Gareth Butterfield reviews Infiniti’s latest stab at the crossover sector, the Q30
INFINITI is a brand which has made relatively little impact on the UK market so far. And it’s through no fault of its own, really, the brand does produce some very nice cars.
But its lack of any genuine threat to the mainstream bit of the market has kept its products fairly niche.
And while you shouldn’t expect to see one soon on every driveway, replacing Ford Fiestas and Volkswagen Golfs, it has now taken its most convincing stab yet at the busy crossover sector, with the new Q30.
First things first, don’t be lulled into thinking you should eye up one of these as a replacement for your Peugeot 2008 – Infiniti is still very much a premium brand. Infiniti is to Nissan what Lexus is to Toyota.
However, while Lexus sticks rigidly to its petrol drivetrain-only ethos, Infiniti has allowed its cars to run on the black stuff. The latest Q30 I’m testing has a rather meaty 2.1-litre diesel engine, mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.
Does this combination sound familiar? It might do if you drive a Mercedes. In fact, if you’ve even sat in a Mercedes you’ll feel right at home in the Q30. Most of its switchgear – right down to the column-mounted cruise control stick – is borrowed from the boys at Benz.
This is a good thing. A premium Nissan, with a crossover body (if you squint), top-quality fixtures and fittings and the beating heart of a Mercedes. What’s not to like?
It’s even a rather lovely thing to look at. The Mercedes similarities do not carry over to its exterior, which is sculpted to have its own identity with all the right curves in all the right places and plenty of modern angles and touches to lift the design further.
Inside, as you might expect from the lovechild of a premium Nissan and a Mercedes Benz, it feels sumptuous, comfortable and expensive. It’s odd not to see the trademark Mercedes column-mounted gear stick and it’s a shame the Mercedes copyright police didn’t allow Infiniti to borrow the Comand infotainment system; the Infiniti unit feels a bit half-baked in comparison and the screen is too small.
It drives well though. The Q30 is based on Merc’s A-Class platform, so it rides and corners very well. It’s no hooligan, but there’s a well-balanced blend of soft and supple suspension, and sure-footed handling.
Because it’s based on the A-Class, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s closest cousin is the Mercedes GLA, another premium crossover with much of the same bits bolted on.
Except, this is something of a soft crossover. Only the top-spec versions come with all-wheel-drive and, if you think it looks like it has a generous ride height, that’s something of an optical illusion.
There is, that said, a QX30 model in the range, which is a little higher and does come with all-wheel-drive. But while that’s a closer rival to the GLA it still comes in a bit cheaper.
And that, incidentally, is the trump card for the Q30. My premium version has a dizzying array of standard kit; there’s everything from adaptive cruise control to heated windscreen washer jets. There’s a full Bluetooth system, keyless entry, leather electric memory seats and a clever camera system. And this is all standard. Not a single options box ticked.
The cost of all this? £31,180. If you were to spec a Mercedes GLA up to a similar level it would cost about £5,000 more.
And you don’t have to go for the top-spec model, either. Pick a lowly 1.6-litre petrol version and you’ll only need a shade over £20,000. Even the sedate but dependable 1.5-litre diesel version arrives £1,000 later.
And it’s a lot of car for the money. It’s a little thirsty, and none of the versions available dip under the magic 100g/km tax barrier, but it’s still a premium product.
And, refreshingly, it’s a car that gives a genuinely good Mercedes a run for its money.
There’s only one thing standing in the way of the Q30 becoming a common sight on the roads, and that’s the comparatively small dealer network. There’s currently 13 and, while there’s plenty more on the way, the relatively small numbers will give the Q30 another ace up its sleeve – exclusivity.
All this quality, kit and luxury for a bargain price. You’d be foolish not to give one a try.