Drop by Lexus’ website and the first image to pop onto the screen shows an impeccably groomed, thirtysomething man walking briskly in front of the luxury brand’s newest model, the NX 200t. He’s not the sort of man people normally associate with Lexus, a nameplate that brings to mind an older demographic. But he and the 200t are a perfect fit.
New for 2015, the 200t is based on Toyota’s popular RAV-4, a compact sport-utility vehicle. It’s more refined and much more radically styled, with sharp creases and curves in places where the RAV-4 is garbed in relatively straightforward sheet metal. There’s a price to be paid for style and panache, however; the RAV-4’s cargo capacity is a whopping 17 cubic feet more than the 200t’s.
Lexus started reaching out to a younger crowd nine years with the IS compact sedan. The NX 200t and hybrid 300h represent a logical next step into the compact SUV line. These models cost less than comparable models from the likes of Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar, but are exceptionally well-equipped and hold their value. They’re also among the most reliable vehicles on the planet.
Our Meteor Blue Mica NX 200t’s sticker price was $44,148 from a base price of $35,800. It featured a 2.0-liter turbocharged 235-horsepower Four, 6-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. Standard features on this model include a rear backup camera, satellite radio, dual-zone automatic climate control, 10-way power driver’s seat, push-button start and autodimming rear-view mirror. Our test car had more than $8,000 worth of options – among them, navigation system, blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, power moonroof, power tailgate and leather heated steering wheel.
The 200t is engaging to drive and delivers smooth, consistent power in sport mode. (Acceleration is leisurely in normal and economy modes.) The suspension accentuates road feel rather than comfort, but few would judge the ride harsh. The seats are comfortable, and the quality of materials and assembly is predictably impeccable.
While the 200t falls short of its Toyota cousin in cargo room, it accommodates rear-seat passengers well. Even six-footers have enough head room and knee room. Few of the compact SUVs we’ve driven are as rear-passenger-friendly as the 200t.
The only feature we didn’t like was the Enform remote, which functions like the mouse pad on a laptop computer and is placed in the center console at the driver’s right hand. We prefer the big, console-mounted dials used by German manufacturers. Using the touchpad on the highway proved distracting. Fortunately, conventional versions of the major controls, such as radio tuning, are provided.
The 200t is rated at 22 mpg city, 28 highway – decent numbers for a compact SUV, but premium unleaded gasoline is required. The higher-priced hybrid 300h is rated at 35 mpg city, 31 highway.
The NX is rated a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and received an overall 5-star rating in government crash tests.
Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
Engine: 2-liter turbocharged inline Four, 235 horsepower, 258 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic
Weight: 3,940 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, double-wishbone rear
Wheels: 18-in. Alloy (optional)
Tires: 225/60R18 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 17.7 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 54.6 cu. ft.
Maximum towing capacity: 2,000 lb.
Fuel capacity: 15.9 gallons
Fuel economy: 22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway
Fuel type: premium unleaded gasoline