An exercise in compromise. While never a hot seller in its class, the 2021 Lexus NX has plenty to offer buyers who are willing to compromise in the name of savings.

It's got plenty of room up front, a classy interior design, and all the essential features one would expect from a sub-$40,000 crossover, but its tech is a bit dated and clunky. It also offers an adequate standard powertrain for its price point, but it falls far behind its slightly more expensive rivals.

The only places the Lexus NX stands out are its wild design, which may not always be a good thing, and thrifty hybrid.

Busy design, but Black Line offers a custom look. The NX has a bold design that grabs eyeball but may not age well. While its unique look is refreshing, some may find it a little too much in the luxury crossover space where timeless designs dominate.

Buyers who seek something a little less dramatic will find this in the BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class. There's also an excellent middle ground in the Acura RDX.

In 2021, the NX 300h hybrid gets a new Black Line model that adds a custom look to the lineup. The Black Line trim starts with the F Sport package and adds color-keyed overfenders, 18-inch dark sputter wheels, black leatherette seating, blue contrast stitching, unique floor mats, and more. It even includes a set of matching luggage. These are great additions, but at about $6,000 over the base MSRP, there's not much value in it.

Comfortable front seats, but tight everywhere else. Up front, the Lexus NX offers plenty of room and all-day comfortable seats with plenty of adjustments. When you add the F Sport package, the thrones gain even more bolstering, giving you a secure feel without impacting comfort.

The rear seats are comfortable, but leg room can be tight at just 36.1 inches. Plus, with the sunroof, rear head room can become a struggle for taller riders. The RDX, X3, and GLC all offer more rear leg room at 38 inches, 36.4 inches, and 37.2 inches, respectively.

The NX is equally tight in cargo room with 17.7 cubic feet with the rear row upright and 54.6 cubes with it folded. The RDX offers 29.5 cubic with the seats up and 58.9 with the seats lowered. The X3 offers 28.7 and 62.7 cubic feet, respectively.

The NX's standard interior tech is acceptable, as it features a standard 8-inch infotainment screen, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. The biggest compromise is the standard screen is smaller than the RDX, X3, and GLC-Class, but it's still an acceptable size and there's an optional 10.3-inch screen. Buyers can't opt out of the terrible infotainment interface, which is among the worst in the industry.

Lexus NX

Lacks top-line power, but hybrid makes up for it. The NX comes standard with a 235-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine. In a bubble, that sounds good, but it lacks power once you throw in the competition.

The RDX boasts a Honda Civic Type R-sourced 272-hp 2.0-liter. The X3 comes standard with a 248-hp 2.0-liter and has an optional 382-hp inline-six. Finally, the GLC boasts a standard 255-hp 2.0-liter engine, a V6-powered AMG GLC 43 with 385 hp, and a V8-powered AMG GLC 63 with 469 or 503 hp.

The NX makes up for its power shortcomings with a thrifty 300h hybrid model that pairs a 2.5-liter four-cylinder to two electric motors for 194 hp and an EPA-estimated 31 miles per gallon combined. Most other competitors offer no hybrid models in this class. BMW offers a plug-in X3 30e with an 18-mile all-electric range, 288 hp, and a 5.9-second 0-60 mph time, but it comes in at a hefty $50,595.

Final thoughts. With a relatively low price, loads of standard features, and a potent enough powertrain, the 2021 Lexus NX is a good option for most buyers. Those seeking a hybrid model will find even more value in buying the NX 300h.

Despite being a compact crossover, the NX still feels like a true luxury crossover in the front seats. The rear seats are a little tight, though. Buyers who haul adults or older kids in the rear seats may want to move up to the X3, RDX, or GLC-Class.

Buyers looking for a larger, easier-to-use infotainment system without paying a ton more can look to the RDX. If power is what you crave, the NX isn't your crossover. Look to the X3 and GLC for true performance options.

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