This however changed with the launch of the NX some four years ago, which eventually went on to set the tone of what would become known as the Lexus spindle grille.
Looks still divide opinion
Recently replaced by the UX as Lexus’ smallest SUV offering, the NX benefitted from a mid-life revision towards the end of 2017 in the form of mild cosmetic touches and a change of name despite there being now alternations made underneath the bonnet.
Branded as Lexus’ most polarising model when it was launched, the NX has kept its opinion splitting looks, but with added substance in the form of new headlights with thinner daytime running LEDs, the textured spindle grille, redesigned front and rear bumpers, a new rear number plate cavity and updated side vents.
As my White Quartz tester had turned out to be the flagship F-Sport variant though, it also added a sportier touch in the form of model specific 18-inch alloy wheels, black mesh finish for that grille, a brushed aluminium-like coating for the lower front apron and graphite detailing on the front bumper flanges.
Interior has the fit-and-finish checked...
Get inside and you are greeted by an interior that conforms to the usual Lexus mantra of being stylish but not overly radical. What is still present though are top class finishes whether it be the soft touch plastics, classy brushed aluminium detailing on the doors, sumptuously stitched leather or satin silver inserts.
While the interior stylists have dared not change the design much, what is the biggest addition is a new 10.3-inch infotainment system in place of the old seven-inch setup that incorporates satellite navigation and also acts as a display for the rather excellent surround view camera system.
...but not the infotainment interface
The most annoying aspect though is the touchpad interface, which is nowhere as good to use as the rotary dials by the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Once you have figured it out though, scrolling through the relative menus is easy but still, it is desperately in need of something not requiring a drag of the finger.
An array of standard kit
Where Lexus has never relented is when it comes to standard features with the NX F-Sport being no exception. Notable items include a 10-speaker sound system with dual USB ports and Bluetooth, electric tailgate, front and rear parking sensors, electric folding mirrors, wireless smartphone charger, dual-zone climate control, cruise control and on the safety side, Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Change Assist, Hill Start Assist and Vehicle Stability Control.
New name, same power
As mentioned earlier, the NX now comes with a new designation in that the badge reads 300 instead of 200t, yet power from the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine remains unchanged at 175kW/350Nm. Despite some initial lag, the motor does come into its own as you exploit the upper regions of the rev-range, although it is stifled at times by the six-speed automatic gearbox.
The F-Sport does, however, get a five-mode drive selector Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Custom, which, when switched to Sport or Sport+ and with manual control taken of the ‘box via the steering wheel-mounted paddles, does make the shifts faster and more efficient.
Comfy but can be thirsty
During its weeklong stay though, Comfort mode was selected where the ‘box went about its business without fuss, and the ride remained surprisingly comfortable if not engaging thanks to the standard adaptive variable suspension. As for fuel consumption, the NX recorded a best of 9.5-litres/100km but some later spirited driving in the aforementioned sporty modes saw it rise to a rather hefty 12.0-litres/100km.
The NX has become one of Lexus’ most popular models locally and definitely rates as something different for those not wanting to go the German route. At R789 700, the NX 300 F-Sport does offer impressive value for money by being cheaper than all of its immediate rivals, yet if you can live without some of its exterior garnishes and a few comfort items, consider the mechanically identical EX that retails for R112 400 less.