Wild family adventures with TV’s Steve Backshall and Toyota

Gareth Herincx

1 day ago
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Steve Backshall, Toyota RAV4 and kids

Keeping kids occupied during the summer holidays is no easy task. Exploring the great outdoors, whatever the weather, is one way to enjoy time together as a family.

Toyota has teamed up with TV naturalist, adventurer and father-of-three Steve Backshall to provide ideas for adventures in nature.

Steve and his wife – two-time Olympic champion rower Helen Glover – spent their respective childhoods exploring the Surrey heathland and Cornish beaches.

“For many parents, bug-hunting and pond-dipping are reminiscent of their own childhoods, while for others, new ideas for outdoor experiences will help increase knowledge and appreciation of the natural world and will entertain kids of any age during the long school holidays,” says Steve.

Steve’s trusted countryside companion is the new Toyota RAV4 Plug-in Hybrid SUV, which is ideal for a family expeditions.

Steve Backshall, Toyota RAV4 and kids

It offers low emissions and can drive for up to 46 miles in pure electric mode. All-wheel drive is standard and there’s a Trail Mode, so it’s perfect for tackling tricky terrain, plus there’s boot space for naturalist kit, picnics and spare clothes.

Steve and Helen’s new book, Wildlings: How to raise your family in nature (published by Two Roads) contains the following outdoor ideas for all the family…

  • Building an A-frame den in the woods: dens can be used as hideouts, birdwatching hides, or simply as somewhere to shelter when it rains, and building them is a fun family activity.  Find two trees close together with lowish forks and put a long straight branch between them.  Use material you find on the ground to build up each side of the den, propping sticks in a row against the long branch.  Use smaller, bendy sticks to weave in and out of the upright sticks – the den should look a bit like a tent shaped basket.  Finish by packing leaves, grass, or moss on top to fill in the gaps.
  • Treasure hunt in the woods: a common parenting challenge is how to get children to walk further. A treasure hunt is a great way to do this.  On family walks, scoring arrows into the mud or sand, or making arrows with sticks or stones, can help engage children and will distract from cries of ‘are we nearly there yet?’
  • Go blackberry picking: blackberry picking is a great way to introduce children to foraging. Blackberries are easy to pick as they tend to grow at a child’s height, often beside paths or hedgerows, and it’s easy for a child to identify a ripe from an unripe blackberry simply by looking at the colour. The whole family will enjoy eating the harvested berries, or you could get the kids involved in making and eating a blackberry crumble.
  • Butterfly hunts: a butterfly net, or sweep net, is a fun way to find out what is living in a park, field, or meadow.  Over the summer holidays, you’re likely to catch bush crickets, moths and butterflies.  Sweep the net through the upper sections of grasses in the colourful bits of a meadow, but be careful not to damage wildflowers.  You can put the collected insects in a ‘pooter’.  This is a little pot with two straws attached, where you suck on one straw and the insects are gently whisked into the pot for examination (there’s a valve on the human straw so there is no danger of getting a mouthful of ants!). Use a hand lens with x10 magnification to identify insects and examine them in detail. Remember to release them afterwards.
  • Bird spotting: according to the British Ornithologists Union, 574 different bird species have been spotted in the British Isles, and kids can learn to identify them by sight using a guide to British birds, or sticker book, or by sound, using free mobile apps such as BirdNET.  You only need to record a few seconds of birdsong and the app will identify the bird.
  • Wildlife photography challenge: Steve says: “Everyone has a camera and learning to capture a moment in time through a lens, how to frame a picture and when to take a photo, are lessons that require a child to slow down and connect with nature. Smartphones are fine for taking pictures of mini-beasts, or sunsets, or capturing the dew on a spider’s web.  Encourage youngsters to identify a subject, and place it in the centre of the shot, making sure the light falls on it.   Then set a photography project, such as taking photos of 10 things beginning with the letter ‘P,’ or five things you think an animal would want to eat.” No smartphone will rival what you can capture with an SLR (single lens reflex) camera, so you might want to invest in one.  Big lenses let you photograph birds and deer from a distance and take wildlife photography to a whole new level.
  • Setting a wildlife camera trap: camera traps have transformed naturalist pursuits, and easy-to-use, compact HD video camera traps are reasonably priced. Classic subjects are badgers, which are shy, nocturnal creatures.  If you set a camera trap near a badger sett, the results can be spectacular.  Choose a sett entrance that is used frequently – it will have the fewest cobwebs across it and may have the most teddy-bear-like footprints at the front.  Think of the height of a badger when setting the camera; don’t aim it too high, and make sure the shot is wide enough to see more than the animal running in and out of frame. Also, don’t position it where it could be damaged or stolen, or in the way of people or wildlife.
  • Woodland treasure hunt: Steve suggests that every ramble can turn into an animal detective novel: “Tracking has drama, secrets, the potential to experience an animal you may never see, to feel you are walking in their footsteps.”  Challenge the kids to look for things like a discarded nutshell, a feather, an acorn, an animal print, evidence of animal feeding areas, or animal trails.
  • Learn to use an Ordnance Survey (OS) map: with a GPS in everyone’s pocket, map-reading is a dying art, but learning to see the relief of the land from the contours is a skill that saves time and could save a life in the future. Micro-nav is fine for navigating short distances, following a compass bearing. Give your kids a six-figure grid reference for a point of interest, such as a tower, or a footbridge over a small stream, to plot on the OS map.  Give them a compass bearing, or another grid reference which they need to find, then follow the bearing to the next grid point.  This can be challenging, even in a city park, as if you are a degree out on your bearing, you could end up off-track.
  • Pond dipping: Steve recommends swimming pool nets for pond-dipping, as they are sturdier than seaside fishing nets.  At a pond or river, get the kids to sweep the net through the water in a figure of eight movement to catch as much life as possible, then empty the contents into a tray or jam jar.  You’ll find vertebrates such as newts, frogs, and small fish, by sweeping around reeds.  For invertebrates it is better to sweep the river or pond bed. Remember to tip everything back into the water when you’ve finished.

Steve Backshall, Toyota RAV4 and kids

Steve’s recommended wildings kit

Naturalist kit:

  • Hand lens x 10 magnification
  • Binoculars
  • Wildlife camera trap
  • SLR camera (single lens reflex camera)
  • Butterfly nets
  • Pond-dipping nets and jam jars
  • Buckets and spades
  • OS maps
  • Wildlife guidebooks

Practical essentials:

  • Change of clothes
  • Towels
  • Wetsuits (if planning to kayak, canoe or surf)
  • Snacks, water in reusable bottles, flask of tea
  • Sun cream
  • Spare battery pack for mobile phone
  • Umbrella

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Citroen C5 X review

Citroen C5 X

We road test the distinctive new Citroen C5 X – a big car with an identity crisis?

The all-new C5 X marks Citroen’s return to the ‘D-segment’ – automotive industry speak for the size of vehicle next up from the ‘C-segment’ (eg VW Golf, Ford Focus).

An intriguing mix of hatchback, estate and SUV, its competitors include everything from the Volkswagen Arteon and Peugeot 508 fastbacks, to the Skoda Superb estate and even the Kia Sportage crossover.

The C5 X is a car that dares to be different, and for that alone, Citroen deserves praise.

Citroen C5 X

Around the same size as a Volkswagen Passat, the C5 X initially has the look of a sleek hatchback. Study it closer and there’s an estate-like rear overhang, while the raised ride height hints at a crossover.

The result is unmistakably a Citroen. A handsome, aerodynamic car with an impressively low drag coefficient of just 0.29.

Citroen even claims the newcomer pays homage to the game-changing CX and iconic XM, but that might be stretching it a little.

Why? Because apart from its distinctive design and affordable starting price (£27,790), it’s a fairly conventional large family car.

Citroen C5 X

The C5 X is offered with a choice of either 1.2 or 1.6-litre petrol engines producing 128bhp and 178bhp respectively, or a 222bhp plug-in hybrid system. It’s only available with front-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and there’s no diesel option.

The entry-level petrol 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine powers the C5 X from standstill to 62mph in 10.4 seconds and it’s capable of up to 48.6mpg, while CO2 emissions are as low as 136g/km.

The more powerful four-cylinder 1.6-litre unit can manage up to 43.9mpg, CO2 emissions are 147g/km, and it reduces the 0-62mph sprint time to 8.8 seconds.

Combining the 1.6 petrol unit with an 81.2kWh electric motor and 12.4kWh lithium ion battery, the range-topping plug-in hybrid (PHEV) is the quickest model with a 0-62mph time of 7.8 seconds.

Citroen C5 X

More importantly, it offers up to 37 miles of electric-only driving and CO2 emissions are only 30g/km, unlocking substantial tax savings for business users.

In other words, if your daily commute is around the 25-mile mark (in line with the UK average) and you can charge overnight at home (it takes less than two hours to recharge from 0% to 100%), your visits to the petrol station could be few and far between.

You sit lower down in the Citroen C5 X than most SUVs, yet higher than a hatchback or estate, and the overall feel is more conventional car than crossover.

Soft and supportive, Citroen’s Advanced Comfort seats are standard across the range and a big bonus, especially on longer journeys.

Citroen C5 X

Elsewhere, the cabin isn’t quite as plush as we’d hoped, but we can’t fault the crisp, intuitive infotainment system. The entry-level Sense Plus trim comes with a 10.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, while both higher trim levels (Shine and Shine Plus) get a 12.0-inch.

The infotainment system features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, DAB radio, Bluetooth and built-in sat nav, while Citroen has thankfully left the heating/cooling controls as a separate entity below the touchscreen and vents – with buttons and dials.

Perhaps most impressively, there’s a real feeling of space inside the cabin – front and back. This is no surprise, because the CX 5 is made in China (and sold there too) and if there’s one thing the Chinese like, it’s rear passenger space.

Additionally, boot capacity is 545 litres, expanding to an estate-like 1,640 litres with the rear seats down. Just to give you an idea of the space available, it’s possible to fit a washing machine in sideways without flipping the back seats, though it’s worth noting that the PHEV’s capacity is reduced to 485/1,580 litres because the battery takes up some space.

Citroen C5 X

We tested both petrols and the PHEV, and while offering a lot of car for the money, the thrummy little three-pot 1.2 in the entry-level model has to be worked quite hard to lug around this relatively large car.

We’d advise paying the extra for the turbocharged 1.6, which is swifter, pulls better and more refined.

If money is no object, then go for the plug-in hybrid, which offers the most relaxed driving experience overall and suits the C5 X best.

There’s more power on tap, and naturally, it’s hushed in all-electric mode, while the switch from petrol to hybrid and vice versa is seamless. The only slight issue is the eight-speed automatic gearbox which is sometimes a little hesitant to kick down.

Citroen C5 X

Citroen’s ‘Advanced Comfort Suspension with Progressive Hydraulic Cushions’ system is standard across the range with the French company claiming it provides a ‘magic carpet’-like ride.

What’s more, the PHEV versions get the upgraded Advanced Comfort Active Suspension, which features automatic electronically controlled damping.

We wouldn’t go as far as ‘magic carpet’, but the ride is smooth and bump absorption is impressive. That said, on rougher surfaces, we were surprised how much road noise made its way into the cabin.

Considering it’s built more for comfort than performance, it handles well. It feels substantial, yet body lean is well controlled in faster corners and there’s decent grip.

Citroen C5 X

The steering is light and it’s easy to manoeuvre thanks to all-round parking sensors and a rear-view camera, even if visibility isn’t best-in-class.

Which brings us to the sharply raked rear window, complete with two spoilers. It may look cool, but there’s no rear wiper. We drove the C5 X during a heatwave, so we couldn’t test it in the rain. We’ll reserve judgement for now, but we fear this could prove to be an issue on motorways, for instance, when rain and dirty spray is the order of the day.

Ultimately, the C5 X is at its best cruising along while you and your passengers enjoy the smooth ride in your comfy seats.

Verdict: The all-new Citroen C5 X is a breath of fresh air; offering elegance, comfort, refinement and serious value for money. If you can, stretch to the plug-in hybrid version for extra economy and low CO2 emissions.

Citroen UK

Kia Niro review

Kia Niro Hybrid (

We test drive the Hybrid, Plug-In Hybrid and EV versions of the all-new second generation Kia Niro…

The Niro compact crossover is an important car for Kia. After the slightly larger Sportage, it’s the South Korean brand’s second most successful model.

A genuine game-changer when it was launched in 2016, it was available with self-charging hybrid, plug-in hybrid or 100% electric powertrains and offered practicality, peace of mind and economy at an affordable price.

Fast forward six years and more than 70,000 have been sold, while 55% of all Niro sales are fully electric. In fact, the e-Niro was the UK’s second best-selling EV in 2021.

The success of the all-electric version especially was no surprise, given the value for money it offered, plus that 282-mile range.

Kia Niro Hybrid

Now it’s time for the second-generation Niro. Again, there are hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fully electric versions, and this time round it’s slightly bigger (65mm longer, 20mm taller and 10mm wider) and the interior features a higher proportion of sustainable and recycled materials.

Pricing starts at £27,745 (Niro Hybrid), followed by the Niro Plug-in Hybrid (£32,775) and the popular Niro EV from £34,995. Note, it’s no longer badged ‘e-Niro’.

There are three trim levels (‘2’, ‘3’ or ‘4’) and a choice of eight colours, with top spec ‘4’ models offered with an eye-catching two-tone paint option which features the C-pillar in contrasting Steel Grey or Black Pearl, depending on the chosen body colour.

Naturally, there are differences in spec and equipment between the trim levels, but as standard you get goodies such as LED headlights, rear parking sensors and camera system, a touchscreen display with DAB radio, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, plus driver assistance technologies such as Forward Collision Avoidance with car, pedestrian and cyclist recognition and junction crossing – and Smart Cruise Control.

Kia Niro Hybrid

Top-of-the-range ‘4’ grade models get a head-up display, twin 10.25-inch touchscreen, an instrument cluster display, heated rear seats and ventilated front seats, a power operated tailgate, electric sunroof, an uprated Harman Kardon premium sound system, driver’s side memory seating, and front passenger lumbar support.

There’s also Remote Smart Parking Assist, Parking Collision-Avoidance Assist and PU vegan leather seat coverings, containing Tencel from eucalyptus trees.

The all-new Niro EV combines a 64.8kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack and a 201bhp electric motor.

Torque is rated at 255 Nm, and it can accelerate from 0-to-62 mph in 7.8 seconds. More importantly, an electric driving range of 285 miles is claimed.

Kia Niro Hybrid

Recharging from 10-80% takes as little as 45 minutes – up to nine minutes quicker than the outgoing model.

In colder months, the system uses navigation-based conditioning to pre-heat the battery when a charge point is selected as a destination, which helps shorten charge times and optimise battery performance.

The Niro Hybrid has a 1.6-litre petrol engine paired with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. There’s also a 43bhp electric motor and small 1.32kW battery, delivering a combined maximum power output of 139bhp.

It can accelerate from standstill to 60mph in 10.4 seconds, fuel economy is up to 64.2mpg, while CO2 emissions are 100g/km.

The Niro Hybrid (and Plug-in Hybrid) also feature a new ‘Green Zone’ drive mode, which automatically switches to electric power based on location guidance from the navigation system, driver patterns, or manual selection by the driver.

Kia Niro Hybrid

Expected to be popular with business users because of its low CO2 emissions and tax benefits, the Niro Plug-in Hybrid uses the same 1.6-litre engine as the Hybrid, a larger 11.1kw battery (it takes about 2.5 hours to charge it at home) and an 83bhp electric motor, producing a combined 180bhp and 265Nm of torque.

Crucially, it has an electric-only driving range of up to 40 miles – more than enough to complete the average daily commute in the UK.

The Niro Plug-in Hybrid can cover the 0-60mph sprint in 9.4 seconds, CO2 emissions are just 18g/km, while fuel economy could be as high as 353mpg (in theory).

Whichever version you go for, the new Niro is a much bolder looking crossover than the outgoing car with angular design cues and a hint of the larger Sportage. And those sharper looks continue to the rear corners which feature high-set upright boomerang-shaped lights.

The smart interior is attractive, and well designed, with twin 10.25-inch displays giving the dashboard a wow factor. Featuring slick, sharp graphics, the infotainment system is intuitive to use – something of a Kia trademark. Broadly speaking, the quality of the cabin, in terms of materials used and build quality, is good, but it won’t worry premium rivals.

Kia Niro Hybrid

There’s a real feeling of space and plenty of leg and headroom for adults in the back, while luggage capacity varies depending on the model chosen. For the record, the Plug-in Hybrid has 346 litres, the Hybrid gets 451 litres, and the EV boasts 475 litres. Flip the rear seats and you get 1,342, 1,445 or 1,392 litres.

You sit quite high in the comfortable seats so there’s a commanding driving position. Visibility is generally good, but those chunky rear pillars leave a bit of a blind spot.

The three versions of the Niro each have their own character. Naturally, the Niro EV is the smoothest and most refined of the trio.

It’s swift without being gut-wrenchingly quick like some other electric cars. And for a crossover with no performance SUV pretensions, it handles well (with the accent on comfort). Sure, there’s some body roll if it’s pushed, but it’s well controlled and it generally feels planted.

There’s good traction through the front wheels, while the all-round grip is impressive. There are various drive modes, and you can also adjust the level of brake energy recuperation using paddles behind the steering wheel. It’s worth playing around with them, but we found the normal/mid settings worked best for us.

Kia Niro Hybrid

The Plug-in Hybrid is refined too, unless you floor it and the petrol engine kicks in. Drive sensibly and the transition between electric and petrol, and vice versa, is much smoother.

There’s more than enough performance on tap for everyday driving and it works well with the six-speed automatic gearbox. Obviously, EV mode is a joy, if not as quick as it’s pure electric sibling.

With a firm suspension and sharp steering, it’s a lively performer and more agile than you might think, but as with the EV, it’s at its best cruising along.

The lethargic full Hybrid is the most disappointing version of the Niro. It’s not a bad car, but its shortcomings are apparent when it’s tested alongside the PHEV and EV models.

Not only is it down on power compared to its siblings, but the six-speed automatic gearbox can be tiresome. It’s fine at city speeds, but can become hesitant on faster roads, meaning the engine is more vocal, resulting is a far less relaxed driving experience.

Kia Niro Hybrid

On the plus side, it will slip into EV mode for short bursts in stop-start traffic or when manoeuvring, CO2 emissions are low, and the fuel economy is comparable.

The Hybrid has a slightly softer ride than the PHEV, and again is easy to drive. Just don’t push it.

The Niro hasn’t been tested for safety by Euro NCAP, but we’d expect it to get a maximum five stars (like the Sportage and EV6) because it’s packed with driver assistance and safety technology.

Finally, the Niro comes with a large dose of peace of mind because, as with all Kia cars, it comes with a generous seven-year warranty.

Verdict: The all-new Kia Niro family-sized crossover is a step-up from its predecessor, offering a winning blend of good looks, space, safety, practicality, generous equipment levels and comfort.

Kia UK

Kia Sportage PHEV review

Kia Sportage PHEV review

Earlier in 2022 Kia launched the superb fifth-generation Sportage – one of the most striking new crossovers on the road.

Rocking a bold, confident new design and hi-tech interior, it was initially available with a choice of petrol, diesel and hybrid (mild, self-charging) engines.

Now a plug-in hybrid version has joined the award-winning range – and the best just got better.

Kia Sportage PHEV review

But first the bad news. Whereas the Sportage line-up starts at £26,775, the PHEV variant debuts at £38,395, rising to £43,795.

The good news is that it has a theoretical fuel economy of 252mpg, and an emissions-free EV driving range of up to 43 miles.

And with official overall CO2 emissions of 25g/km and 8% benefit in kind (BIK), it’s particularly attractive to company car users.

Kia Sportage PHEV review

The Sportage is the South Korean brand’s best-selling car and the new model is already a firm fixture in the UK’s Top 10 most popular new cars.

The PHEV looks much the same as its conventional and lesser hybrid powered Sportage siblings, except for the extra ‘fuel’ flap for plugging it in (the battery can be fully charged in as little as 1hr 45m via a 7.2kW connection) and it has a slightly reduced boot capacity (down from 591 litres to 540 litres) because of the larger battery.

The Sportage Plug-in Hybrid features a 1.6-litre T-GDi petrol engine, paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, working in tandem with a 66.9kW electric motor and a 13.8kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack.

Kia Sportage PHEV review

This powertrain combination delivers a total of 261bhp, a 0-60mph time of just 7.9 seconds, and a top speed of 119mph. What’s more, all plug-in hybrid versions of the Sportage get all-wheel drive.

Elsewhere, the Sportage PHEV is much the same as the rest of the range. In other words, it has serious road presence, echoing some of the futuristic styling cues of its pure electric big brother, the EV6.

Inside, it’s just as radical with a smart two-screen infotainment set-up. As standard, there’s a an 8.0-inch main touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and additional digital driver’s display on the right. From GT-Line spec up there’s a larger 12.3-inch screen in the centre.

Kia Sportage PHEV review

The curved console is clear, bright, responsive and intuitive to use. There’s plenty of space for adults front and back, while the luggage capacity expands to a useful 1,715 litres when the 40:20:40 split rear seats are flipped.

On the road, the Sportage PHEV is easy to drive with light steering and a commanding driving position, delivering good all-round visibility.

Kia Sportage PHEV review

The overall ride is on the firm side, but not uncomfortably so, and there’s a bit of roll in more challenging corners, but overall it’s a relaxed cruiser.

Switching from Eco to Sport mode alters the throttle and steering responses of the car, but stay in the latter for too long and it will dent your fuel economy (which can dip into the late 40s on longer runs when the battery has depleted).

In addition, there are two main drive modes – EV (prioritises battery power) and HEV (blends power from the engine too, which is more efficient on longer journeys), plus AWD terrain modes for Snow, Mud and Sand.

Kia Sportage PHEV review

The PHEV powertrain delivers a surprising amount of poke and the switch from engine to electric and vice versa is seamless. The engine itself is refined, only becoming vocal if pushed hard.

A slick-shifting gearbox completes the picture. It’s a traditional automatic, as opposed to a high-revving CVT which so often blights hybrid driving experiences.

The PHEV is heavier than other Sportages, but it hides the extra battery weight well, while grip and traction are impressive, partly down to the AWD system.

Kia Sportage PHEV review

The Sportage is packed with the latest safety and driver assistance kit including autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and, as with all Kia cars, it comes with a generous seven-year warranty.

Rivals in the family PHEV SUV sector include the Hyundai Tucson, Peugeot 3008, Ford Kuga and Vauxhall Grandland.

Rivals in the family PHEV SUV sector include the Hyundai Tucson, Peugeot 3008, Ford Kuga and Vauxhall Grandland.

Verdict: The plug-in hybrid version of the Kia Sportage is the highlight of an already fantastic family SUV line-up. Its blend of economy, striking looks, hi-tech interior, practicality, top safety features and peace of mind make it stand out from the crowd.

Kia UK

Kia Sportage PHEV review

Lexus NX Plug-in Hybrid review

Lexus NX Plug-in Hybrid review

We test drive the first plug-in hybrid vehicle from premium Japanese brand, Lexus. Has it been worth the wait?

The Lexus NX 450h is not to be confused with the NX 350h – the former is a plug-in-hybrid, while the latter is a self-charging hybrid, which means there are no leads or plugs.

Both share a 2.5-litre petrol engine working in tandem with an 18.1kWh lithium-ion battery and an electric motor (or motors).

The 350h can manage a very respectable 47.9mpg with CO2 emissions of 129g/km.

Lexus NX Plug-in Hybrid review

However, the 450h is – in theory – capable of travelling in pure electric mode for 40 miles at speeds of up to 83mph and can return up to 313.9mpg, while CO2 emissions are as low as 21g/km.

Low emissions means a low Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax rate, making the PHEV an appealing choice for company car drivers looking to cut running costs.

Whether you are a business user or private owner, if you keep the battery charged up (0-100% takes less than three hours using a 7kW chargepoint) your trips to the petrol station could be few and far between (especially if you’re a low mileage driver), because most of your journeys will be completed in near-silent EV mode.

Lexus NX Plug-in Hybrid review

The second generation NX luxury SUV was launched in 2021 and boasts serious road presence and badge appeal.

Bigger and more aggressive looking than the best-selling Mk 1, the new NX sports a massive version of the trademark Lexus “spindle grille”, flanked by slim new LEDs and daylight running lights.

A sculpted profile, short overhangs and distinctive rear haunches result in an SUV that stands out from the crowd, and its competitors, which include PHEV versions of the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Volvo XC60 and Range Rover Evoque.

Lexus NX Plug-in Hybrid review

It’s a class act inside too. Attractive and driver-focused up front, there’s a wrap-around dashboard and centre console with a huge 14-inch touchscreen.

Thankfully, Lexus hasn’t gone full-on minimalist so there are still some buttons. And naturally, there’s Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity.

The whole cabin feels super spacious. It’s also plush and beautifully put together, while the driving position is commanding.

Lexus NX Plug-in Hybrid review

Meanwhile, the boot can handle a useful 545 litres of luggage, extending to 1,436 litres with the rear seats flipped down.

On the road the Lexus NX 450h is smooth and relaxed. The combined 305hp from the big petrol engine, paired of electric motors and battery gives the car plenty of torque.

Acceleration is brisk when needed, and the 0-62mph time of 6.3 seconds makes it one of the fastest crossovers of its kind.

Lexus NX Plug-in Hybrid review

We’re no great fans of CVT gearboxes because they can create a din during sharp acceleration, but the sound insulation works wonders in the NX, so it’s rarely an issue and the power is delivered smoothly. Anyway, this is a car that’s best enjoyed cruising along in luxury.

Additionally, the transition from electric to petrol (and vice-versa) is superbly smooth.

Soaking up the lumps and bumps of the roads with ease, it offers a refined and relaxing ride, too.

Lexus NX Plug-in Hybrid review

It feels substantial, yet corners surprisingly well with controlled body lean, while the NX’s steering is precise, giving you the confidence to push on in more challenging corners.

Grip and traction are great, partly down to the all-wheel drive system (there’s a second electric motor on the rear axle).

You can choose from three driving modes (Eco, Sport and Normal) which are accessed via a knob in front of the gear lever. Eco is fine for long motorway runs, but Normal will do just fine.

Lexus NX Plug-in Hybrid review

There are three other basic choices too – EV for zero-emissions driving, Auto EV/HV (where the car chooses the perfect mode for the conditions) and HV (which maintains the battery’s state of charge).

Real-world fuel economy will depend on whether you keep the battery charged up and the length of your journeys, but even when it’s running in regular hybrid mode (ie when the battery is depleted) you’re looking at close on 50mpg.

The only disappointment was the EV range which seemed closer to 30 than 40 miles on my test car.

Lexus NX Plug-in Hybrid review

Priced from £50,950 to £59,700, the NX is offered in three trim levels (Premium Pack, F-Sport and Takumi) and like all Lexus cars, it benefits from ‘Lexus Relax’, which extends your car’s manufacturer warranty for up to 10 years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Add Lexus’ reputation for reliability and superb customer service and the NX PHEV can hold its own against the best on offer from Europe’s top premium brands.

The NX was awarded a maximum five stars for safety by Euro NCAP – and it’s bursting with kit to help you avoid an accident, including Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), lane-keeping assistance and traffic-sign recognition, plus driver assistance aids such as blind spot monitoring and rear-cross traffic alert.

Verdict: The Lexus NX Plug-in Hybrid is a practical, premium-quality SUV that’s comfortable, relaxing to drive, economical and beautifully finished. Choose the plug-in version of the NX and you won’t just stand out from the crowd, you’re buying into Lexus’s reputation for reliability and award-winning customer service. And yes, it has been worth the wait – the NX is one of the best PHEV crossovers on the market.

Lexus UK

Lexus NX Plug-in Hybrid review