The vehicle in these spy shots may be wearing a CT200h body shell, but this is a test mule of the upcoming Lexus compact SUV.
- shares

The elevated ride height and higher-profile, SUV-style rubber are key clues to this camouflaged car's true identity - Japan's belated response to the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and forthcoming Mercedes-Benz GLA.

A senior Lexus executive told CarAdvice last year that a baby soft-roader to sit below its RX SUV was inevitable due to the popularity of SUVs and increasingly tough emissions regulations, and the model is now undergoing development ahead of an expected release in 2014.

Lexus NX mule 4

Lexus's smallest SUV would sit below both the RX and the larger LX, and could potentially become the brand's best-selling model.

A concept version of the Lexus is anticipated for the 2013 Tokyo motor show, wearing an NX badge if the company does use the NX200t and NX300h names it trademarked in 2012.

Lexus NX mule 2

The NX200t points to a new 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, while the NX300h would be powered by a hybrid drivetrain from the Lexus ES that combines a 2.5-litre petrol engine and electric motor.

The compact Lexus SUV will share its underpinnings, albeit modified, with the Toyota RAV4, though Lexus styling including the signature spindle grille will ensure the two are never confused.