If you’d told your single, pre-Dad self that he’d soon be lusting after a medium-sized family SUV rather than a two-door sports car or a big, shouty V8 sedan, he’d have probably thrown a beer over you, or at very least mocked you mercilessly.
Mid-sized SUVs are not bought by young people with thrusting social lives, but they are bought by just about everyone else on the planet, because it is one of the fastest growing segments, globally and in Australia.
If you must buy one of these utilitarian, practicality-over-purity workhorses, rather than a far sexier and enjoyable family car like a Mazda 6 (possibly because your partner insists on sitting higher off the ground), then you should at least aim for a pleasantly premium one, like the Lexus NX.
Not quite as posh as an Audi, Benz or BMW, the Lexus is also likely to cost you less in the long term, and to have fewer mechanical issues, because it is, basically, made by the vast and very reliable Toyota Corporation.
That doesn’t mean you miss out on a nice interior, or an excellent stereo, or design that’s cool enough that it won’t make you sad you’re a grown-up now every time you look at it, because it has all that.
And it can be yours from as little as $53,550.
Strap yourself in for the ride (getting the baby seat in)
The first thing you notice about the NX, after spending any time with one, is that it really is the Goldilocks of SUVs, which kind of makes it the Cinderella of the parenting ball. What this means is that it’s just the right size, with a medium-level hip point that’s just right for leaning in and out of, and that means getting the baby seat in, and shifting around other boosters and so on, can be done without feeling like you’re doing squats at the gym.
Nice big door apertures help, too, although the sexy, sharp design means they have more sharp corners than most, so watch out for that.
Am I going to hit my head on this roof every bloody time? (How easy is it to put a baby in the baby seat?)
No, once again, this NX is just the perfect size for such tasks, so unless you’re over seven foot tall, you’ll find this a breeze. There’s also plenty of room to move once you’ve got your torso in there, and plenty of room in general. I can sit behind my own driving position and feel like I’ve got more than ample leg room, and head room. It feels like a bigger bus than it is.
Will the Esky still fit in the boot (with the pram)?
This will depend on your Esky, but at 500-litres, the NX’s boot space is at the very mid-point of what’s practical. You’d like a bit more, but it’s probably exactly enough to get by. So a medium-sized Esky and a proper-sized pram should just about fit. It’s also easy to load, being, once again, just the right height at the rear, with a nice, flat loading floor.
Are there shutter-uppers installed?
Not in terms of screens, no, although the main screen on the dash does do a very Star Wars-like graphic dance of blue shimmering lights and streaking stars every time you start it, which somehow manages to fascinate children, even after the 100th time they’ve seen it. And there is one shutter-upper of a kind, the 14-speaker Mark Levinson stereo system (if they don’t have it in the spec you’re looking at, just pay more, you can’t live without this). The sound from this thing is so deep, pure and loud that you will be able to shut your kids up for a while by conducting sing-alongs using the crystal clear DAB radio. It’s that good.
Is it vom/milk/poo-proof?
While the leather in our NX smelled just as lovely as the really expensive stuff, it has just enough of a shiny sheen to it to make it easy to clean. Perfect.
Don’t make me pull this car over! (Can a parent reach back to soothe the baby?)
Yes, you can reach into the back to shove a dummy back towards a crying child (only while stopped, obviously), but only just. It’s more of a distance from the front seat to the rear of the back ones than you’d expect, but you can just about make it. Honestly, it’s a good compromise in size; not so big as to be impractical, but big enough that you won’t need to upsize until your kids are giants.
How’s the ride?
Before we get inside, it’s important to say what a striking looking car this is, so much so that you almost don’t feel bad for buying a family SUV. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but unlike past efforts from Lexus, the NX is far from boring.
There’s plenty to like about the interior as well, with a feeling, and a smell, of real quality and very comfortable seats front and back. From a family perspective, the sexy, sloping design of the dash is a bit of a problem because it leaves little room for vital oddment storage, which would get annoying.
There’s also a stupidly complex haptic-touch mouse pad to run all the car’s screens and systems, which very nearly caused me to profane in front of my children on many occasions. In the end, I just let my son run it, and even he soon tired of its fiddly nature.
Fortunately, while driving the software is a pain, driving the car itself is plenty of fun. The steering is easy to warm to, not too heavy and not too light, and better when you switch the little mode dial to Sport (leaving it in Eco makes you feel sluggish and slow, I just couldn’t do it).
Acceleration is also more sprightly in this mode, although with the base 2.0-litre engine we tried, making 175kW and 350Nm, it’s never going to blow your hair back (there are more expensive and faster models in the range). The six-speed auto is super smooth, though, and you can expect to arrive at 100km/h from a standing start in just over seven seconds.
Cruising with a family on board, it feels spacious, refined and quiet, until you turn up that fabulous stereo, and everything about it feels solid and built to last. And the ride quality is superb.
This really would make an excellent, premium family car that would last you and yours for many years, thanks to the spacious rear section.
It’s 106 miles to Chicago and we’ve got a full tank of gas – are we gonna make it? (fuel economy).
Thanks to the genius of its more expensive and cleverer hybrid engines, the more expensive models, with their bigger 2.5-litre engines (attached to batteries, in a Toyota Prius-type fashion) actually offer better economy than the smaller, 2.0-litre versions. A hybrid 300h NX will give you just 5.6 litres per 100km, while our normal 300 variant offers a still pretty handy 7.7 litres per 100km.
Cost of ownership
As well as the reassurance of Japanese quality (frankly you’d put more trust in it than the German version these days), your Lexus NX comes with a four-year or 100,000km warranty and, best of all the dealer will offer you a loan car during each service, or even pick up your vehicle from your house or workplace and return it when done. That’s service. Intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km and the first service is free.