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Infiniti Q30 2016 Review

EXPERT RATING
6
John Carey road tests and reviews the Infiniti Q30 SUV, with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its international launch.

The hatch from Nissan's luxury brand has Benz DNA and carries high hopes.

Today, only America likes Nissan luxury brand Infiniti. The new Q30, which will reach Australia in eight months or so, is its breakout car.

This small premium hatchback is the first stage in a grand plan to transform Infiniti into a worldwide rival for Toyota-owned Lexus.

Infiniti has high hopes for the Q30. Its primary mission is to seduce buyers in Europe, where the brand struggles, yet this distinctively styled five-seater also should boost Infiniti's paltry sales in Australia. This year the brand will sell a bit over 500 cars, the best tally since its 2012 relaunch here.

German engineering and British manufacturing are key Q30 ingredients. Sharing much of its make-up with Mercedes-Benz's range of small cars, including the A-Class, B-Class, CLA and GLA, this Infiniti will be built in a Nissan factory in the northeast of England.

This isn't a spur-of-the-moment job. The Renault-Nissan Alliance, which owns Infiniti, signed a strategic co-operation deal with Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, in 2010 and the Q30 is among several joint projects.

The Q30 has basically the same chassis as an A-Class hatchback and uses mostly Mercedes engines and gearboxes. These include the 1.6 and 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbos and the 2.1-litre turbo diesel that will come to Australia, all teamed with a Mercedes seven-speed double-clutch automatic transmission.

According to Infiniti, the Q30 was intentionally designed to slot between car and crossover.

In Europe, options will include all-wheel drive and a 1.5-litre Renault-built turbo diesel.

Only the front-drive version will come to Australia. Infiniti wants to leave some space for the closely related QX30 compact SUV, to follow it on sale in late 2016.

With the launch of the Q30 so far away, Infiniti has nothing concrete to say about cost. The official line: "Australian prices for the Infiniti Q30 will be attractive and competitive, with generous standard equipment levels planned."

There will be three equipment grades in Australia, says spokesman Peter Fadeyev.

A little-known brand like Infiniti can't afford to turn off potential buyers with too-high prices. To have any chance of success the least expensive Q30 must cost no more (even better, less) than the $36,000 Mercedes-Benz A180. The most expensive Q30 should be no more than $50,000, similar money to the A250 Sport.

With dimensions greater than the A-Class hatchback, the Q30 is closer in size to the GLA, Benz's small SUV. According to Infiniti, the Q30 was intentionally designed to slot between car and crossover.

Sitting in the Q30, it's obvious the excellent front seats are higher than in the average hatch, though tall drivers may find their elevation a problem. In a Q30 with sunroof, there's scant headroom in versions lacking front-seat height adjustment and the steeply raked windscreen doesn't help.

However, the rear seat is reasonably roomy and the 368L cargo compartment spacious.

Despite the Q30's high waistline and slim glass, all-round vision isn't bad. A reversing camera is promised as standard in Australia.

There are plenty of identifiably Benz components inside, among them steering wheel (including paddle-shifter and control buttons), steering column wands, headlight switch, window switches and ignition key.

Infiniti's centre console gear selector lever is a point of difference. The instrument panel echoes the swoopy shapeliness of the exterior design.

None of the examples at the international intro in Lisbon was a precise fit with the Australian-market specification.

The closest matches had the 155kW turbo 2.0-litre petrol and 125kW 2.1-litre turbo diesel engines, in each case with seven-speed auto, but with all-wheel drive.

The engines perform just as well in the Infiniti as in various Mercedes-Benz models, though the petrol four sounded more appliance-like (specifically, a vacuum cleaner) when revved high and the diesel seemed quieter. Infiniti fits active noise-cancelling in the diesel, which seems effective.

The firmer, 15mm lower suspension of the Sport-grade 2.0-litre Q30 delivered a decent blend of handling agility and rough-road comfort. On the uneven, potholed streets of the Portuguese capital, the standard setup in the turbo diesel was more comfortable.

Verdict

Infiniti seems to have got many of the basics roughly right with the Q30.

All that remains is to price and specify it realistically. In the competitive Australian market, that process isn't as easy or simple as it sounds.

Pricing guides

$31,490
Based on 12 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$24,999
Highest Price
$34,490

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
GT 1.6T 1.6L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $17,500 – 24,310 2016 Infiniti Q30 2016 GT 1.6T Pricing and Specs
Sport 2.0T 2.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $19,100 – 26,620 2016 Infiniti Q30 2016 Sport 2.0T Pricing and Specs
Sport 2.2D 2.1L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $21,600 – 29,370 2016 Infiniti Q30 2016 Sport 2.2D Pricing and Specs
Sport Premium 2.0T 2.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $21,800 – 29,590 2016 Infiniti Q30 2016 Sport Premium 2.0T Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
6