CROSSOVER SUVs are big business in Australia and it is hardly surprising that Lexus is not content to let the Germans do all the running.
What is surprising is that it took a brand familiar with luxury SUVs so long to venture into the smaller, more affordable models.
But now that they have made an appearance, they have done so with a bang. The NX 200t, Lexus's most tangible SUV in more than a quarter of the century, follows hot on the heels of the hybrid NX 300h, and its combination of luxury, comfort and performance is expected to cause a stir.
Lexus has upped the game in the luxury stakes and although the interior of the 200t does not match the exterior for boldness, it does offer a cabin that is well thought out, well-equipped and definitely well made.
The protruding console does infringe on room, but the materials used and fit and finish are hard to fault.
Front seats are among the best in the game, supportive and comfortable, with enough to hug you in should the need arise.
The rear pew has its merits, too, although tricky seat-belt placings and a decidedly sloping roof suggests it is best for two, not three, and two children at that.
Storage options are nifty, cup holders sensibly sized, and the wireless phone charging pad is a nice touch.
The raised boot floor doesn't help luggage room but it does sit flush with the opening allowing for easy loading and unloading.
On the road
The NX 200t is based on the underpinnings of the Toyota RAV4 but is a completely new creature inside and out.
Under the bonnet is Lexus's first turbo engine, a 2.0-litre unit that offers more power with less emissions. It is paired with a six-speed auto transmission, which, while intuitive and competent enough, often feels short of the eight or nine-speed examples favoured by competitors.
The suspension, changed considerably for this luxury Lexus, is quite firm, meaning there is unexpected harshness on bumpier patches, with the SUV battling to pull it together if one bump makes way for two or three in a row.
It is capable around corners without being outwardly sporty and changes direction easily enough, but push it harder and it doesn't take much for the stability control to spring into action.
There is also some lag on take-off and up steeper inclines but that is soon remedied as the NX 200t picks up speed and doesn't really deter from an overall enjoyable ride.
What do you get?
There are no option packages available, so essentially what you see is what you get. And what you get is a whole lot of equipment for a premium price point.
Heated and cooled front seats, sat-nav, rear view camera, front and rear parking sensors, LED headlights, 14-speaker audio system, automatic tailgate, radar cruise control, heads-up display, keyless entry, sunroof and leather trim were just some of the offerings in our top-of-the-range Sports Luxury.
Electronic safety features included controlled braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning and forward collision warning.
Lexus claims an average fuel consumption of 7.7l/100km. Our mix of trips, which erred on the shorter side, saw that figure jump by more than a litre more, not class-leading obviously but not too bad either.
This is one of the fastest growing segments in this country and luxury competitors include the BMW X1 xDrive28i ($63,100), Land Rover Discovery Sport ($59,000), Audi Q3 ($56,500) and the Mercedes-Benz GLA ($57,900).
Ride height and space on offer are always tempting factors with SUVs of this kind and let's face it luxury and performance don't hurt either.
The technology and equipment levels in the NX 200t are rather pleasing but the control functions for the infotainment system can be fiddly to operate and you can't make a call using the Bluetooth system unless stationary, which is annoying.
This NX 200t is all angles and lines. If Lexus wanted to make a statement and cast off the conservative tag, then they have certainly taken a leap here.
It is easy to like the NX 200t with its defined exterior, luxurious interior and superior safety suite. It is a nice drive, too, not outstanding mind you, but definitely competent enough to offer up an interesting package both to Lexus lovers and converts to the brand.
What matters most
What we liked: Quality interior, excellent inclusions, top-notch safety package
What we'd like to see: More intuitive multimedia system, a less bumpy ride, perhaps an 8-speed transmission.
Warranty and servicing: 4year/ 100,000km warranty but no fixed-price servicing.
Model: Lexus NX 200t Sports Luxury
Details: Five-door all-wheel drive small medium SUV.
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol generating maximum power of 175kW @ 4800rpm and peak torque of 350Nm @ 1650- 4000rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed auto
Consumption: 7.7 litres/100km combined
Bottom line: From $72,500 (Sports Luxury AWD), 2WD Luxury from $52,500.
Driving experience 15/20
Features and equipment 17/20
Functionality and comfort 17/20
Value for money 16/20
Style and design 17/20
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.