Infiniti for everyone
What makes an Infiniti an Infiniti? First and foremost, it is its design. Against the sleek, sometimes almost sterile design of luxury German brands, Nissan's luxury arm puts forward a flamboyant and almost organic design. An Infiniti has flair, exudes confidence and dares to stand out.
As a subsidiary of Nissan, Infiniti has state-of-the-art technology and is the first to make it available. For instance, Infiniti was the first to offer all-round parking cameras and the Q50 currently ranks closer to the self-driving car than even the most expensive German car.
A final feature of Infiniti is its sporty disposition. Notably, the first generations of Infiniti were available purely with powerful six-cylinder engines. 300 hp was not a limit, but the beginning. Logically, all that luxury and performance drive came with a hefty price tag.
With the Q30, Infiniti promises to offer a model for the general public for the first time. The Q30 is roughly the same size as an Opel Astra Sports Tourer, Ford Focus Wagon or Volkswagen Golf Variant. However, the proportions are completely different. The Q30 is not built for maximum space, but for maximum looks. The Q30 has a bonnet raised high, a broad shoulder line and an almost athletic rear end; it's like a predator that could shoot off at any moment.
Inside too, this "entry-level" model is a true Infiniti. The interior design is just as exciting as the exterior with sloping lines, bold combinations and unusual fabrics. The finish quality is also excellent, as can be expected from a premium brand.
Space and equipment
But, anyone taller than 185 cm is definitely not comfortable in the Q30 (depending on upper/lower body ratio). If seats with integrated headrests are chosen, they press against the neck instead of the head. In addition, the seats are uncomfortably short and "something" pushes annoyingly into the lower back which was probably meant to support the back. Despite frantic attempts to adjust the seat's height, the test driver sits with his head against the roof and the steering wheel almost on his knees.
And then is becomes clear! The buttons, clocks, climate control system controls, steering wheel and even the key all look familiar! Infiniti has in fact based the Q30 on the Mercedes-Benz A-Class.
On the outside, the designers have managed to mask this perfectly, but on the inside, only the upholstery and logos are really different. Unfortunately, they did put the seats on a higher pedestal, which is not a happy choice (despite a 7 cm higher roofline).
Infiniti also adopts Mercedes-Benz's electronics almost unchanged. That means plenty of comfort and plenty of attention to active safety (accident avoidance). Operation of all functions is logical and intuitive. This makes the Q30 undeniably modern and complete, but nevertheless not as innovative and quirky as the larger models (i.e. Q50).
Under the skin, the Infiniti Q30 is similar to the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and so its driving characteristics are also largely similar. A key difference is in the Infiniti's slightly higher seat, which gives a certain sense of power and control.
The chassis of the top trim driven here has sporty undertones. The steering is light, but nevertheless precise. This combination of a firm suspension and precise steering gives the driver the idea that the Q30 is capable of a lot.
When it comes to handling, that feeling is entirely justified. The Q30 has and excellent handling and allows itself to whip through bends if need be without even flinching. At the same time, the suspension is not so firm that it is tiring on long distances.
As indicated earlier, Infiniti's early models were only available with large engines, aimed at the US market. That made those cars expensive to buy and use, and made a compact Infiniti unthinkable. Meanwhile, Infiniti offers civilised diesel engines, hybrid engines and relatively small turbo engines.
To power the Q30, however, Infiniti sought even smaller engines. The Q30 is therefore powered by the same engines as the Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Thus, a 1.6 and 2.0 litre petrol engine and a 1.5 and 2.0 litre diesel engine are available.
The test car is fitted with the strongest engine on the price list: the 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine that produces 211 hp / 350 Nm. This power is transmitted to all four wheels via an exemplary seven-speed automatic transmission. Despite being slightly higher and heavier than the donor car (A-Class), the Q30's performance is still excellent.
Despite its fine performance, the real "Infiniti feeling" is missing. However well the Q30 drives, the car never really comes alive making sporty driving hardly rewarding. It lacks the flair and dynamism of Infiniti's larger models. Yet this can just as easily be explained positively: the Q30 offers all the sensible of a Mercedes-Benz A-Class, but in Infiniti's exclusive packaging.
Is the Q30 the Infiniti for everyone? After an extensive test drive and a lot of weighing up, that question remains difficult to answer. That's because the Infiniti Q30 is similar under the skin to the Mercedes-Benz A-Class. And although the A-Class is a fine car, the characters of Mercedes-Benz and Infiniti are very different.
The driving characteristics are undoubtedly good, but the superior and even challenging character of the larger Infiniti models is far away in the Q30.
When it comes to design, the Q30 is, on the contrary, a true Infiniti. Because Infiniti has built its own interior within the existing Mercedes dimensions, headroom in particular is disappointing. The equipment is complete, but not as innovative as usual for Infiniti. On the other hand, the Q30 offers that technology at a competitive price and that is precisely what is truly Infiniti.
- Excellent handling
- Good value for money
- Exclusive appearance
- Hefty consumption 2.0t engine
- Poor headroom / small front seats
- Not as quirky as other Infiniti models