2016 Lexus NX200t – Driven

The crossover craze has hit nearly every automaker without prejudice, including Toyota’ s luxury brand. Lexus first joined the party back in 1999 with the mid-size RX. After nearly two decades worth of outstanding success, Lexus expanded its crossover segment in 2015 with the NX. This compact crossover now acts as the brand’s entry level SUV, aimed at a younger and marginally less affluent audience. The NX still carries that Lexus look and feel. Its sharp angles and large Spindle grille makes it stand out from the luxury crowd.

Since its launch, the NX has come in two forms: the NX200t with its turbocharged four-cylinder, and the NX300h with its hybrid powertrain borrowed from the Toyota Camry. Both can be had with and without Lexus’ F Sport handling and appearance package. What you see here is the NX200t dressed in its standard, non-F Sport form. That means the Spindle grille is actually toned down a bit, its interior is slightly subtler, and its suspension gives a cushier ride.

Naysayers of the NX will call it a glorified Toyota RAV4. While that may be true to a point, the NX only shared is basic structure and wheelbase with the Toyota. Unique suspension set-ups, wheel and tire combinations, powertrains, and of course styling make the NX its own machine. Having driven both the NX and RAV4 nearly back-to-back, I can vouch for the NX’s more Lexus-like ride. The Lexus simply feels more premium.

So what’s the 2016 Lexus NX200t like to live with? Keep reading to find out.

Video Review

Exterior

Lexus NX200t – Driven

Lexus NX200t – Driven

Lexus NX200t – Driven

The days of Lexus being soft, cushy, rebadged versions of Toyotas are long gone – replaced by angular lines, hard creases, and an aggressive attitude. It is perhaps the most aggressively styled brand in the premium market, making its rivals seem downright tame in comparison. That certainly holds true for the NX. The Spindle grille is alive and well here, making this crossover more brutish in nature. Small children and furry woodland creatures beware.

It’s almost like this crossover was designed to roll over stuff.

My tester’s non-F Sport trim means the exterior’s looks are somewhat less frightening, with a nose that’s more tucked under reminiscent of its RX big brother. The NX still sports LED low-beam headlights (with halogen high-beams) and those fishhook LED daytime running lights, with fog lights down below. Besides adding to the look, the high approach angle nearly eliminates fears of smashing into parking stops and scraping driveway ramps. It’s almost like this crossover was designed to roll over stuff.

The NX’s side profile continues the angular theme. A strong belt line runs below the windows, accented by the hard accent line along the door bottoms, the kink over the rear wheel well, and the windowless C-pillar. The story continues out back with the fishhook-style taillights, high-mounted spoiler, and the motorcycle-inspired exhaust pipes. Yes, Lexus designers say inspiration came from sport bikes. You’ll notice the chrome exhaust tip is visible from the side, recalling the raucous exhaust from a screaming Ducati or Yamaha. Despite all these futuristic looks, the wheel arches tie in the old-school SUV idea with black moldings.

Interior

Lexus NX200t – Driven

Lexus NX200t – Driven

Lexus NX200t – Driven

Lexus’ styling trends carry to the interior, as well. The sharp lines and futuristic looks abound. Even the Spindle grille design is recalled in the center stack’s satin chrome trim. My tester came with the optional peanut butter-colored seats Lexus calls Flaxen NuLuxe. They carried black accents along the rim of their bolsters, giving them a handsome appearance. The black accents matched perfectly with the black dashboard, door panels, and center console. The dash itself features both the bright satin chrome accents and a dark carbon fiber-style accent on the passenger side. That same accent extends to all four door panels, as well.

The rear bench seat offers comfortable room for two, with the ability to haul three if needed

The rear bench seat offers comfortable room for two, with the ability to haul three if needed. HVAC vents provide air flow, while a center arm rest with cup holders provide additional comfort. Leg room is commendable, especially for this size crossover. For longer drives, rear passengers can even recline back a fair amount. When cargo room is needed, the seatback split 60/40-style and provide a nearly flat load floor. That expands the cargo room from 17.7 cubic feet to an impressive 54.6 cubic feet.

Back behind the wheel, the driver is greeted with two large analog gauges for speed and engine rpm. Smaller analog gauges well coolant temp and fuel level. A center screen offers up multiple pages of vehicle information like fuel economy, tire pressure, radio station, and any system warnings. Topping the center stack is Lexus’ Enform infotainment system. The software is what we’ve become used to with both Lexus and Toyota . The system works well and is fairly intuitive to learn. It’s not the most high-tech-looking software, or the most graphically interesting, but it does work.

Below the infotainment screen are the HVAC controls. It’s nice having them placed so high, allowing the driver to keep his eyes up, closer to the road. The controls are easy to understand and operate, though the dual zone temperature function doesn’t give a completely independent temperature to both sides. I found that if my wife had her temperature set high (like she generally does), then my setting of 67 degrees felt more like 76. With both sides turned down, the temperature would quickly fall.

The lower section of the center stack contains the gated gear shifter, drive mode selector, electronic E-brake, and the infotainment system’s track pad. All are placed in good positions that are easy to reach.

Drivetrain

Lexus NX200t – Driven

Powering this NX is Lexus’ first turbocharged engine inside the U.S. it’s a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that’s transversely mounted to a six-speed automatic transmission. The all-aluminum engine with direct injection is good for 235 horsepower at 4,800 rpm and 258 pound-feet of torque at only 1,650 rpm. Though the engine is turbocharged and pushes 17 pounds of boost, the turbo is nearly imperceptible. There’s no turbo lag or swooshing – just what feels like a healthy engine accelerating the crossover.

Though the engine is turbocharged and pushes 17 pounds of boost, the turbo is nearly imperceptible

That’s thanks to Lexus’ exhaust manifold design. The manifold is incorporated into the cylinder head and the turbo is bolted directly next. There’s very little air space for turbo lag to linger. Despite the horsepower and presence of a turbo, fuel economy isn’t terrible. The EPA rates the NX200t at 22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, and 25 mpg combined.

While the NX is available in AWD, my tester is the standard FWD. Impressively, torque steer is kept to a minimum and is only truly felt when powering hard off the line while turning a corner. Otherwise, the steering is effortlessly controlled and a pleasure to operate. There’s not a lot of road feel, but I never had an issue feeling what the front tires were up to.

The NX typifies its crossover underpinnings with a maximum tow rating of only 2,000 pounds and a maximum load capacity of 1,150. Still, that’s plenty good for the vast majority of crossover buyers.

Safety

Lexus NX200t – Driven

The NX has a decent list of active and passive safety systems. Blind Spot Monitoring, Backup Camera with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Brake Assist all come standard. On the passive side, eight airbags come standard. They include the front, knee, and side airbags for the driver; front cushion, and side airbags for the front passenger; and side curtain airbags for both rows of seats.

The NX scored an overall rating of five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Both the driver and front passenger frontal crash rating is four stars, while the side impact rating is five stars for both rows. Rollover risk is listed at four stars.

Pricing

Lexus NX200t – Driven

The 2016 Lexus NX200t carries a base price of $34,965. Opting for the AWD NX200t pushes the price to $36,365. For those wanting more sport, the NX200t F Sport starts at $37,065 while its AWD partner starts at $38,465. If saving fuel is the goal, the NX300h hybrid starts at $39,720 for the FWD model and $41,310 for one with AWD.

My tester ranks near the bottom of the list, being the NX200t with FWD and without the F Sport package. However, it came with a bevy of optional equipment. The list includes the Qi wireless charger ($220); Auto-dimming rearview mirror ($125); Navigation package ($1,875); auto-dimming outside mirrors with Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic, Reverse Tilt, and heat and memory functions ($660); Intuitive Parking Assist (500); and the Premium Package which include 18-inch wheels, heated and cooled front seats, LED Daytime Running Lights, moonroof, memory-power seats, and power-operated steering column ($2,890).

Add in the $940 for destination, and the grand total comes to $42,075.

Competition

BMW X1

BMW X1

The X1 is BMW’s attempt at grabbing crossover buyers and injecting some driving pleasure into their lives. At least that’s the idea. The X1 does have a transversely mounted four-cylinder – something not traditionally a BMW thing – but does come standard with AWD. It might be straying away from BMW’s roots, but the X1 is designed with large sales volumes and high profits in mind.

The X1 currently offers one engine choice: a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. The engine makes 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Power is distributed to all four wheels via an intelligent AWD system and computer-controlled clutch in the rear differential.

Prices for the X1 start at $34,800 and go north with added options.

Audi Q3

Audi Q3

Audi’s entry into the cute ‘ute segment looks a lot like its other offerings. The Q3 is currently the smallest crossover in the Audi lineup and compete head-on with the X1 and NX. Like the BMW and NX, the Audi’s engine is transversely mounted. Audi offers a FWD-only version, though the venerable quattro AWD system is optional and recommended. Power from the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder sits at 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic does the shifting.

Prices for the Audi Q3 start at $33,700 and grows with options.

Conclusion

Lexus NX200t – Driven

The Lexus NX is a likeable little crossover that combines small outward dimensions with a luxurious cabin with plenty of space for five. For those spending time in cramped cities yet still want the high-riding feel of a crossover, perhaps mixed with the added capabilities of AWD or a hybrid system, the NX delivers in spades. What’s more, its price point – at least before any options – is highly competitive.

The NX will surely help Lexus appeal to younger buyers who have money and influence, but don’t want a massive SUV or traditional luxury sedan. The NX provides that happy middle ground. Lexus couldn’t have better timing with the NX, either. The compact crossover market is exploding these days, with sales continuing to dominate.

Lexus’ aggressive styling might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it certainly stands out. For some luxury-buying folks, that might be just the ticket.

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