By Wayne Gorrett, on location at Titchfield Abbey, Hampshire.
Model tested: 1.5 diesel manual in Premium Tech trim
The new British-built Infiniti Q30 is a compact, five-seat premium hatch built on Mercedes-Benz’s MFA transverse-engine small-car platform.
It’s a breakout car for the brand and is the first stage in a grand plan to transform Infiniti into a worldwide rival for Toyota-owned Lexus.
There’s a lot riding on the new premium Q30 hatchback. Its primary mission is to seduce European buyers where the brand struggles, yet this distinctively styled five-seater must simultaneously boost Infiniti’s sales worldwide.
Cross-marque project are increasingly common in today’s automotive industry. It hugely reduces development costs and keeps product figures in the black.
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 the first of several intended joint projects.
German engineering and British design and manufacturing are key Q30 ingredients. The car shares much of its make-up with Mercedes-Benz’s range of small cars, including the A-Class, B-Class, CLA and GLA.
The Infiniti Q30 is built here in the UK on a new production line in Nissan’s Sunderland plant as part of a £250 million investment which has created 350 jobs. Currently, it is the only plant to provide the Q30 to all world markets.
There’s no reticent Germanic reserve here. The Q30 certainly has more overtones of crossover in its slightly raised ride height. There’s a riot of creased angles and sweeping lines which include the signature C-pillar kink to give the impression of motion. The gloss black wheel-arch trims and side skirts give the appearance of good ground clearance and emphasise the higher driving position.
There are eight trim levels in the local Infiniti Q30 range with prices starting from £20,555 for the SE, Premium £21,605, Premium InTouch £23,005, Premium Tech £25,485, Premium Tech InTouch £26, 885. The penultimate Sport trim is priced at £26,185 with the Sport InTouch capping the range at £27,585.
Standard kit on the SE includes 18in alloys, air conditioning, touch-screen CD/AM/FM infotainment system, Bluetooth, voice recognition, forward collision warning and stop, hill start assist, rear sensors, tyre pressure monitoring and LED DRLs.
Inside, the Q30’s cabin is a very comfortable place to be. The front seats are frankly excellent, well-shaped and supportive. Headroom is acceptable but rear seat passengers may find leg room a tad limited. It claims to have a practical, class leading boot capacity of 430 litres.
The leather steering wheel feels good, the stylised gear shifter likewise and the sense of luxury is substantial with synthetic suede and leather on almost every surface in the Premium Tech model tested.
There are familiar Mercedes components such as steering wheel, column wands, headlight and electric window switches and ignition key – and that’s no bad thing.
Engines & Transmissions
There are two turbo-diesel engines of 1.5-litre (109bhp) and 2.2-litre (170bhp) capacity. The smaller may be had with a 6-speed manual gearbox or a 7-speed dual-clutch auto, both of which drive the front wheels. The 2.2 diesel is only available with the 7-speed DCT, but may be ordered as 2- or 4WD.
Two turbo-charged petrol engines are available; a 1.6-litre (122bhp/2WD) mated to the 6-speed manual ‘box and a 2.0-litre (211bhp/4WD) unit only with the 7-speed DCT.
My best-buy would the super-frugal 1.5-litre turbo-charged diesel sourced from Renault. It is a gem when paired to the six-speed manual ‘box and the punchy torque of 260Nm available from just 1,750-2,500rpm, is very well suited to the car. During the test week, it returned a very impressive 70.6mpg (official 68.9mpg) over 580 mixed miles, with a total driving time of 17.5 hours at an average speed of 33mph.
On the road
Fortunately, the ridiculously firm ride found on the A-Class is not carried over to the Infiniti Q30 and the difference is palpable from the off. Infiniti’s suspension boffins have tuned the Q30’s dampers to make it a comfortable cruiser, but that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of fun when desired.
The car exhibits supple ride comfort, the far superior suspension set-up absorbing sharper, more acute bumps with more subtlety – and less noise and thrash – than the A-Class. It rides a little higher than most luxo-hatches which gives it a bit more suspension travel and this comes in handy over sharp surface changes and crusty sections of road.
As you’d expect, there’s a touch of body roll through corners but the front-end has plenty of feel. Grip limits are easily explored but the car is responsive and fun to throw around, communicating its intentions clearly thanks to a solid body, sharp steering and capable, progressive brakes.
Not quite the game-changer Infiniti was hoping for, but the Q30 hatch will nonetheless attract new customers based on its striking looks alone. That it’s a refined, luxurious and indeed fun vehicle to drive, is the icing on a very appealing cake.