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2015 Lincoln MKC vs. 2015 Lexus NX: Which Is Better?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro June 2015

The compact-luxury-crossover segment is growing fast, and two of the latest entrants are the 2015 Lincoln MKC and the 2015 Lexus NX. Both went on sale within the last few months, and both offer the latest in technology, fuel efficiency, modern design and available equipment. But which one is better? To find out, we've created a detailed comparison of both crossovers, but first let's get a general overview of what you can expect from the all-new MKC and the NX.

2015 Lincoln MKC

Based on the Ford Escape, the all-new Lincoln MKC offers two available powertrains, a smooth, luxurious ride, front- or all-wheel drive (AWD) and many of the latest high-tech features and options. This isn't the type of old-fashioned car you might usually associate with Lincoln -- it's an all-new model and a serious competitor in the compact-luxury-crossover segment.

2015 Lexus NX

Like the MKC, the NX is completely new for the 2015 model year. In addition to bold styling that sets it apart from other Lexus models, the NX offers two powertrains -- including a hybrid variant -- and a lot of the latest technology, along with front- or all-wheel drive. Think of the NX as a smaller, bolder, more youthful version of the Lexus RX.

Reliability

Because the NX and MKC are so new, neither model has earned reliability ratings from the experts at J.D. Power, but we have high hopes for these two crossovers, since most Lincoln and Lexus products earn above-average scores in J.D. Power's reliability ratings. When it comes to warranty length, both the MKC and the NX offer the same coverage: 4 years or 50,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper protection and 6 years or 70,000 miles of powertrain coverage. As a result, it looks like there's no clear winner here -- though we're interested to see J.D. Power's reliability ratings before we decide for sure.

Fuel Economy

The MKC offers two engines. Base models use a 240-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which returns up to 20 miles per gallon in the city and 29 mpg on the highway with front-wheel drive or 19 mpg city/26 mpg hwy with AWD. Drivers who want more power can upgrade to a 285-hp 2.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which only offers AWD and reaches as high as 18 mpg city/26 mpg hwy.

The NX also offers two engines. Gas-powered NX 200t models feature a 235-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which touts up to 22 mpg city/28 mpg hwy with front- or all-wheel drive. Meanwhile, the hybrid-powered NX 300h offers a 199-hp hybrid 4-cylinder that offers up to 35 mpg city/31 mpg hwy.

Although the NX is our fuel economy champ, drivers who get a 2-wheel-drive version of either model won't notice any real difference in gas mileage. The Lexus offers better AWD fuel economy, while the NX 300h offers even more efficiency -- at a substantially higher price. It's worth noting that drivers who prefer performance to gas mileage will want to go with the Lincoln, as its 285-hp engine offers far more power than you can get from any NX.

Safety

In crash testing carried out by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the NX earned a perfect 5-star overall rating, while the MKC only earned 4 stars. The NX has earned an excellent Top Safety Pick+ score from the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), while the slightly newer MKC has not yet been tested by the firm.

By virtue of being brand-new vehicles, both the MKC and the NX offer all the latest safety equipment, including rear cross-traffic alert, forward-collision alert, blind spot monitoring systems, lane-departure warning and more. Both cars also offer a few unique items, such as Ford's MyKey system, which is helpful for parents to set parameters on teen drivers, and Lexus' Enform Safety Connect feature, which touts automatic crash notification, stolen-vehicle tracking and more. But for now, it looks like neither crossover has a clear advantage when it comes to safety, although we're interested to see whether the MKC can also snag a Top Safety Pick+ score from IIHS before we decide for sure.

Technology

Just like in our safety section above, the MKC and NX largely tie when it comes to technology because they're both brand-new models, which means they each have the latest and greatest when it comes to gadgets and features. Think adaptive cruise control, highly functional infotainment systems, a power lift gate, automatic wipers and more. Sure, the two models offer some unique features -- the Lincoln offers an automated parallel-parking system and a foot-activated rear lift gate, for instance, while the Lexus boasts available wireless phone charging and LED headlights. But generally speaking, these two crossovers are too close to call when it comes to technology.

Value

Although the MKC and the NX offer somewhat similar pricing, the NX comes in about $1,400 more expensive than the MKC without offering dramatically more equipment. The NX also offers less interior room and cargo space. We're especially dismayed by pricing of the hybrid-powered NX 300h, which touts a $5,300 premium over the regular model -- not worth it, in our minds, just to get the extra fuel economy.

So does the NX justify its $1,400 price premium over the MKC? We don't think it does. Both cars offer the latest in safety equipment and technology, along with excellent dependability, and while the NX offers slightly better gas mileage than its Lincoln counterpart, we're not sure it's enough to justify the premium. For some drivers, however, the Lexus name alone is worth the extra $1,400. For everyone else, the MKC offers a better value than its Lexus rival.

Autotrader's Advice

The 2015 Lexus NX and the 2015 Lincoln MKC are both highly competent compact luxury crossovers -- but we like the Lincoln more. Yes, it's true that they're similar in a lot of ways, including safety features, technology, reliability and warranty length. But the MKC boasts a few more gadgets we like, along with more available power, a lower base price and an infotainment system that's much easier to use. We also like the MKC's classic lines more than the NX's awkward styling, and the Lincoln offers far more cargo space and rear-seat room. We think the NX is a good crossover -- but if we were writing the check, we'd buy the MKC.

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2015 Lincoln MKC vs. 2015 Lexus NX: Which Is Better? - Autotrader