New Lexus SUV is smaller, more fuel efficient

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The Lexus brand is no stranger to SUVs, but their newest one goes in a different direction: Smaller. (KABC)

The Lexus brand is no stranger to SUVs, but their newest one goes in a different direction: Smaller.

The new Lexus NX has the attributes of a small SUV, like efficient use of space and a good cargo room. It also has the typical Lexus touches inside; luxury combined with technology. The latter easy to access with Lexus's latest remote touch interface.

Those attributes are what many makers are combining these days. It would actually be easier to make a list of premium brands that don't have a compact sport utility in their showrooms that the ones that do.

Lexus is joining in because it's such a hot segment right now. Luxury players need to have offerings here, or they lose out. Buyers increasingly want this type of vehicle.

One first for a Lexus -- a turbocharged engine. Going with an industry trend, a smaller engine for better fuel economy, with a turbo for good power. In this case the four cylinder in the NX puts out 235 horsepower, and is rated at 21 to 28 miles per gallon.

It's no secret that the NX shares a platform with the Toyota RAV4 SUV, and that vehicle is available as a plug-in electric car.

In Lexus tradition, the NX is available as a hybrid. The engine loses the turbo, but gains a lot of extra power from the electric motor. And, fuel economy is very high compared to other compact premium SUVs at 35 city with two wheel drive.

Some new hybrid innovations mean efficient battery packaging, plus new software that enhances the driving experience.

Fuel economy will be a hook for Lexus in this segment, as will its design. The brand has been criticized in recent years for having rather bland styling. With this newest model, the design cues are amped up a bit. And, it lets Lexus compete in one of the hottest segments in the automotive market right now. The NX 200T and 300h go on sale later in the year.

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