Nissan’s premium brand is aiming to muscle in on the compact premium sector. We take the keys for a week to see if the Q30 can
What do we have here?
Infiniti as a brand is working to establish itself in the UK. It is to Nissan what Lexus is to Toyota, an aspirational upmarket offshoot.
The brand remains in its infancy in the UK with the first Infiniti showroom only opening its doors in 2009.
It’s fair to say that until now, it has failed to capture the imagination of the UK motoring public. Infiniti is hoping that’s about to change with a swathe of new and updated models.
Most important is a new entry-level premium compact family car to take on the likes the of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Called the Q30, it’s a five-door hatchback and is available with a choice of four engines, either front wheel or all-wheel drive, and seven trim levels; SE, Premium, Premium InTouch, Premium Tech, Premium Tech InTouch, Sport, Sport Intouch.
There are few better recipes, on paper, than what Infiniti has done with the Q30. Firstly, they’ve based it on one of its rival’s cars, the third-generation Mercedes A-Class. Then they’ve wrapped in a sumptuous and visually enticing body, before giving it the famed UK build quality by screwing it all together at Nissan’s Sunderland factory.
Its kerb side appeal is bountiful. With slicked back headlights, a huge supermini swallowing grille, profiled bonnet, flowing side lines and an attractive rear end. The Q30’s got more curves than a five years old’s drawing of a plate of spaghetti.
There are two petrol engines available, a 1.6-litre turbo with 120bhp and a 2.0-litre turbo with 207bhp. The entry-level gets a six-speed manual gearbox and an optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, while the 2.0-litre gets the auto as standard and optional AWD.
In the diesel corner, you can pick from an entry-level 1.5-litre diesel which develops 108bhp linked to a six-speed manual, again with the option of the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. The range topping 2.2-litre with its 168bhp gets the auto as standard and AWD as an option.
All models get 18in alloys, LED daytime running lights, 7.0in infotainment touchscreen, Bluetooth, air conditioning auto headlights, rear parking sensors, forward collision warning, hill start assist, with prices starting from £20,850.
We’re testing the 2.2-litre diesel automatic with the AWD system in Premium Tech trim, which adds lane departure warning, auto wipers, cruise control, LED headlights, keyless entry, rearview camera and front parking sensors and dual-zone automatic air con and costs £31,585.
How does it drive?
As you coax the engine into life, you’ll wish you hadn’t, well your neighbours will. The Mercedes sourced 2.2-litre diesel is loud and clattery at startup, settling down on the move, well until you go full acceleration or crawl along with traffic.
Sink the pedal off the line and the engine and gearbox struggle to cope. Revs spin rapidly, die down as gears swap and then repeat. The problem is you’ve barely moved. Once away that 0-62mph of 8.5 seconds becomes more believable as the pulls better.
It also struggles to put the power down with some wheel spin and torque steer despite the all-wheel drive setup.
The dual-clutch gearbox upshifts sweetly and remains unnoticeable until you need to get a move on, where changes are slower than you’d wish if you’re trying to nip around some slower traffic ahead. Use the steering wheel mounted paddles and changes are much quicker.
In this spec, the Q30 is most certainly set up to prioritises ride comfort. It bounces and floats over bumps and crests in the road like a dingy bobs about in the wake of a passing trawler when tethered to the dock.
Now, it does a terrific job and delivering a smooth and comfortable ride at pace on an A- or well surfaced B-road. In town, though, at lower speeds, the ride is less forgiving over speed bumps and broken surfaces.
The firmness here doesn’t translate into a sporty ride and it’s the soft wallowy ride that leads to a pitchy and rolling character when you reach a bend. The Q30 leans hard, encouraging you to back off rather than push on.
What does reassure though is the steering. It’s well-weighted, offering good resistance and is accurate. There’s no feedback but it has a feeling of assurance and quality. It does, however, suffer from copious amounts of understeer in barely damp road conditions.
Overall it feels solid to drive.
Visibility is helped by the parking sensors to the front and rear and rearview camera, however, you do feel like you in a one-man toboggan when reversing out of a parking space.
What's it like inside?
Climb into the driver’s seat and your cosseted in leather seats, leather wrapped surfaces with wood panelling while any plastics feel solid and of good quality.
It looks beautifully pulled together and complement with Mercedes switchgear. We did, however, experience several rattles from different parts of the dash during our time with it.
The biggest let down is the infotainment systems. It is well behind rival versions due to basic graphics. Controlled either by the touchscreen or by a controller between the front seats, which looks dated and is easily knocked when shifting in your seat.
Finding a good driving position is helped by the electrically controlled seats, complete with three memory settings and lumbar support.
Head room is good as is shoulder and elbow room. However, padding to the inside of the footwell and off-set pedals leave you sitting at an angle.
The doors have well-sized door bins, there’s a small tray ahead of the gear lever with USB ports, there are two cupholders between the seats, a small central bin under the armrest and a small glovebox.
In the back, headroom is no better than ok for adults, while leg and knee room is bearable, although you won’t be stretching out. You’ll want to watch your head getting in and out due to the sloping roofline and anyone sitting in the middle will struggle for knee room.
Each door has a small storage compartment while a fold down central armrest has two fold out cupholders.
The boot has a flat and square floor and a small load lip, however, the boot opening is square but a little narrow due to the shaping of the rear of the car. The boot hatch is surprisingly heavy. There is some good underfloor storage and two back hooks.