cruise Control Yes
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 17.54 km/L @ 20 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,640
Width (mm) 1,845
Height (mm) 1,630
Wheelbase (mm) 2,660
Curb Weight (kg) 1,785
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Independent, Double Wishbone
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Parking Brake Electric, w/ Auto Hold
Tires Bridgestone Dueler H/L 33 225/60 R 18 H (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 7
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Front & Rear
Parking Camera Yes, Rear
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 3
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features Hill Start Assist
Exterior Features
Headlights LED
Fog Lamps Yes, Front & Rear (LED)
Auto Lights Yes
Rain-sensing Wipers Yes
Tailgate Power
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic, Electric Adjust
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment (driver) Electric, 8-way, w/ Memory, Ventilated & Heated
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Electric, 8-way, Ventilated & Heated
Seating Surface Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40, Electric Fold
Sunroof Yes
Trip Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, w/ Fold
Rear View Mirror Auto Dimming
Proximity Key Yes
Climate Control Auto, Dual w/ Rear Vents
Audio System Stereo
Smartphone Connectivity Miracast
# of Speakers 10
Steering Controls Yes


  1. This car is on my shortlist but i'm waiting for the new generation to launch. The lack of carplay is a bummer for something so premium wherein other cheaper cars and even the other cars i'm evaluating like the GLB and even going down to the CX-5, Outback, Forester they all have an updated ICE. No ambient lighting as well at the pricepoint it is at.

    1. Yeah, agreed. The infotainment is disappointing...also the platform is feeling its age. The new TNGA-based NX should be worth the wait.


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