5. Lexus NX 300h: Uniquely Green
Base price: $40,660 2wd, $42,250 awd
EPA fuel-economy rating: 35/31/33 mpg city/highway/combined 2wd, 33/30/32 awd
Premium-compact crossovers are among the fastest-growing vehicle categories and if you recognize their appeal and hanker for a hybrid this, for now, is your sole choice. Like Lexus’s GX SUV and midsize RX crossover, the NX is essentially a gilded version of a model from parent company, Toyota. Here, it’s a RAV4 elevated to luxury status by more expressive styling, a more upscale interior, and of course, the prestige of the Lexus badge. It’s also available with amenities not offered on the RAV4, such as leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel, a power liftgate, and wireless cellphone charging.
The turbocharged 4-cylinder engine in the NX 200t is also a Lexus exclusive, while the combination of a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder with electric-motor assist in NX 300h mirrors the powertrain in the RAV4 Hybird. Here, though, it’s available with front-wheel drive in addition to all-wheel drive. Net output is the same 194 horsepower, but where the RAV4 Hybrid’s performance outshines that of its gas-only counterpart, the 300h is notably slower than the lighter, 235-horsepower 200t. Still, this is a true Lexus. It distills the essence of the brand – including its aggressive new styling themes — into a maneuverable package with good room for four adults, five in a pinch. The Hybrid favors a quiet cabin and soft ride over sprightly handling. But nothing in its class beats its fuel-economy ratings or boasts greener credentials.