I’ve never found the letters NX to be the most inspirational when it comes to naming a vehicle. Nissan tried it in the eighties and nineties, first with the Pulsar NX, then simply the NX. The NX 2000, despite its lacklustre name, was a bit of a sleeper with its nimble handling and energetic four lifted from the Sentra SE-R of the day. Conduct a survey today, though, and you won’t find too many folks who remember it.

No harm, though, because with the new NX 200t from Lexus, Toyota’s luxury arm would prefer it if you didn’t think of that econo-ovoid of 25 years ago. Instead, they want you to think about a new and distinctive entry in an increasingly crowded market segment consisting of pint-sized utes with luxury nameplates. These ostensibly practical people movers have one job, and that is to provide an entry point for aspiring owners of premium-branded rides who don’t want a sedan.

This is a very new segment, one made necessary by the constant growth of those models that once held the entry level CUV label for their respective premium marques. But the Lexus RX, Audi Q5, BMW X3, and Mercedes ML have all moved up in terms of size and price, making space for this gaggle of newcomers to form a class that saw its inception only three years ago: BMW X1, Audi Q3, Mercedes GLA, and Range Rover Evoque are all that age or younger, and with the NX Lexus is saying loud and clear that they want to play in the sandbox too.

I refer to these as pint-sized CUVs because the competitors in this class have surprisingly small cargo holds. Lift the aggressively raked hatch of the NX, for example, and you’ll find but 500 litres of volume behind that rear seat, or appreciably smaller than the already diminutive VW Tiguan. Such a limited cargo volume may give some folks pause if they are looking at the NX (or any of its competitors) as a primary family hauler.

But there’s no denying the distinctive design language that Lexus is using of late. While the signature spindle grille has made its way into every model in the lineup, the individual success of each translation varies widely to these eyes. Not as successful are the CT hatchback and GX SUV, and at the other end of this spectrum sit the RC coupe and this new NX crossover. With these two vehicles the proportions are just right, and it’s evident that the spindle is part of an overall design theme rather than being forced to fit on an existing model to make a family resemblance.

The design is busy, to be sure, with complex lighting designs front and rear and lots of creases to make light reflect off the body just so. Such intricate bodywork provides a level of depth to the finish that would otherwise not be seen.

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