Not your everyday CUV and not your everyday Lexus

2016 Lexus NX 200t F Sport Review

Lexus' small, sporty CUV delivers a unique approach

By: Wade Thiel

Web2Carz Senior Staff Writer

Published: March 25th, 2016

Lexus went from being a boring brand to taking some serious risks, at least in the styling department. Lexus is seriously interested in making their vehicles stand out and a lot of the time that ends up making them, well, a little peculiar and polarizing. That brings us to the NX 200t, a much-needed car for Lexus that fills the small CUV segment with its non-cookie-cutter approach to a very competitve group that includes the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Acura RDX and the Mercedes-Benz GLC Class. Even at non-luxury levels, most automakers see the need to fill this segment with at least one model because sales are climbing, and anyone missing the boat will be sorely remiss.

Lexus didn't write the playbook on small luxury CUVs, but its attempt is a noticeable one. They took a no-holds-barred approach on the interior and exterior styling and crafted a car that will never generate feelings of neutrality in anyone who sees it. What we attempted to find out in our test of this new Lexus entry was whether or not it was convincing enough to warrant serious consideration as a contender. Thankfully, Lexus saw fit to offer one in F Sport trim for the more spirited driver. We took one for a week-long spin recently and put it through the wringer.

  • Driving Impressions

    The first thing we noticed when driving the Lexus NX 200t F Sport was its respectable handling and its quick steering. The NX is actually a fun car to drive despite the fact that it's based on the less adventurous and more pedestrian Toyota RAV4. You sit up high and can see well. You have a decent amount of power, moderate quickness, and responsive steering. Just be careful during hard acceleration, because the torque steer will tug at your hands, and the heaviness of the front end (59% of the weight) is noticeable when you push the car hard.

    The NX 200t isn't nearly as fun to drive as the much less expensive Mazda CX-5, but it does deliver more driving entertainment than most CUVs on the market. We think Lexus wanted more image chutzpah than pulse-quickening adrenaline, and they delivered. No owner will push this car really hard through turns, and it won't win any autocrosses, but it will surely do more than just take you from A to B.

    • Ride Quality: F Sport suspension doesn't sacrifice comfort. You get a ride that's a good balance between firm and soft, just right for this segment.
    • Steering: A little heavier than we expected, but it has a good amount feel and the leather-wrapped steering wheel feels nice in your hands.
    • Acceleration: Quick but not really fast. Torque steer can catch you off guard, which encourages you to keep both hands on the wheel at all times.
    • Braking: At times, the brakes felt a bit grabby, but after getting used to the pedal feel, we were able to adjust accordingly.
    • Handling: There is some body roll through in turns, and the car's balance is front-heavy, provding less than confident hard cornering.

  • Technology & Safety

    For such a radically designed car that's supposed to be ahead of the game, we can't help but wonder why the infotainment system seems so antiquated and diffciult. Lexus can't seem to make up its mind when it comes to user input for its blue and black infotainment system. The screen's colors seem drab, and the font and icons seem far too dated to be attractive.

    While the NX 200t F Sport's Remote Touchpad may be well-liked by some people, we found it finicky and cumbersome. We did like the G-force and turbo-boost displays that can appear between the adjustable gauges, but ended up flipping to a screen that wasn't always changing because we wanted to do nothing but stare at the little screen and watch the numbers and stats as we drove (we do not recommend this - dangerous).

    • Infotainment Screen Size/Quality: The 7-inch high resolution display is well placed and easy to see. We like that it could be split three ways so you can view navigation, music and other information simultaneously.
    • Bluetooth Phone Pairing: Pairing your iPhone and Android to the NX is simple thanks to Siri Eyes Free. The car finds your phone automatically once the process has been completed.
    • Sound Quality: Phone calls were clear and crisp. We experienced no issues.
    • Controls: The Remote Touchpad could use some work, it's like a poor quality laptop touchpad that vibrates. Cursor movement on the screen lacks precision.
    • Gauges: The gauges are crisp and easy to read with traditional and handsome large analogue versions front and center. The center screen between the tach and speedo allow you to toggle through important and entertaining data, including the G-force and turbo-boost measurements mentioned above.
    • Safety: Back-up camera, 8-airbags: driver front, knee and side; passenger front, cushion and side; side cushion come standard.

  • Exterior Design & Styling

    Lexus has totally kicked its safe and boring looks by utilizing the spindle grille and tons of creases and curves on just about all of its new vehicles. This is especially true for the NX 200t F Sport. It has a lot of creases and bulges all working together to make what is actually a rather pleasing vehicle to look at, especially in a segment dominated by vehicles that aren't very dramatic.

    The body creases in the profile are a bit more conservative than the front and rear of the car, and that makes the overall design a little bit more resolved. It's a bit sleeker than the RX, and though the aesthetic is just as dramatic as the RX, it's slightly less pricey looking but no less daring.

    • Front: Lexus' spindle grille is displayed prominently on the nose gets the black F Sport treatment and look far more attractive than the base NX 200t's horizontal crossbars. In F Sport trim, the Nike-swoosh-like LED running lights. look right, as does the more resolved lower portion of the fascia, which has added thickness, aluminum-like trim and deeper set foglights.
    • Rear: Despite the use of a lot of horizontal lines, the NX 200t still looks very thick from the back. The very busy taillights are a challenge visually. At least it's distinct.
    • Profile: The overall shape from the side view is a handsome one with a well-proportioned greenhouse that actually looks better than its bigger brother RX's floating roof. Black fender trim and black side mirrors complement the darkened double-spoke wheel and add a nice aggressive touch..

  • Driver and Passenger Comfort

    We had our doubts as to how comfortable the NX 200t F Sport would be, but as soon as we sat down, most of those negative feelings were put to rest. The perforated leather seats lean more towards being well-bolstered than plush and are for the most part comfortable. While there is a lot of room up front, the back might be a little cramped for taller passengers.

    The heated seats function well, and the steering wheel actually heats up all the way around - something that can't be said for all vehicles with the feature.

    • Front Seats: 10-way adjustable for the driver and 8-way adjustable for the passenger. The lumbar support hits a little high on the seat back, which works fine for taller drivers, but annoying for anyone shorter than average height.
    • Rear Seats: A reasonable amount of space in the back, but you should try to reserve the back seats for shorter passengers.
    • Visibility: Forward visibility is not an issue and looking through turns is easy. Rear visibility could be improved -- sacrificed for the more adventurous styling -- without the help of the rearview camera and automatically tilting passenger side mirror it, would be more difficult.

  • Storage and Cargo Room

    The NX 200t F Sport is by no means cavernous, but it gets the job done for shorter trips. If you're in the market for a small CUV with good cargo space, the NX 200t is not the one you'd choose, but what you get in exchange is a car with style. Small binnacles and storage compartments are part of the sacrifice. Though we wouldn't call the cargo section diminutive, it lacks the space to carry a lot of stuff on weekend trips, and you have to choose your items carefully.

    • Storage: Plenty of little cubbies and shelves for small and medium sized items. The door pockets aren't huge but are deep enough to hold some gear. The odd removable mirror right in front of the armrest seems like an afterthought.
    • Trunk/Cargo Room: Cargo room is decent at around 17 cubic feet and can be expanded to around 54 cubic feet with the seats folded. Don't look to take long trips with a lot of gear unless you have a roofbox.

  • Final Impressions: The NX is a Sporty and Fun Odd Duck

    Funky exterior, weird storage compartments, frustrating infotainment controls, strong torque steer. With those four things in mind, you might think we'd tell you not to go near the NX 200t F Sport, but it carves out its own unique niche in this growing small CUV segment by providing daring styling and a youthful aesthetic to a once stodgy brand. It won't suit sporting drivers, nor will it please those wanting true luxury.

    What it does well is strike a balance between the two while providing a healthy dose of personality. The more we drove it the more we liked it. While the remote touchpad never grew on us, nor did the limited space, the overall comfort and sport-like driving experience did. After spending a few days in the Lexus CUV, it doesn't feel so alien. Once you figure out the driving characteristics (which really only took one short drive) you start to trust it and can have some serious fun with the unique, peppy little crossover.

  • Price & Specifications

    Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder

    Transmission: 6-speed automatic with manual shift mode and paddle shifters

    Drivetrain Layout: Front engine, front-wheel drive

    Power Output: 235 horsepower, 258 lb-ft of torque

    Fuel Economy (mpg): 22 city / 27 highway

    Base Price: $38,365

    As Tested: $46,440 (incl. $940 delivery fee)

    Standard Features: Location-Specific Tire Pressure Monitoring System, 8 Airbags- Driver: Front, Knee & Side (3); Passenger: Front, Cushion & Side (3); Side Curtain (2), Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) & Brake Assist, Vehicle Theft-Deterrent System, Lexus Enform Safety Connect: Automatic Collision Notification, Stolen Vehicle Location, Emergency Assist Button (SOS), & Enhanced Roadside Assistance (1-year trial subscription included), Backup Camera, 8-speaker Lexus Display Audio System, HD Radio w/iTunes Tagging and Real-Time Traffic & Weather, USB iPod/MP3 Control, Sirius XM Satellite Radio, Auto Dual Zone Climate Control Sys w/Rear Vents, Driver Seat: 10-way Power (including 2-way Lumbar), Passenger 8-way Power Manual Tilt-and-Telescopic Steering Column, SmartAccess Entry System w/ Push Button Start/Stop, 4.2" Full Color Multi-Information Display with Driving Information Audio &Outside Temp Display, Electrochromic (Auto-Dimming) Inside Rear View Mirror Carpeted Floor Mats, F SPORT Features: Sport-Tuned Suspension, F SPORT NuLuxe Seats, Metallic Sport Trim, Perforated Leather Trimmed F Sport Steering Wheel w/ Paddle Shifters, Cornering Front Fog and Driving Lamps, Premium LED Daytime Running Lights F SPORT Door Scuff Plate, Active Sound Control, 18" F Sport Wheels with All-Season Tires(225/60R18).

    Options on our test vehicle: Qi-Compatible Wireless Charger, Electrochromic (Auto-Dimming Inside Rear View Mirror and Lexus Homelink Garage Door Opener, F SPORT Tuned Suspension, Front Performance Rod, LED Headlamps without Auto High Beams, Navigation Package Includes: Remote Touch Interface, Lexus Enform Remote Lexus Enform Destination, App Suite, 10-speaker Lexus Premium Sound System, electrochromic (Auto-Dimming) Outer Mirrors with Blind Sport Monitor (BSM), Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Reverse Tilt, Heated, Memory, Pre-Collision System w/All-Speed Cruise Control, Premium F SPORT Package: Heated Front Seats, Power Tilt & Slide Moonroof, Memory: Power Tilt/Telescopic Steering Column, Power 10-Way Driver Seat included Lumbar Support, Heated Perforated Leather Trimmed Steering Wheel with Paddle Shifters, Drop Ship Fleet, Courtesy Delivery Sticker.

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