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2021 Lexus NX 300h review: Prioritizing style and comfort

Although it arrived late to the compact luxury crossover scene as a 2015 model, the Lexus NX quickly became a segment staple. Since then, it has gone on to become one of Lexus’ best-sellers and was also one of the first in its class to offer an electrified variant. Is the NX still an attractive option despite its age? Let’s find out.

2021 Lexus NX 300h exterior

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It’s cold outside. Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

The NX was one of the first vehicles in Lexus’ lineup to feature the current design language. From the angular headlights and taillights to the once-controversial spindle grille, you won’t mistake it for a crossover from another brand. A coupe-like roofline gives the NX a low-slung look. Hybrid models are distinguished by blue Lexus badges, hybrid badges at the bottom of the rear passenger doors, and the 300h moniker. Our NX 300h Black Line Edition test car also gets black side mirror covers, a mesh grille pattern, dark 18-inch alloy wheels, and body-colored fenders.

2021 Lexus NX 300h interior

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Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

In typical Lexus fashion, the NX’s interior is impeccably built. Everything you interact with feels expensive and reassuringly solid. Buttons, knobs, and switches are satisfying to use thanks to their tactility. Our Black Line Edition test car’s F Sport front sport seats are soft yet supportive, holding you in place nicely during evasive maneuvers. Even the rear seats have generously padded cushions and seat backs.

Due to the NX’s swoopy styling, interior volume and visibility take a hit. The angular rear end cuts into cargo capacity, minimizing the amount of usable space even with the rear seats folded. The narrow side and rear windows create significant blind spots especially when looking to the right or through the rearview mirror. While the cabin is well-insulated from wind buffeting, there are noticeable amounts of road and tire noise on the highway.

Tall passengers will feel cramped inside the NX because of the low roofline. Your hair will be close to or brushing the headliner while your line of sight sits at the top edge of the windshield. The front seats and the steering wheel could use more adjustability so that consumers of above-average height can find a better seating position. You get good legroom in the back but headroom remains tight. The seatbacks recline for additional flexibility but don’t expect it to compensate for the intimate interior packaging.

2021 Lexus NX 300h tech features

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Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

The 2021 NX’s uses an older version of Lexus’ interface featuring nice graphics on the standard 8.0-inch screen and minimal submenus. Using the touchpad requires a lot of attention because of its inconsistent responses. Even with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, the system is cumbersome because your inputs don’t always get registered. Some of the climate controls are also split, meaning you need to go into the display to access certain functions like the Eco and recirculate settings. The base eight-speaker audio system is acceptable but requires turning up to high volumes to achieve clear sound.

Lexus’ Safety System+ 2.0 driver assistance suite is standard on all 2021 NX models and works without bringing much attention to itself. Lane-keeping assist isn’t overly intrusive and its centering function applies steering inputs gently when you start drifting around. Adaptive cruise control is calibrated conservatively, which is ideal because of the NX 300h’s 4,180-pound curb weight. Braking early, providing additional distance, and accelerating more cautiously when the vehicle ahead moves away give you room for emergency maneuvers.

2021 Lexus NX 300h driving impressions

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Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

Lexus uses an older version of Toyota’s hybrid system in the 2021 NX 300h. This iteration couples a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with two electric motors, a nickel-metal-hydride battery, and a planetary gear set. The total system output is 194 hp. Smooth power delivery and immediate throttle response add to the car’s relaxed character. Unfortunately, acceleration remains leisurely due to the NX’s two-ton curb weight. You’ll need to plan your passes at highway speeds, especially going uphill.

The rest of the NX 300h’s driving experience is pleasant. Even with the F Sport suspension, the crossover keeps harsh impacts out of the cabin. You feel more of the road while retaining the trademark Lexus levels of comfort. Although it’s not sporty, the NX 300h possesses good body control. Together with accurate steering, the car turns in confidently; you know exactly what the front wheels are doing and where it’s going.

Both electric motors do a great job at slowing you down while recharging the battery quickly. Transitions between regenerative and mechanical braking are nearly imperceptible in most driving situations. However, you can tell the NX has an older hybrid setup during emergency stops because the hand-offs get slightly grabby.

2021 Lexus NX 300h pricing

The 2021 Lexus NX 300h starts at $41,185. Our test car is the NX 300h Black Line Edition, which gets additional extras like blue contrast stitching, F Sport seats trimmed in NuLuxe leatherette upholstery, a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, an F Sport suspension, and F Sport floor mats. All told this example costs $47,835.

Final verdict

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Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

You’ll find the traditional Lexus virtues in the 2021 Lexus NX 300h wrapped in a compact package. It has the foundations for a compelling follow-up, especially in the age of electrification. Between its smoothness, agreeable road manners, and impeccable build quality, the NX has most of the bases covered. If Lexus can address the current car’s weaknesses, especially the interior packaging, the NX would easily become a strong proposition, especially with the brand’s hybrid expertise and reputation for reliability.

At a glance

  • Year: 2021
  • Make: Lexus
  • Model: NX 300h
  • Trim: Black Line Edition
  • Type: 4-door luxury compact crossover
  • Combined horsepower: 194 hp
  • MPG ratings (city/highway/combined): 33/30/31
  • Pros: Excellent fit and finish, smooth ride
  • Cons: Underpowered hybrid system, tight interior
  • Base: $41,185
  • Price as tested: $47,835
Written by Stefan Ogbac
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