We are in a new era in the auto industry. Sedans have fallen out of favor, replaced by similar-sized crossovers. They’re practically everywhere. You can even call it an invasion. I’m not sure if it’s good or bad for the industry, but it’s what the consumer seems to want. This week I drove a luxurious version of one of these bubble crossovers, as I like to call them.

The 2017 Lexus NX is small, compact, but looks more like an SUV. Within this segment, the NX seems less rounded and bubbly than some of the other ones out there. There’s a good amount of styling. Lately, Lexus’s styling has moved from overly conservative to more aggressive. For the NX, that holds true.

EXTERIOR

The front end is bold with a large grille, something Lexus is now known for. Daytime running lights assume a Nike-looking swoosh which give the front-end distinction. A curvaceous style on the front quarter panel further adds to the front-end embellishment. The pronounced front end, helps give this crossover an elongated look, where it more looks like an SUV than a bubbly little crossover. The back end is pointed and angular with a rear spoiler to add to the sporty look. On looks, the Lexus NX200 is a head turner.

POWERTRAIN

One of the perks of these smaller crossovers is there compact size is conducive to fantastic handling. The Lexus NX is certainly no exception in that regard. This crossover has a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. It has 235 horsepower. That seems like a low number, but it’s quite punchy, and off the line it’s surprisingly quick. The six-speed automatic transmission is uninspiring and in need of an upgrade, but otherwise the NX’s performance is enjoyable. The small size makes for nimble cornering and agile handling. The NX has front-wheel drive standard, but all-wheel drive is an option. My tester had FWD.

INTERIOR

Inside, the not-so-conservative-anymore them continues. The NX has a hip, modern feel inside to match its vibrant, cool exterior. The five-passenger crossover has comfortable, leather clad front seats. The angle is supportive for the driver and offers a nice vantage point with minimal blind spots. There are blind spot monitors available. The back seat is small, but would fit two adults comfortably with enough headroom and good legroom. A third passenger would make for a cramped environment. Cargo room is also limited. There’s only 54.6 cubic feet of cargo room, which is near the bottom of the segment. Otherwise, the interior is high quality throughout and provides a nice quiet, luxurious ride.

The infotainment system is a work in progress. There’s now smart phone integration, but the touchpad system is not intuitive. The 4.2-inch touchscreen is slow to respond and uses a touchpad that is sensitive and not intuitive. It detracts from the driver to operate properly. This isn’t new for this model or model year, and has been a point of criticism in other Lexus vehicles too.

PRICING

There’s only one trim for the NX, which is good for the consumer. There’s a series of packages that can be added to the NX, which has a base price of $36,485. This is an attractive starting price point for a luxury brand a vehicle that has such distinction and quality touch points. My tester had the comfort package and the navigation package (which includes the frustrating touch pad). Final MSRP of my tester was $40,778, which is still lower than similar luxury crossovers.

FUEL ECONOMY

The FWD NX has an EPA rating of 22 mpg/city and 29 mpg/highway. In a week’s worth of driving, which included a long highway road trip, I averaged just over 25 mpg. This is decent fuel economy for a turbocharged crossover. There’s a hybrid version of this vehicle if fuel economy is the main point of contention.

As the market evolves and the carmakers listen to the consumer demand, vehicles like the NX continue to populate the roads. However, the NX really does stand out in this crowded field with distinctive looks and value-based interior luxury. Add a luxury badge from Lexus and it is a real contender in a very competitive segment.

SPECS

2017 Lexus NX200t

Price/As tested price………………….. $$36,485/$40,778

Mileage…………………………………… 22 mpg/city; 28 mpg/hwy

Engine……………………………………… 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder

Horsepower…………………………… 235 hp/258 lbs./ft.

Transmission…………………………… Six-speed automatic

Drive Wheels…………………………. Front-wheel drive

Final Assembly Point……………………. Fukuoka, Japan

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Jimmy Dinsmore

For several years Jimmy Dinsmore has reviewed new vehicles, offering up a unique look and an interesting voice in his weekly column. Jimmy looks at vehicles from the consumer’s point of view. Light on the technical jargon, and lacking the cynicism that pervades many other auto reviews, Driver’s Side treats each vehicle fairly, offering a light-hearted take. Email him at - [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @driversside.

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