While American drivers are in the midst of a deep love affair with small crossovers, they're also enjoying consistently affordable fuel prices. Where does that leave the only small hybrid-powered crossover from a luxury brand, the Lexus NX 300h? Let's find out.

Pricing and Equipment

While a base Lexus NX 200t starts at $36,080 (including $995 in destination charges), ripping out the turbocharged four-cylinder in favor of a hybrid powertrain kicks the price up to $40,715. The NX 300h's standard all-wheel-drive system softens the blow, somewhat, since the arrangement automatically adds $1,400 to the price of a gas-only NX.

That leaves an $1,835 gap between a base, all-wheel-drive NX 200t and the NX 300h, which seems reasonable for a vehicle that boosts the turbo's so-so 22-mile-per-gallon city and 28-mpg highway ratings up to 33 city and 30 highway. That works out to a seven-mpg improvement in combined city/freeway driving for the 300h.

As for the NX hybrid's standard equipment, it shares the following with the gas-powered NX 200t.

  • 17-inch alloy wheels
  • LED headlamps
  • Push-button start with passive access
  • Power front seats
  • A power steering column
  • Eight-speaker stereo

On top of those features, Lexus has a healthy suite of option groups, ranging in price from the $345 Comfort Package, which is little more than a memory function for the NX 300h's seats, to the $4,545 Luxury Package. Despite being the priciest option pack in the catalog, we'd recommend this one because of the sheer breadth of equipment it brings to the table – wood trim, leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, heated/vented front seats, a powered rear hatch, and a moonroof.

The NX 300h matches a 2.5-liter gas engine with a trio of electric motors – one for the front wheels, one for the rear axle, and one to recharge the nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Total system output sits at 194 horsepower.

Performance Pros

Lexus NX 300h
  • The electric motors provide strong initial torque, giving the NX hybrid an eager personality in around-town driving.
  • The ride is surprisingly comfortable for such a small vehicle.
  • We expect good manners of a Toyota-built hybrid's continuously variable transmission, and the NX 300h's unit doesn't disappoint. Quiet, unobtrusive, and natural feeling.

Performance Cons

  • The NX 300h's initial punch wears off quickly as speeds increase, leaving the CUV feeling breathless under hard acceleration.
  • While the NX 300h's regenerative brakes are better than the stoppers on most hybrids, they're still difficult to modulate, particularly at slower speeds.
  • The 2.5-liter, four-cylinder gas engine gets a bit noisy when driving hard.

Interior Pros

  • Lexus' interior quality remains among the best on the market, even in its smallest crossover.
  • Comfortable, supportive seats help drivers chew up the miles.
  • Adequate second-row legroom and comfortable chairs are fine for a pair of adults.

Interior Cons

Lexus NX 300h
  • The touchpad-controlled infotainment system is distracting and too touchy.
  • Compared to the huge display in the latest RX, the NX's seven-inch infotainment display looks small and cheap.
  • The excellent sport seats from the NX 200t F-Sport aren't available on the hybrid model.

The Most Pleasant Surprise

The NX – and this goes for the entire range – feels bigger and more substantial on the road. There's a real sense of solidity and stability, even at freeway speeds. That's a rare trait in today's smaller CUVs.

The Least Pleasant Surprise

Starting at $40,000, the NX hybrid is already quite a bit more expensive than its competition. But add a few options, like the Navigation Package and Luxury Package, and it instantly cracks the $47,000 mark. That's a lot of cash for such a small CUV.

The Bottom Line

While pricy, Lexus' smallest hybrid crossover promises efficiency in a compact, semi-stylish package. While it's hard to justify in a world of cheap gas, should prices increase – and they always do – the NX 300h should the answer for owners looking to live the crossover life without the inherent economy sacrifices.