Eye of the beholder. There are some people who believe SUVs are inherently ugly – hatchbacks on stilts, with ungainly proportions. To them, we would suggest a quick look at a 2023 Lexus NX in light metallic paint. Light catches the doors intriguingly, while the elevated stance combines effectively with chunky elements like those rear light clusters and wraparound light bar. A goatee grille adds a purposeful but not overly aggressive nose, and from some angles, this is a disarmingly handsome vehicle.

Inside, things are less dynamic but still highly effective. The standard 9.8-inch touchscreen is integrated into the dash rather than stuck on top of it, but it can be upgraded to a widescreen 14-inch affair which adds real drama to the cabin; both are canted towards the driver for ease of use. Cabin materials are rather monotonous but of typical Lexus quality, and there are welcome points of interest like the infotainment bezel zigzagging down into the transmission tunnel. Every button and dial feels like a quality item, though the 14-inch infotainment setup replaces some physical climate controls with inferior on-screen alternatives.

Comfort over dynamics. The NX’s interior quality extends into its synthetic leather seats, with the real thing a cost option. These are power adjusted and well bolstered up front, while comfort is further augmented by a refined ride. The fitment of adaptive dampers on the F Sport ensures even the 20-inch wheels fitted to higher models remain unflustered in contact with ridges and bumps.

The cost of this refinement is paid by spongy driving dynamics. The NX leans more in corners than rivals like the Mazda CX-5, while numb steering makes a series of tight corners a chore rather than a pleasure. Despite its suspension trickery, even F Sport models aren’t worthy of their name, though at least performance is better than the rather underwhelming 2.5-liter engine fitted to base NX 250 models.

The NX 350 uses a smaller turbocharged unit to generate 275 hp, sharing its sibling’s eight-speed automatic transmission. By contrast, the 350h hybrid uses a woolly CVT box alongside the 2.5-liter engine and an electric motor, achieving 39 mpg on the combined cycle. The non-hybrid 2.5 manages 28 mpg in both FWD and AWD guises, while the 350 achieves an underwhelming 25 combined.

2022 Lexus NX Interior

Generous equipment. What the NX lacks in driving dynamics, it makes up for in terms of creature comforts. Even the base trim comes with a 9.8-inch touchscreen with wireless smartphone mirroring, a ten-speaker audio system, synthetic leather trim, and 18-inch alloy wheels, all for less than $40,000 if you can live without AWD. Spending a further $3,050 on the Premium package introduces features like ventilated front seats, self-parking, and a tailgate that opens if you waggle a foot underneath it.

Prices climb quite steeply from thereon in, with a head-up display and Mark Levinson stereo system taking the NX’s price perilously close to the $50,000 mark. Plump for the 450h+ hybrid, and you’ll get little change from $63,000. However, you don’t need to venture beyond the cheapest model to benefit from traffic-detecting automatic emergency braking, road sign recognition, and adaptive cruise control with active lane control. While the NHTSA has yet to smack an NX into a steel beam, the IIHS was impressed enough to give it a top score.

Not the most practical SUV. Compared to spacious and space-efficient competitors like Genesis’s GV80, the NX falls well short of the SUV class best. There’s plenty of space for two in the rear providing they’re not too tall, but the third seatbelt is something of a red herring. The trunk doesn’t provide much compensation for this relatively cramped rear, with 22.6 cubic feet of space doubling when the rear seats are dropped. One small consolation is that the hybrid batteries don’t eat into the load space as they do on some rivals.

Final thoughts. It’s hard not to see the NX as something of a missed opportunity. We know it’s the second smallest model in the Lexus SUV lineup, and therefore can’t be expected to offer seven seats or minivan-style practicality. Yet the cramped rear bench and underwhelming cargo space are so much less than you’d expect to find below that elegantly chunky bodyshell. It’s also impossible to ignore the soggy driving dynamics – this is a far better vehicle to be driven in than it is to drive. And if all you want is a premium hybrid, the Toyota RAV4 Prime offers the same powertrain (and many other shared oily bits) for considerably less money.

To buy the NX, then, you need to be sold on its positives. Fortunately, it does have some, starting with that handsome styling and a premium cabin which has plenty of wow factor if you add in the 14-inch touchscreen. A healthy warranty is very unlikely to be used, given Lexus’s reputation for bombproof reliability, and your passengers will relish the ride quality and general refinement. Fuel economy is decent (especially so in the hybrid), and safety is a given. As a comfortable, safe, and dependable runaround for a family of four, the NX is a strong contender.

Check prices for the 2023 Lexus NX »