Patrick Rall's picture

The 2016 Lexus NX200T F Sport: Great Things in a Small Package

The 2016 Lexus NX200T is the smallest of the luxury brand’s SUVs and one of the least expensive vehicles in the entire lineup, but don’t let that small stature and low price fool you – this compact SUV is offers the full Lexus luxury experience in a small, affordable package.

While the American luxury segment has traditionally focused on sedans and large SUVs, the desire to bring in new customers and the steady increase in popularity of small SUVs has led all of the higher end automakers to begin offering smaller, more affordable vehicles. Lexus has long been a leader in the luxury midsized SUV segment with their RX lineup, but with growing demand for vehicles smaller than the RX, Lexus rolled out the new NX lineup.

The Lexus NX in its base, front wheel drive form has a starting price of $34,965, making it the least expensive SUV in the brand’s lineup and the second least expensive vehicle overall, costing more than only the compact CT Hybrid. However, that low entry price and the compact nature of this sporty little SUV doesn’t stop the NX from offering all of the comfort and style of the larger Lexus sport utility vehicles.

The 2016 Lexus NX comes in three flavors – the NX200t, the NX200t F Sport and the NX300h. My test subject for this review was the NX200T F Sport with all-wheel drive and a long list of optional features, which carries a price of $45,214 when you factor in all of the destination fees and such. That is obviously a pretty hefty jump from the base price, but when you consider all of the features that you get for that price, the NX200t F Sport AWD is still one of the best bargains in the luxury segment.

The Exterior
Like the rest of the modern Lexus lineup, the 2016 NX200T F Sport proudly wears the “spindle grille” design along with the striking 2-piece headlight layout first introduced on the IS sedan. Those key features are found on every new NX, but my NX200T F Sport shown above also gets a unique mesh grille insert and a more aggressive chin spoiler along the bottom of the F Sport’s larger fog lights.

16 nx200t fr

While some people might complain that the NX200T looks like a bigger version of the IS sedan, I think that Lexus made smart move in basing the look of their most affordable SUV on their most popular and most affordable sedan. If you don’t like the face of the IS or the other modern Lexus models with the spindle grille, the odds are good that you aren’t going to like the NX200T, but I think that it is one great looking compact SUV that puts a ton of emphasis on the “Sport” part of the title.

Really, shy of the grille filler, the chin spoiler, the wheels and the badging, the F Sport package doesn’t add much in terms of exterior styling, which goes to show just how aggressively sporty the NX200T is in its basic form. While the company added a splash of chrome around the grille and around the windows to give it just a touch of luxury feel, this little Lexus is one mean looking sport utility vehicle and I love the design from front to back – especially in the striking Ultrasonic Blue Mica.

The Interior
While the 2016 Lexus NX200T F Sport is a great looking compact SUV from the outside, the real story is the cabin. When shopping some luxury automakers, the least expensive compact SUV in their lineup is often, sadly, stripped of some of the high end goodies that you would expect from a luxury brand. These types of vehicles are often designed and priced to bring in new, younger buyers with smaller budgets with the idea that once they drive the less expensive model for a while – they will be able to afford and justify the price of the bigger models. To achieve these low price points, some companies will omit some of the more premium features, but unless you step up to Lexus’ most expensive vehicles – there aren’t a great many features from the larger vehicles that you can’t get in the NX200T F Sport.

16 nx200t seats

As soon as you open the door of the 2016 Lexus NX200T, you are greeted by one of the best features of the F Sport package – the racy looking leather seats. These seats are heated, cooled and have power controls (of course), but more importantly, these seats have deep thigh and back bolsters, providing the same kind of feel that you get from the seats in the Lexus sport sedans. These seats are great for the daily drive or long car trips, but they also hold the driver and the front passenger firmly in place during stints of spirited driving. Also, whether you are very tall or very short, the driver’s seat has a great range of adjustment to accommodate the vast majority of drivers, with an impressive amount of leg, knee, shoulder, elbow and head space for a compact SUV.

16 nx200t rear seats

So, the Lexus NX200T F Sport has lots of front space for the driver and passenger, but many compact SUVs clear up front space by clearing out the rear leg room. That is not the case with the Lexus NX200T, as even with the front seats adjusted to comfortably seat a 6 foot tall adult, there is still plenty of rear leg room for a similarly tall adult (or two). The rear seat is a little too narrow to really use the center seat for an adult and the bucket-like shape of the rear seats doesn’t lead to a very comfortable center seat, but you can comfortably haul 4 adults in the NX200T without any issue. Realistically, I imagine that many NX200T owners usually have two adults up front and a child or two in the back, in which case, this compact Lexus offers more than ample space.

nx200t cargo

Also, the rear cargo area of the Lexus NX200T is surprisingly large, so whether you are loading up from a serious shopping trip or packing in a couple of hockey bags, this compact SUV will accept an impressive amount of cargo.

Finally, the NX200T F Sport features all of the modern interior gadgets with the distinct Lexus control interface. While some Lexus models use a computer mouse style interface to control the arrow on the infotainment screen, the NX200T uses a touch sensitive pad that you use by dragging your finger around the surface. When the arrow gets to the icon on the screen that you want, you push down to select, and this is all done from the center console. When driving with your right arm on the center armrest, your hand is located right above the control pad, so you don’t have to reach around while driving to access all the climate control, the navigation system, the stereo/media system, the phone system, vehicle settings and the Lexus App Suite. Also, the leather wrapped, heated steering wheel has controls for the sound system and the cruise control, as well as the button for the voice recognition system.

16 nx200t dash

Beyond the sporty steering wheel is a driver information center with two big, beautiful analog gauges flanking a screen with a variety of readouts – including a boost gauge. I am a firm believer that every sporty, turbocharged vehicle should have a boost gauge and I love that the NX200T F Sport has one. It doesn’t improve any aspect of the driving experience, but it adds that little extra bit of performance feel that too many turbocharged vehicles miss out on.

Basically, every aspect of the infotainment system, the gauge cluster or the climate control system can be adjusted via the steering wheel buttons, the voice control system or the touch pad on the center console, so when driving the Lexus NX200T, you rarely have a reason to take your hands off of the wheel or your attention away from the road. The navigation system is very easy to use, including the voice prompting system, so you can input your destination with the touch pad or by simply speaking the address aloud and once you are headed on your way – the Lexus premium 10-speaker sound system offers great sound quality at even the highest volume levels.

Best of all, if you don’t care for the touch pad control interface, the NX200T has a spread of tradition knobs and buttons on the center console for both the sound system and the climate control system, so you aren’t forced to figure out the touch pad technology to turn on the radio. I should note that there really isn’t much “figuring out” to do with the infotainment touch pad control, but I know that some readers prefer traditional controls, and the NX200T has those controls even with the premium infotainment package. Last but certainly not least, one great gadget that is oddly rare in new vehicles is the wireless charging pad located under the center armrest. So long as you have a phone that will work with a wireless charger, all you have to do is sit your phone on the pad and while you drive – your phone charges. That is a $220 feature that I wouldn’t pass up on any new vehicle.

nx200t charger

When you take all of those features above and pack them into a cabin clad heavily in black leather and satin silver trim, the Lexus NX200T F Sport has a cabin that is sporty, luxurious and loaded to the gills with easy-to-use modern technology. As compact SUVs go, the interior of the NX200T puts many of the competitors to shame in terms of comfort, material quality and technology.

The Drive
The Lexus NX200T F Sport (and the non-F Sport) is powered by a turbocharged 2.0L engine that delivers 235 horsepower and 258lb-ft of torque to all four wheels via 6-speed automatic transmission. Now, I imagine that some of my readers are thinking to themselves that those power numbers aren’t all that impressive, but the NX200T is surprisingly quick from a stop and the turbocharged engine pulls hard well up beyond any posted speed limit in the US. Really, I don’t imagine that many people are going to take their NX racing, but in normal driving situations like speeding up to merge with fast-moving highway traffic or when leaving a line in a hurry to get ahead of slower traffic head of a merge point – the NX200T packs plenty of power. As compact SUVs go, I would go so far as to call this little Lexus fast, whether you are on the highway or zipping along a twisty country road. Like other Lexus models, this F Sport has a drive mode dial with Eco, Normal and Sport, with the throttle response and shift points adjusted based on the mode chosen – Eco offering the least performance for better fuel economy, Sport offering the best performance but lesser MPGs and “normal” serving as a mid-ground between the two extremes. For me, it was Sport all of the way, as I prefer the crisper shifts and the more direct throttle response.

16 nx200t side

Speaking of zipping along a twisty country road, that is another area in which the Lexus NX200T F Sport shines, thanks in part to the unique sport suspension tuning of the F Sport package. This suspension system features stiffer front and rear dampers for improved road handling and those efforts are appreciated, as you can push the F Sport NX through the twisties much like you would a sport sedan and the compact SUV responds very favorably. Very few small SUVs offer solid handling capabilities, but the F Sport package makes the NX200T a ton of fun to drive on curvy, desolate roads. Best of all, the suspension tweaks for the F Sport package are subtle enough that you still get a great level of ride quality with your sharp handling – even when dealing with the battered highways of the Metro Detroit area. Also, while zipping through those turns, the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters allow a great range of gear control, adding another element of performance driving to this compact SUV.

So, the 2016 Lexus NX200T F Sport is a comfortable daily driver, it packs plenty of power and it handles great, but as an all-wheel drive sport utility vehicle – I wanted to see how it handled unpaved roads. I wouldn’t dare take a beauty like this into an actual offroad situation, as the body cladding clearly isn’t made for supreme ground clearance, but my area is riddled with rough, unpaved roads that many people travel every day. These roads can be brutal at times, with holes and ruts rough enough to force cars and some SUVs to take at very low speeds. I was a bit concerned that the sport suspension would make the NX200T F Sport one of those vehicles that needed to be driven very slowly, but surprisingly, it handled the rough dirt roads very well. Mind you, I wasn’t blasting down these roads at breakneck speeds, but the suspension did a great job of eating up the ruts in the dirt road at the posted (35) speed limit. Some of my test vehicles handle these roads so poorly that I quickly get back to paved roads, but the NX200T was stable enough that I wouldn’t think twice about taking these roads if my daily commute was made in this sporty, compact SUV.

16 nx200t softroad

After the NX handled the rough roads so well, I submitted the compact luxosport SUV to a little “softroading” on my property. We have horses and horse paths, so I carried some supplies out to the paddocks with the NX200T F Sport. As you can see in the images here, these paths have some slight hills and loose footing but with the available ground clearance, it was no problem for the NX. I wouldn’t take this vehicle offroading, but it can most certainly deal with rough and muddy roads or some nicely manicured dirt paths.

The 2016 Lexus NX200T F Sport offers a smooth, quiet ride for the daily drive or a family trip to Wallyworld. For those drivers who like to get their heart rate up during that drive, the turbocharged 4-cylinder engine offers solid acceleration and the F Sport suspension nicely combines ride quality and road handling. Finally, this compact SUV is clearly at its best on paved roads, but it can handle rough unpaved roads when the need arises far better than any comparably priced luxury sedan. Of course, many Lexus owners will never to deal with my local roads, but in the event that they do – the NX can get the job done.

In short, the Lexus NX200T F Sport offers the ride quality and the fun to drive factor of a luxury sedan while also having the capabilities of a small SUV.

The Final Word
For someone who wants to get into a sporty, premium luxury vehicle that will be great on any road surface and in any weather conditions, it is hard to look past the Lexus NX200T F Sport. This compact SUV is fun to drive on both smooth roads and unpaved roads, the AWD system makes it a great rival for Old Man Winter and the cabin has all of the luxury features that you would expect from a modern luxury SUV – all for under $46,000.

16 nx200t low rea

Of course, if you want to get into the NX200T F Sport on a tighter budget, you can shave off roughly $2,000 by dropping the wireless phone charger, the built-in garage door opener, the auto-dimming exterior mirrors with blind spot alert, the intuitive parking assist and the power rear door – but in the same loaded-up form as my test vehicle, the Lexus NX200T F Sport is a bargain compared to many of the competitors.

The Lexus NX200T F Sport looks great, it is fun to drive, it is roomy, it has room for four adults and it does this all for less than the entry price of most luxury sedans that can comfortably carry four adults. While the exterior design is a little too aggressive for some, it is hard to find any faults with this compact SUV – from the interior layout and gadgetry to the driving dynamics and ride quality, this Lexus shines in every way.


Sign-up to our email newsletter for daily perspectives on car design, trends, events and news, not found elsewhere.