The Q30 is a big deal for Infiniti. This is the car they hope will lead the firm’s march from niche player to mainstream premium competitor.
Certainly, at the moment the Infiniti group’s distinctive grille and logo is a rare sight on British roads so the introduction of a smaller, cheaper model to its range makes sense.
The Q30 sits on a Mercedes-sourced platform and from the outside it bears more than a passing likeness to the German brand’s own A Class and GLA compact crossover. The unusual combination of a sleek, swooping coupe-like body shape and the slightly raised stance causes you to look twice but it works well, especially in our first test car’s metallic grey finish. Confusingly, Infiniti insist that despite its taller ride height this is still simply a compact – the upcoming QX30 will be the crossover version.
As well as borrowing a good deal of components from the smaller Mercs the Q30 is looking for a share of their customer base as well. It’s being marketed squarely as a premium compact, taking on the A Class, Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series.
It certainly feels every bit the premium product. All the materials are top quality, it’s well screwed together and everything from the indicator stalk to the infotainment system’s rotary controller has a positive, well damped and precise operation. Touches such as carrying the leather or Alcantara trim from the seats over to the dash give the impression of a nicely thought-out car, although hiding the parking brake switch somewhere around the driver’s knee suggests attention must have wandered at some point.
In keeping with its high-end aspirations the Infiniti pampers those on board with a seven- inch touchscreen offering the usual plethora of connectivity, navigation and entertainment options. There are seven airbags, front stop assist and traction and braking technologies to keep passengers safe, and a range of driver aids such as hill start assist, parking sensors and automatic headlights.
However, if you want the Alcantara trim of our Sport model or one of the three leather design combinations you’ll need to move up the trim levels. There you’ll also find goodies such as DAB radio, cruise control, keyless entry and heated seats.
Infiniti has made a lot of fuss about those seats, designing them to offer better spinal support than those from rivals. The seatbacks certainly provide plenty of support – even my constantly aching back offered no complaints – but even for average-sized drivers the squabs are quite short and for taller drivers there’s simply not enough thigh support.
The rear is very much for children and tiny adults, even with the passenger seat set fairly far forward my average-sized driving companion felt squeezed in the back, a feeling not helped by the lack of headroom in comparison to the lofty front seats.
Infiniti are offering the Q30 with a choice of four engines in the UK. Two petrols – a 1.6 with 121bhp and a 2.0 with 205bhp – and two diesels – a 1.5 with 108bhp and a 2.2 with 168bhp. The Nissan/Renault-sourced 1.5 diesel is smooth and quiet. Allied to a smooth six-speed manual gearbox it’s also fairly perky at lower speeds but on the motorway needs a couple of downshifts to build up speed uphill. Infiniti expect it to be the biggest seller, no doubt in part thanks to its low emissions (103g/km) and high economy (60mpg). If you need more grunt the 2.2 certainly has that and comes as standard with the seven-speed dual-clutch auto gearbox and the choice of two or four-wheel drive.
Alongside the diesels, we tested the 2.0 petrol, which comes in Sport trim with lower, stiffer suspension and all-wheel-drive.
The big petrol is punchy and responsive if not out-and-out sporty. It’s also pleasingly quiet even under hard acceleration. It was aided in our test car by the auto ’box, which has manual paddles for when you feel like shifting for yourself but does a fine job when left to its own devices.
No matter whether you go for the firmer Sport or regular setup, it’s a comfortable, composed and stable ride. Bumps and rough surfaces are absorbed easily and even the cratered inner city surfaces on our test route failed to unsettle it.
The press material for the Q30 bandies about the phrase ‘in control’ and you never feel less than in command; controls are well-weighted and smooth but it’s not going to compete with the BMW in terms of outright driver engagement. Given the state of our roads and the volume of traffic with which most drivers contend the sacrifice of thrills for a composed and steady ride is probably one many will be happy to make.
Overall, the Q30 feels every bit the premium product. It’s smooth, refined, well built and well equipped. Whether it’s enough to make much of an impact on the established German players, however, remains to be seen.
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol producing 205bhp, 258lb/ft
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic driving all four wheels
Performance: Top speed 124mph, 0-62mph in 10.3 seconds