Probably the most challenging sector at the moment is the mid-sized crossover, with examples from over 20 brands.
One of the biggest names in the sector is the Volkswagen Tiguan, bringing premium build quality and a desireable badge to the fight. It's a car that the Lexus NX needs to better to make an impact.
At first sight, the NX more than betters the Tiguan. The Lexus - barely changed from the LF-NX Concept car - leaves an instant impression, with bold and recognisable styling. Incorporating the Lexus spindle grille at the front, the NX is styled around the same mix of straight lines and aggressively-angled curves and is virtually unmistakable. It's difficult for most cars to match, so even if the Tiguan wasn't very conservatively-styled - and it is - there'd be no contest.
The first impressions continue to the interior. While the Tiguan's interior is, as is typical, well-built, nicely laid-out and made from good quality materials, it isn't hugely inspiring. The interior of the NX is much more visually impressive, but retains good build quality and high grade materials. The cars are pretty much level-pegging for interior room, with the NX eking out 5 litres more load space with the seats up and 10 litres more with them down.
Power options are significantly different too. The Tiguan has an exclusively diesel line-up, with all cars using the 2.0 TDI with between 108hp and 182hp. There's no diesel in the NX range, with either a 2-litre petrol or a petrol-electric hybrid model. This helps the Lexus to a better fuel economy rating - 54.3mpg for the NX300h to 53.3mpg for the Tiguan - and better performance too, with the NX200t hitting 60mph in just 7 seconds.
While both cars have the majority of models with four-wheel drive, it's the NX - based on Toyota's RAV4 - that will steal the march if you need to go further from paved roads. Both will do a job in wintry conditions though. In terms of usual use, the Lexus is more hushed at motorway speeds - though the Tiguan isn't far behind - and the cars are well-matched should your thoughts turn to more sporty driving, thanks to the NX's better urgency between the curves.
When it comes to safety, neither car is lacking, though the NX was tested in 2014 under new and more stringent criteria than the Tiguan's 2009 test. Both rate 5 stars from Euro NCAP and have a high level of standard safety equipment.
Ultimately the Volkswagen Tiguan is a very good car that attracts a lot of praise largely through not really doing anything in particular wrong. The Lexus NX moves the game on a step, improving in every department with an extra visual flair missing from the VW.