The Lexus NX200t gets a turbocharged engine and revolutionary styling
A very different Lexus What's new is the NX's LFA supercar-inspired touches, such as the cosmetic screw bolts, leather-wrapped metal and boost gauge

DO goldfish have more than a three-second memory? Has the Lexus brand really embraced turbocharging? The surprising answer to both is, yes. Apparently, fish aren't as forgetful as we think they are, and the Japanese luxury marque which pioneered petrol-electric hybrid technology has unveiled its first turbocharged engine.

The 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit with forced induction is for the Lexus NX, the company's first compact SUV. Called the NX200t, this model slots in below the NX300h with a 2.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid. Both are all-wheel-drive but while the NX300h has the familiar continuously variable transmission (CVT), the NX200t gets a new six-speed automatic gearbox. Lexus says the turbocharged option not only allows for smaller engines, but also cater to buyers who want something more aggressive than a quiet hybrid.

Whatever the reason, anyone considering the NX will probably be attracted first by its revolutionary styling. The sculpted " 3D" surfaces and boxy wheel arches make it the edgiest Lexus design ever.

Underneath, the NX uses the same basic platform as the Toyota RAV4 (Lexus is the luxury division of Toyota). But engineers stress that 90 per cent of it is new, with the body structure benefiting from additional welding, laser screws and body adhesive (like the Lexus IS) to increase rigidity. The bonnet is made of aluminium not only for lighter weight but also to reduce pedestrian injury. The suspension incorporates MacPherson struts in front and rear double wishbones. The latter is the best choice for stability and comfort, says the assistant chief engineer, and thoroughly suited for a luxury compact crossover like the NX.

He isn't wrong. On the road, the NX200t displays a high degree of ride comfort. If the optional Adaptive Variable Suspension is chosen, the damping varies with the driving mode chosen, be it Normal, Sport or Sport+.

In Sport+, the steering and engine response are also tweaked but the NX200t still feels more refined than sporty. The twin scroll turbo was developed in-house (Toyota had extensive experience with turbocharging when it was involved in rallying a decade ago) and there is virtually zero lag - only smooth, seamless torque. But it is no WRC monster.

In fact, the unit stands out for being super efficient because it can switch between the Atkinson and Otto cycles automatically. The Atkinson cycle allows it to be more economical at low loads and engine speeds, while the standard Otto cycle provides good performance at higher loads and engine speeds.

The 1,800 kg kerb weight blunts the NX200t's performance somewhat. But the all-wheel-drive system's tendency to distribute 100 per cent of the torque to the front axle, and directing up to 50 per cent to the rear wheels only when needed, means handling is reassuringly stable while fuel economy is maximised. At 4.63 metres long and 1.63 metres tall with a 2,660 mm wheelbase, the cabin is a very nice place to be. The front seats are spaciously comfortable with good all-round visibility for the driver although rear legroom is only adequate.

What's new is the NX's LFA supercar-inspired touches, such as the cosmetic screw bolts, leather-wrapped metal and boost gauge. The remote touch interface now features a laptop-like touchpad and is less sensitive than the mouse in current cars. There is also a wireless phone charger in the centre armrest. And for aural entertainment, the Active Sound Control function allows more engine and exhaust sound to be piped into the cabin.

With its new styling, engine and features, the NX is certainly a very different type of Lexus.