► Infiniti has a crack at the premium hatch market
► Product of Renault-Nissan, with Daimler bits too
► With sat-nav it costs £28,950 – Golf GTI money
Sitting somewhere in the high-riding hinterland between a hatchback and a crossover, the Infiniti Q30 looks like a marketing manager’s dream – especially when you add a sprinkling of ‘premium lifestyle’ image to the mix. Is it enough to extract habitual German car buyers from their Audi, Mercedes-Benz or BMW, though?
Isn’t it just a tall A-Class?
The Q30 shares its underpinnings with the posh Mercedes hatchback and is the product of a joint venture between Renault, Nissan and Daimler. Its unique selling point is a higher driving position, similar to a crossover.
If you’re bored with the C-segment and its cookie-cutter hatchbacks then there’s potentially some appeal here. From every angle there's an interesting styling feature, whether it’s the meeting point of the front grille, headlight and bonnet, or the curiously convex C-pillar.
Is it just as interesting inside?
After that extrovert exterior the Q30’s cabin is a comparatively toned-down environment. It’s elegant and well built, with a set of swooping lines to liven up the dashboard, picked out by bright contrast stitching in our car.
There’s a distinct lack of hard plastic too, with leather on a high proportion of surfaces – although the hide used on the central armrest was too slippery for our elbow. You don’t need to search too hard to recognise those A-class roots, though, the most obvious bits being the screen between the dials and the switchgear on the centre stack.
While the gauges and manual gear lever are functional, they’re unlikely to win any design awards. The gear lever in particular looks like it came straight from a Qashqai, which jars with the upmarket pretentions of the Q30. Spec the auto and you get a much more attractive curved selector which better suits the otherwise elegant cabin.
What’s it like to drive?
On the handling front, surprisingly good; the steering is well weighted and linear, and there’s remarkably little body roll considering the height of the Q30. You imagine it would wallow like a dizzy hippo but this isn’t the case.
While the Q30’s more powerful engines give you more of a chance to exploit the chassis, this 1.5-litre diesel is relatively slow, taking a leisurely 12 seconds to crack 0-62mph. You won’t notice this around town but it requires some effort to get up to speed on a short slip road.
However, if you’re looking for cheap running costs, it’s ideal. Infiniti claims 68.9mpg is possible and we saw 52mpg on a run without much effort – and emissions of 108g/km of CO2 will be music to company car drivers’ tax-sensitive ears.
Sport-grade cars sit 15mm lower for reputedly improved handling but the ‘Premium’ (there’s that word again) version we tested had a more relaxed suspension setup. Consequently the ride was quite soft. It’s just a shame that the supportive, electrically operated seats left us too close to the roof to get properly comfortable.
The Infiniti Q30 is a competent car that has its charms. Provided you don't get put off by the 'is it a cheap Mercedes or posh Nissan?' train of thought, then it's worth further investigation. It has a unique look and offers something a bit different in a market where everything seems to be slowly converging. We think the more powerful diesel engine and dual-clutch gearbox suit it better, though.