In the world of crossovers, Lexus covers all the bases. The 2020 Lexus NX slots in between what we think of as subcompact and compact CUVs. The NX is somewhat unique in that respect, and its size provides an additional reason for considering it. Other reasons — such as reliability, build quality and pleasant driving experience — are Lexus staples.
That Lexus offers a hybrid model, the 300h, is another reason to shop this small CUV. The added fuel economy, in this instance, is compelling. Neither the 300’s turbocharged four-banger nor the 300h’s hybrid system delivers smile-inducing acceleration, but everything isn’t about performance.
At the risk of being redundant, we still view the Lexus Remote Touch interface as an exercise in frustration and the least appealing aspect of a Lexus vehicle.
What’s New for 2020?
Lexus added Android Auto capability and a power tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel across the NX lineup. To its standard Safety System+ 2.0, it added lane-tracing assist and road sign assist. See the 2020 Lexus NX models for sale near you
What We Like
- Excellent interior quality
- Generous rear legroom
- Reasonable starting price
- Available hybrid model
- Superior reputation for service and reliability
What We Don’t
- Small cargo area for the segment
- Distracting and frustrating Remote Touch interface
- Unremarkable turbo engine
The NX 300 has a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that produces 235 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard. All-wheel drive is optional. The estimated fuel economy is 22 miles per gallon in the city, 25 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg in combined driving. AWD adjusts those figures slightly to 22 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined. The AWD F Sport version is rated at 22 mpg city/27 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined.
In the hybrid-powered NX 300h, a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine combines with three electric motors for a total system output of 194 hp. Two of those electric motors are used to motivate the front and rear axles, creating a different sort of AWD that accomplishes the goal of improving poor-weather traction but isn’t suited to more demanding tasks. Fuel consumption is rated at 33 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/31 mpg combined. Plus, unlike the gas-only NX, it runs on regular fuel, reducing your fuel bill even more. (Its average annual gas cost is $650 less than the NX’s.)
Standard Features & Options
The 2020 Lexus NX comes in two versions differentiated by drivetrain: the gas-only NX 300 and the hybrid NX 300h. Lexus offers the 300 in Base, F Sport and Luxury trims. The hybrid is available in Base and Luxury trims. AWD is standard on hybrid models and is a $1,400 upcharge on other models. All prices include the $1,025 factory destination charge.
The NX 300 ($36,485) and the NX 300h ($39,270) come with virtually the same standard equipment, which includes 17-in alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights, LED fog lights, rear privacy glass, proximity entry and push-button start, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, lane-tracing assist, road sign assist, a rearview camera, power folding mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, 8-way power front seats (with driver lumbar adjustment), power tilt-telescopic steering wheel, NuLuxe simulated leather upholstery, 60/40-split reclining and folding back seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a cargo cover, one USB port, Bluetooth, in-car Wi-Fi, the Remote Touch tech interface (8-in display, center console touchpad controller) and an 8-speaker sound system with satellite radio, HD radio, a CD player, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a media player interface.
The NX 300 F Sport ($38,725) adds a sport-tuned suspension, 18-in wheels, special exterior and interior styling, front sport seats, different gauges and a special F Sport steering wheel. An adaptive suspension can be added as an option.
The NX 300 Luxury ($43,960) and 300h Luxury ($46,360) trims add 18-in alloy wheels, a power moonroof, front heated seats, rain-sensing wipers, memory settings for the driver’s seat and outboard mirrors, a navigation system, a 10.3-in touchscreen and blind spot monitoring.
Option availability depends on region, specifically regarding options that can be available as either standalone items or within packages. These packages are also not really available separately, as most are essentially added one atop another.
The Comfort package adds blind spot monitoring and heated and ventilated front seats. To that, the Premium package adds 18-in wheels, upgraded running lights and a sunroof. The Luxury package has all of the above plus automatic wipers, leather upholstery and a heated steering wheel.
One exception to this packaging hierarchy is the Navigation package, available by itself, which adds a 10.3-in display and integrated navigation to Remote Touch, two extra speakers and a variety of smartphone-based connectivity features. Other standalone features include a power lift gate, parking sensors and upgraded LED headlights.
The NX offers one of the most comprehensive selections of standard features in the segment. In addition to standard anti-lock brakes and stability, there are eight airbags (front, front-side, side-curtain, driver-knee, passenger under-seat) plus a rearview camera, forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane-tracing, road sign assistance and lane-keeping assist.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded the NX the maximum overall score of five stars, along with four stars for front impacts and five for side impacts. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the NX the best possible ratings in every crash protection and prevention category, as well as in those for headlights and child seat anchor ease of use.
Behind the Wheel
The NX provides a confident and secure driving experience, but it’s far from the sporty end of the spectrum. The F Sport adds some zest, but the ride can be a bit firm unless you opt for the adaptive suspension. In any case, competitors such as the Acura RDX, the BMW X1 and the surprisingly luxurious Mazda CX-5 offer a more memorable driving experience.
Also leaving a bit to be desired is the NX’s engine selection. The basic 4-cylinder offers tepid acceleration (standstill to 60 mph in seven seconds) and mediocre fuel economy. The hybrid, on the other hand, is one of the thriftiest vehicles in the segment and a great way to save some dough at the pump. However, it’s even slower than the turbo, reaching 60 mph from a standstill in a glacial nine seconds.
OK, so it isn’t the best to drive, but the NX should be praised for its interior. Strip away the sporty branding and this is yet another luxurious, comfortable Lexus SUV with meticulous build quality. Rear passengers are in for special treatment, as Lexus has managed to incorporate more legroom in the NX than many SUVs that are bigger on the outside. That comes at the expense of cargo capacity, however, which is among the smallest among compact luxury crossovers and much closer to cargo capacities of vehicles a segment below, such as the BMW X1 and the Volvo XC40.
Then there’s Lexus’ Achilles’ heel: the Remote Touch tech interface, which constantly frustrates and distracts.
Other Cars to Consider
2020 Acura RDX — All-new last year and significantly improved. Offers far more space for the money than the NX.
2020 Volvo XC40 — Like the X1, the new XC40 is closer in price and size to the NX. We love its style and thoughtfully designed cabin.
2020 Mazda CX-5 — It might not have a luxury badge, but believe us, in its top trims, the CX-5 is a luxurious, stylish and well-equipped small SUV that should seriously be considered alongside the NX.
The NX 300h might be a bit poky, but its fuel economy is exceptional for this segment and it’s estimated to save you about $650 per year compared to the turbocharged NX 300. If you don’t care about performance or sportiness (and if you do, the NX isn’t the best bet anyway), the hybrid is the way to go. Find a Lexus NX for sale