Percentages can mean many things. Here’s one. Sales of alternative fuel vehicles have risen by a third this year. They still have only 3.4 per cent of the market but it’s a trend you can’t ignore and by the end of September sales of electric and hybrid cars had passed 73,000 – equivalent to total Hyundai or Kia sales – both of which have now entered the hybrid market.
Here’s another trend. Sales of Volkswagens have dropped 10.6 per cent which seems to argue against the idea that it has weathered the scandal over rigging emissions data on its diesel cars. Other trends signify the impetus of new models: Jaguar is up 47 per cent and its chums at Land Rover have gained 27.5 points. Bentley has roared to a near 50 points gain. Smart is up 47 points.
New models explain the surge from Infiniti, which has almost tripled sales to reach 2,500 in the first nine months.
I know, it’s norra lot as Cilla may have said but it is caviar and bubbly for the luxury imprint of mighty Nissan. Perseverance and investment are paying back. Oh, and the link with Mercedes-Benz, whose A-Class hatchback has been the template for Infiniti’s rebodied sibling, the Q30, made at Sunderland.
Now there is a cross-over, semi-SUV model called the QX30, which is to the Q30 what the GLA is to the A-Class at Mercedes. It rides higher, has a bulkier body, costs about £2,000 more than the equivalent Q30. The Q30 (and its Mercedes peers) have a choice of engines and transmissions. Infiniti, so far, offers the QX30 only as a 2.2 diesel with automatic gears and all-wheel-drive. This means a starting price of £29,490 for the well-equipped Premium version
Tested here is the other offer, the Premium Tech at £33,370 which adds a rear camera, Nappa leather, powered memory front seats – so I’d choose the Premium and buy a Rolex with the change.
Infinitis have dramatic styling: Japan meets Europe via Korea and the US – a huge market for them. The QX30 body is all swoops and curves and the bonnet edge has an unusual chromed lip over the mesh grille. At the back the roof dips over the chromed reverse curve roof pillar joint with the side windows. Interior headroom and luggage space also take a dip. If you want to carry lofty rear passengers, check first.
The QX has presence, though running a tape measure over the interior shows no gain in width over, say, a Ford Focus. The interior bulges with stitched panels and two-tone seats. It has kudos when you step in and contemplate the rather busy array of controls, buttons and switches. There’s a central commander on the transmission tunnel which manages audio, navigation, menu and camera options through the display screen.
You’ll like the looks but from inside looking out the shallow windows restrict the view. There’s another hitch you’ll have to get used to – the turning circle, but once you know, well, you know.
QX30 is in a hot sector, with sales rising fastest in Europe, invested with various jacked-up urban rides from Lexus, Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Range Rover and Volvo plus the upper reaches from general dealers such as Ford, Hyundai, Honda, Toyota.
You are probable now deciding that given such a choice you’d be heading for something Germanic or saving a few quid and going for mass market oriental. For such reasons do outsiders want to get you into their showrooms.
The UK boss at Suzuki, also nibbling into the market with its S-Cross, says that’s the big problem. Once in the showroom, the car sells. However, we also hear that people are buying online, at home after work.
I can’t, hand on heart and all that, say I’d buy an Infiniti instead of its rivals. There was nothing I disliked, though, The big tyres soak up most of the road’s rough edges. The Mercedes engine and the automatic gearbox work smoothly, maybe a bit delayed to pick up pace from junctions. It is quiet inside, cruises without fuss, only sounds like a diesel when you are outside it and hear it idling.
Then there’s the price – nudging £30,000 because there is so much kit on the car. You can get an Audi Q3, a lovely small SUV, for a little over £26,000, and the GLA, the QX’s sire, can be had for well under £26,000. Maybe Infiniti feels that as it will not sell many, it may as well get as much money as possible? Until, or if, there’s a lower spec QX30 that’s the way it is. Or get the front-wheel-drive Q30.
Infiniti took celebs to the launch of the new Michelin Guide and showed its new Q60 coupe – another model which will attract attention - and the question: where’s the diesel? Not in a Q60, which has a 205bhp 2-litre petrol with rear wheel drive and a 3-litre twin turbo V6 with 394bhp and all-wheel-drive. Prices start at £33,990 for the 2-litre and £42,990 for the V6.
Verdict: Worth a try. Enjoyable. Rare. Pricey.