SEVERAL years ago, I often struggled to get my head around people who opted for SUVs instead of a better-driving estate but as my age advances, it isn’t hard to see why they do.
There are two causal factors for that admittedly almighty U-turn: four-year-old Arthur and little Mia, whose first birthday is fast approaching. Parents simply want their kids wrapped up in the tough, protective metal cocoon SUVs enable like nothing else this side of a military tank.
As time goes on, 4x4s feel decidedly better to drive, too - gone are the days of early Audi Q7s seemingly having their steering wheels disconnected from the front wheels. SUVs might have continued their growth spurt, but they’re clever, more economical than ever and feel much smaller whilst on the move.
Lexus’ largest - the RX - represents a pretty good attempt at diverting customers away from Europe’s most prestigious brands but the smaller NX is the better car. It’s also benefitted from a mid-life nip and tuck, one that’s brought about an ultra-modern look and a transformed interior.
The market it’s entering is a little congested, however, with crowd-pleasing favourites like the Range Rover Evoque, Volvo XC40 and Jaguar E-Pace remaining at the top of their game.
However, in its new guise, the NX350h is now a genuine contender to that throne, and it’s all thanks to the work Lexus has done to boost its appeal. You see, the previous model had started to feel its age and with the Evoque and E-Pace’s recent refresh, there’s never been a more important time for a better NX.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given Lexus’ purple patch, the revised NX is a cracker. Through my eyes it’s the best looking in its class, and the interior - where it was perhaps lacking before - is now top notch thanks to plush materials and a giant new infotainment screen.
A green ‘EV’ emblem appears on the dash when you’re using electric power, but the hyper-sensitive throttle soon awakens the engine meaning it’s difficult to drive far in EV mode alone. The amalgamation of the two power forms is seamless, though - the NX shifts between them with ease and you’ll be hard pushed to tell when the changeover occurs as this is Lexus’ forte.
While plug-in hybrids might be becoming more prominent, the NX uses technology Lexus has perfected over the last decade and it’s better than ever in 2022. Plugging in can be a bit of a chore in my opinion, so the 350h’s 2.5-litre petrol engine and electric motor is the one I’d opt for. I’ve criticised regenerative braking systems - which recharge when you’re slowing down - but the NX’s pedal has none of the grainy feel you used to get on lesser, older models when the tech was pretty new. For a big car it’s pretty brisk, too - 60mph comes up in 7.7 seconds.
The larger 20-inch wheels that are standard on Takumi and F-Sport models ride comfortably at low speed and even potholes - the nemesis of most SUVs - don’t cause it to lose its composure and go all jelly-like. On a 200-mile journey to Wales, I got out feeling fresh as a daisy and this car, the F-Sport, gets adaptive sports suspension to tighten up its cornering ability.
One of the best things about the NX is its brilliant front seats. This might be a strange aspect to boast about, but they’re genuinely wonderful, both in look and comfort. The view ahead is much-improved as well; everything feels top drawer quality-wise and its interior is one of the main factors as to why the NX is now the class-leading choice.
Another must-have weapon in its armoury - boot space - is thankfully ample at 520 litres, and two fully-sized adults can easily be carried in the rear seats.
Starting from a touch under £40,000, there’s really very little to dislike about the NX350h. It’s much-changed, it’s much-improved and it has bags of quality. Finally it’s become the pick of the bunch.