If you swallow the Infiniti Q30 hype it’s a radical segment-busting small family car – an active compact hatchback that’s a new type of premium car for a new type of customer. Or, perhaps it’s just a jaggedy-looking Audi A3 rival with a couple of Rizzlas’ extra ground clearance. Either way, it’s a handsome thing.
Is the new 2016 Infiniti Q30 as stylish on the inside?
There are some interesting shapes and curves in the upper dash area, but while the confident exterior suggest Infiniti has finally discovered a design identity, the interior design doesn’t follow. The easily-read dials are characterless, the centre-stack arrangement unexciting (though no less interesting than a 1-series’), and you can’t help noticing bits of Mercedes everywhere. The reason being that the Q30 is based on Merc’s A-class.
Nothing wrong with a bit of platform sharing though, is there?
Definitely not, if the platform in question is a good’un. But the A-class isn’t exactly top of the class, in CAR magazine’s experience…
The very comfortable seats though, are Infiniti’s own work. There’s plenty of room up front and a generous boot, but you almost have to curl yourself into a ball to duck your head under the cant rail when getting into the back.
But this being an Infiniti, and Infiniti being a kind of Lexus by Nissan, the interior quality is probably excellent?
According to Infiniti, it’s exactly that. We, on the other hand were disappointed by the wobbly rotary heater controls, the unlined door bins and the jerky sat-nav. You just know that if the real Lexus ever pulled its finger out and built a proper C-segment car, the quality would blow this thing out of the water.
What’s under the bonnet of the new Infiniti hatchback?
A mix of Renault-Nissan Alliance and Mercedes engines, manual and DCT twin-clutch transmissions, plus a choice of front- or four-wheel drive. Low-end cars come with a choice of plodding 1.5 DCi diesel (107bhp, 12sec 0-62mph, 69mpg) or 1.6 turbo petrol (121bhp, 9.4sec, 47mpg), while the big guns are the 2.2 diesel and 2.0 petrol.
The 208bhp petrol’s short on charisma; no match for a Golf GTi, never mind the almost 100bhp-punchier Golf R you could have for the same money, which leaves the 168bhp 2.2 diesel as the only sane option if you want proper performance. Having said that, it takes 8.5sec to hit 62mph, which is way off the pace – a BMW 120d xDrive is over 1.5sec quicker.
The A-class hardly leads the class dynamically. How does the Q30 fare?
Much better, though you’re not exactly going to be rushing out to buy a Nordschleife season pass. The ride is far less brittle, noise levels are lower – Infiniti says the Q30 is 10% quieter than the competition – and it steers faithfully. There’s no adaptive damper option but there are two suspension tunes fitted dependent on which engine you go for to account for the massive weight difference between engines.
Sport trim cars get a different suspension tune again, and that is our preferred option. It brings noticeably tighter body control but with very little penalty in terms of harshness over severe impacts. Both cars ride well, in fact, a combination of long suspension travel made possible by the raised ride height, careful damper tuning and relatively tall tyre sidewalls, Infiniti says.
How is Infiniti doing?
It’s still a minnow, but sales are up sharply this last year and since the C-segment the Q30 is entering is the world’s biggest part of the market, this car could put the company on the map. And there’s more to come next year, in the form of cars like the QX30 SUV.
Bottom line: the new Infiniti Q30 is miles less innovative, and the cabin quality feel far less premium than Infiniti would have you believe. But it is the most appealing Infiniti yet, at least to British eyes, significantly better to drive than the Merc it’s based on, it’s built right here in the UK at Nissan’s Sunderland plant, and does look absolutely stunning in the metal. And those seem like sound enough reasons to get down to your local dealer to try one for yourself. Except there are only 12 showrooms in the UK, so you probably don’t have one, at least not yet.
Infiniti: still a work in progress, but definitely progressing.