Makita Sub-Compact Drill and Impact Driver – 18v Goes Ninja

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases (more).

makita sub-compact

What's This?This post is sponsored by The Home Depot. Tool brands take their colors seriously, and when one of them deviates from the color everyone recognizes them by, it means one of two things: 1) They are making a statement to differentiate a particular tool, or, 2) their brand manager is getting fired. Makita has recently made a chroma-curious move and released a new line of 18v Cordless tools in, wait for it, black! They sent us their 18V LXT Sub-Compact Combo Kit (CX200RB) several months ago, which includes both the Makita Sub-Compact Drill (XFD11ZB) and Makita Sub-Compact Impact Driver (XDT15ZB). We’re pretty sure their brand manager isn’t getting fired over the new color scheme, so let’s talk about these new tools, and why you might want to own them.

As we all know, it’s a cordless world out there when it comes to power tools. Even outdoor power equipment is making the rapid progression toward cordless technology. Just about every power tool, including those many thought would “never” go cordless, are available in cordless platforms. All that cordless goodness does come at a cost. For one thing, things can get messy when it comes to battery platforms and chargers. I often dream of a day when all the tool companies come together to pursue a universal standard for chargers and batteries. From a consumer standpoint, being able to use one charger and any brand’s battery would make life a lot easier.

The Makita Sub-Compact CX200RB Kit
The Makita Sub-Compact CX200RB Kit

Unfortunately, that’s not likely to happen for a variety of reasons. For one, many tool brands invest a great deal in innovation focused on batteries, chargers and the tech that enables batteries to communicate with both chargers and the tools themselves. Those same companies aren’t going to be excited to join in a sharing circle of competitors, singing Kumbaya as they exchange their hard-fought intellectual property. Brands also benefit from practical brand loyalty here too. The tool companies that offer a large variety of the most appealing tools can encourage some buyers to stick to a single brand’s cordless platform exclusively. If you don’t believe that, check out some of the photos posted to social media showing loyal tool users showcasing mountains of red, blue, green or yellow cordless tools.

Even if you stick to one brand, you’re likely going to have tools in both 12v and 18v lines. Which brings us to this current review. Makita is looking to bridge the gap between 12v and 18v lines by providing the compact form factor users love in the 12v platform, with much of the power and performance users love about the 18v platform. For some of you, this might mean you leave some or all of your 12v gear behind and just carry your 18v tools, batteries and charger.

Makita Sub-Compact Drill / Driver & Impact Driver – Get a Grip on the Ergonomics

makita 18v sub-compact
Comfortable ergo with a compact form-factor make the Makita Sub-Compact tools feel like a natural extension of your hand

One of the great things about 12v tools is their ergonomics. Many 12v drills and drivers just feel better than some of their bulkier 18v counterparts. The Makita sub-compact drill and it’s sibling impact driver feel more like a 12v tool in your hand, and that’s thanks to Makita’s choice to use a brushless motor that’s smaller in size than what you would find on a comparable 18v tool. While some bulkier 18v tools can feel awkward and cumbersome to wield, the Makita sub-compact tools instead feel like a natural extension of your arm (albeit with a lot more torque). And, because there isn’t a 12v battery crammed into it, the trim and slender grip on the sub-compact actually feels even better than many chunkier 12v grips.

Sub-Compact Weight – Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee

The sub-compact benefits don’t stop with how the tool feels in your grip, they’re also relatively light, especially if you’re using the lightweight Makita 2.0 Ah battery. At just 2.8 and 2.6 lbs for the drill/driver and impact driver respectively (with the 2.0 battery), arm fatigue is kept to a minimum.

Makita 18V Sub-Compact Drill & Impact Driver Features and Performance

One of several tasks for the Makita Sub-Compact tools – drilling through solid bamboo
The bamboo benchtop was no match for the Makita sub-compact drill

I used the 18V Sub-Compact Drill and Driver on a variety of tasks including installing recessed alarm sensors, drilling glass, assembling office furniture, installing a flat screen, installing a bench vise on a bamboo bench-top, removing a glass shower door assembly, installing closet railings, drilling into plaster, and general tasks for around the home. Some of that work was done off-site and these Sub-Compact tools were compelling to bring along since I suspected I might need more juice than a 12v might provide, but I also didn’t want to lug bulkier tools along. I dropped the Makita Sub-Compact Drill and driver into a tool bag filled with other tools and I didn’t feel like I was lugging my shop with me.

The bit got hot, but the drill stayed cool

The Makita Sub-Compact 1/2″ Driver Drill (XFD11)

Lots of clutch settings and a bright LED. We didn’t use the clutch given that we had the sub-compact impact driver on call.

This nimble powerhouse delivers 0-1700 RPM with a tiny 6-3/8″ overall length. You can adjust fastening torque from 20 different settings via the ring next to the chuck, or set it in drill mode to disable the clutch. The tool features two speeds, with the higher speed intended for lower-load activities. I found the optional belt clip handy given that the tool isn’t likely one you’ll slip into your toolbelt pouches. That’s one downside to the Sub-Compact line – 12v tools (assuming you’re using a lower capacity slim battery) are sleek enough that many users store them in their tool pouches. Despite the Sub-Compact’s very trim size, you won’t be likely to do that given the bulkier 18V form-factor. One little known fact is that you can use this tool like a manual screwdriver by switching the forward/reverse switch to neutral. However Makita recommends you don’t get carried away and try to loosen rusted lugnuts this way. Frankly, assuming you have both these tools on hand, you’ll probably want to use the driver drill more or less exclusively for drilling and the Sub-Compact Impact Driver for fasteners.

The Makita sub-compact drill / driver drilling out a dense door frame for a home automation sensor.

The Makita Sub-Compact Impact Driver (XDT15)

Once the holes were drilled, the Makita sub-compact impact driver stepped in to snug up the beefy hardware.

While not exactly ninja-quiet, the impact driver delivers a punishing 0-3900 impacts per minute to coerce fasteners into submission. It sports an even smaller 5-5/16″ overall length, making it ideal for tight-quarters fastener combat. At the base of the tool, you’ll find a somewhat confusing array of options for controlling the impact force. I’ll walk through each here, since they are not intuitively obvious (or, they weren’t to me anyway).

The indicator lights/settings weren’t quite as intuitive as we’d like.

There are three separate areas with indicator lights “S” for “Soft”, “H” for Hard and “A” for Assist Mode. Soft mode is engaged when just the light under the S is lit. It’s best for working with smaller fasteners and more delicate materials. Maximum impacts in S mode is 1600 IPM. If you’re in “H” or hard mode both the S and H lights are lit. I found this a little confusing as typically indicator lights are on one setting or another, not both. Presumably Makita lit both to indicate you can still operate the tool in the lower IPM range, but I think a single indicator light would make things more clear to users. In hard mode the tool delivers up to 3900 IPM’s. Plenty of impacts for most screws and reasonably-sizes bolts out there. Lastly, “A” or assist mode will automagically start screws slow and then gear up to higher speeds and impacts once you’re on track. This is great for longer fasteners and if you’re tool lazy to adjust speed yourself. “A” mode has the same maximums as the Hard setting by the way. In a world of Low-Medium-High or 1-2-3 settings, I think S-H-A isn’t as clear as it could be.

A single push button makes swapping batteries a snap.

Both tools have an onboard LED light just under the chuck / bit holder that lights during operation and stays lit about 10 second after. The light position casts a pretty significant shadow and isn’t super-bright, but it’s still useful if you’re working in a dark space. I found it very helpful working in a couple dark closets. As with many other Makita tools, you’ll find a fuel gauge on the battery itself rather than on the body of the tool, which is handy to for checking charge level on batteries that aren’t slid into a tool.

The 18v batteries have onboard charge status, handy for checking charge even if the battery isn’t hooked up to a tool.

Another nice bonus to the 18V battery is that it makes a much more stable stand than trying to balance the barrel-style 12V battery tools (many of which will simply fall over). You can set these Makita Sub-Compact tools on the ground, a nearby shelf or table and they’re ready to grab and go.

Both drill and driver stand up easily and are very stable when compared to trying to stand up a 12v barrel-style battery

The 18V LXT Sub-Compact Combo Kit (Cx200RB) we tested comes in a cube style carrying case that, sadly, is not black (which means it does NOT match my ninja outfit). While it handily fits the tools and charger, with room to spare for batteries and accessories, I can’t see carrying that cube anywhere, even with the included shoulder strap. The cube is bulky and better-suited to storing your lunch. With ninja-style tools like these, I’ll instead tuck them away in more agile storage when transporting them.

While functional and spacious, we weren’t in love with the cube-style carrying case.

The new 18V LXT Sub-Compact line from Makita has a lot going for it: great ergonomics, compact size, light weight and plenty of power for most applications you would want to use them for. Whether you’re a pro looking to minimize how much gear you’re toting, or you’re a homeowner looking for the convenience of a 12v tool, with many of the power advantages of an 18V tool, the Makita Sub-Compact Drill/Driver and Impact Driver is a great value and a winning combination. Plus, they’re black, which is awesome!

makita sub compact kit
Buy the Makita CX200RB kit from our sponsor The Home Depot

You can find the 18V LXT Sub-Compact Combo Kit (Cx200RB) for a very reasonable $239 price tag at The Home Depot. The kit includes both Sub-Compact tools, 18V charger, two 2.0AH batteries and the lunch box, errr, I mean storage case.

Buy Now - via Home Depot

I acknowledge that The Home Depot is partnering with Home Fixated in sponsored content. As a part of the sponsorship, Home Fixated is receiving compensation for the purpose of promoting The Home Depot. All expressed opinions and experiences are our own words. This post complies with the Word Of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) Ethics Code and applicable Federal Trade Commission guidelines.

Photo of author

About Marc Lyman

Marc grew up under a brave single mom who "encouraged" home improvement on the family home. Early toddler gifts included a tool set, and even a cordless Bosch drill when cordless drills first came out. In grade school (give or take a few years), Marc's mom said, "We need to cut down some trees. . . . here's a chainsaw." A father figure also involved Marc in many home improvement projects, including a summer of home remodeling in Palo Alto, CA. Toss in some Obsessive Compulsive personality traits researching everything home improvement related. The end result: a genetically pre-disposed, socially sculpted home improvement machine! For his complete profile, please visit our About page. Really, it's worth it.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get access to free prizes, product sneak-peeks, reviews, how-to's and much more!

More Info | Email Privacy

2 thoughts on “Makita Sub-Compact Drill and Impact Driver – 18v Goes Ninja”

  1. I use to have an electric drill…problem was, when I broke up with my fiancée, he took MY tools. Happy about the break up…unhappy about the theft. I’m now Happily Married. The only thing is, I don’t have any of my tools.

  2. I thought lugging my tools from the outside shop into the back door, up the stairs to work on a project was bad.
    Now I get to lug them from the shop, to the truck, onto the highway, drive 8 hours through 3 states to work on my grandchildren’s house.
    Then haul them back, unload the truck, WHEW and take breath.
    But, I love my grandchildren, my daughter and my son-in-law. Would be nice to leave the 18V LXT Sub-Compact Combo Kit (Cx200RB) there.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.