Infiniti Q30 review: Creature comfort

Leow Ju Len

infiniti q30 singapore review

Infiniti’s Q30 is a strange breed between hatchback and crossover, but it works

LISBON, PORTUGAL  It’s a strange creature, the Infiniti Q30. Its maker calls it a “premium active compact”, but what does that mean? It’s not quite tall enough to be a crossover, but it does have more presence than your standard hatchback, with a slightly raised ride height and large wheels. Ultimately, it’s some mix of the two.

Whatever it’s meant to be, it sure looks good in the flesh. There are styling details that have coalesced into a sort of uniquely Infiniti style, from the aggressively slim headlamps to the kinked C-pillar.

infiniti q30 20t review singapore

Pressing all that metal into those precise curves and getting all the panels to line up properly must be a nightmare at the UK factory where the Q30 is built, too, but it’s been worth the effort. The Infiniti looks much more like a metal sculpture than a mass-produced car.

That’s fitting, because the Q30 wants to be anything but “mass”. Infiniti is Nissan’s answer to Lexus, so it’s overtly a luxury carmaker. But in order to avoid articles like this having to explain that fact every time one of its new cars is mentioned, it needs a blockbuster to help propel it into the consciousness of the car-buying public.

That’s the Q30’s job. (And you thought all it had to do was stand around and look curvaceous.)

infiniti q30 singapore launch

If anything’s close to the Infiniti’s form, it’s the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class. They’re roughly the same size, and while the GLA is a tall thing too, it’s also on the short side for a crossover.

Nor is the two cars’ similarity a coincidence. The Q30 is mostly built on Mercedes underpinnings, so it’s a distant cousin to the A, B, CLA and GLA-Class. Daimler (Mercedes’ parent) and the Renault-Alliance have collaborated for half a decade, and even own shares in one another.

Indeed, climb inside the Q30 and there are Merc bits everywhere. The seat and air-con controls, the stalks, the steering wheel buttons, even the instrument cluster are more or less straight out of an A-Class. The parking brake operates the same way, and so does the gearlever, so if you’ve driven one of the small front-drive Mercedes models the Q30 feels oddly familiar.

Heck, even the key is the same, albeit with Infiniti’s parallel lines emblem instead of the three-pointed star on it.

infiniti or mercedes

Do the Mercedes parts detract from Infiniti’s efforts to forge its own identity? While you decide, it’s worth noting that the Q30’s cabin is just as eye-catching as the exterior. It’s deliberately asymmetrical, and the 7-inch touchscreen display is neatly shrouded in a niche that should make the info easier to read in our harsh sunlight.

If you like the mock suede and two-tone material that covers the dash, then you’ll want to spring for the Sport version of the car, denoted with a “Q30 S” badge on the tailgate.

infiniti q30 sport singapore review

Like Lexus’ F-Sport trim, the Sport package for the Q30 incorporates a slightly more racy interior. There’s Alcantara for the seats and door trims, and a similar material called Dinamica is used on the pillars and rooflining.

It also brings with it some cosmetic change, in the form of 19-inch wheels and different bumpers. But the main point to the Sport pack is the changes it brings to the brakes and suspension. And that latter area is where the Infiniti makes its biggest departure from its Mercedes DNA.

The A-Class, frankly, rides over bumps like it has bricks where springs should be, but the Q30 Sport is remarkably composed over lousy tarmac. This is in spite of having lower suspension (by 15mm) and springs that are stiffer than the base model’s by 7 percent.

Infiniti says it tried out more than 50 suspension settings before settling on the Q30’s setups, and the hard work has translated to a car that feels pliant and settled on the move.

The car’s steering is pretty peachy, too. It could do with more feedback, but it feels part of a very cohesive setup that makes the Infiniti a breeze to drive quickly through corners. You take aim, it turns quickly but not nervously, and it’s one of those cars that holds its line faithfully when you pile into a long, sweeping curve.

infiniti q30 singapore price

Few cars pull off the trick of mixing a comfy ride with tight handling, but the Q30 Sport is one of them.

The chassis is a good match for the 211hp engine that we spent most of our time with, too. It’s a 2.0-litre turbo lifted from Daimler (that same engine powers the A 250), and while it doesn’t have much of a singing voice it’s nicely energetic, and rewards you with long surges of acceleration when you rev it hard.

There’s torque aplenty, so the Q30 2.0t gallops up hills with a jolly sort of vigour, and it has overtaking prowess to spare. Our test car came with all-wheel drive, but in the dry you don’t feel like it’s necessary, with the front wheels seldom scrabbling for traction.

And even though the transmission is the same seven-speed, twin-clutch unit that Mercedes uses, it feels different here, less lazy but no less smooth. That’s probably a software thing.

READ MORE > Meet the Q30’s distanct cousins from Mercedes-Benz

One thing the Infiniti doesn’t quite manage is to feel like it shrinks around you as you pick up the pace through a series of bends. If anything, it feels like a bigger car than it is, and doesn’t provoke your inner devil the way a Golf GTI does.

The upside of that is that it’s a comfortable car to drive all day. When you’re cruising on the expressway the engine is pleasantly hushed, and as far as front seats go, the only thing more supportive you could sit on is a cheerleader.

It’s in the back where you’ll find the Q30’s main weakness. The rear seats are more upright than the norm, and the lower cushion literally falls short. The seat itself is mounted low on the floor, to create a bit more headroom, but that raises your knees awkwardly when you perch back there.

infiniti q30 rear seats singapore

Climbing into the ba
ck means having to crane your neck to duck your head out of the door opening’s way, too.

As for the boot, you can shove 368 litres of stuff back there without folding the rear seats, which is decent for hatchback (a Golf has 380 litres) but mean for crossover (the GLA-Class can accommodate 481 litres).

infiniti q30 boot

But the biggest challenge facing the Q30 could be its pricing. It’s not been finalised for Singapore yet, of course, because the car won’t be here until the middle of 2016, but in Europe a Q30 2.0t Sport with all wheel-drive costs more than a Golf GTI, and that lists for $181,800 with COE. It’s hard to see anyone paying that much for the Infinity, as good as it looks.

There’s a promising 1.6-litre turbo petrol with 122hp, but alas, no automatic to go with it. We did drive a basic 1.5 turbodiesel, which is a contender for the Singapore line-up because its 109hp engine would sneak it into Category A of the COE market, and that model will likely provide the entry rung on the Infiniti ladder for our market. Its nemesis would be the BMW 116d, which sells for just under 139 grand and has a much quieter engine, so unless the Q30 1.5d were meaningfully cheaper, it would be tough to see it making serious inroads.

infiniti q30 review singapore
Either way, there’s no shortage of competition for the Infiniti. But maybe that’s entirely the point — there are loads of premium hatchback cars out there already, so why not try something different and striking like the Q30?

Infiniti is still only about a third the size of Lexus in terms of global sales volume, but Singapore it has sold 177 cars in the first 10 months of the year, which is an enormous jump from the 91 units is shifted in all of 2014, so the brand is already going places.

An auto for the base petrol engine would certainly help in Singapore, as would aggressive pricing, but if breaking into the mainstream seems like a tall order, maybe the Q30 is the tall car to do it with. The hatchback-crossover positioning might make it a strange animal, but the one thing the Q30 doesn’t want to be is a unicorn.

NEED TO KNOW Infiniti Q30 Sport
Engine 1,991cc, 16V, inline 4, turbocharged
Power 211hp at 5,500rpm
Torque 350Nm at 1200-4000rpm
Gearbox 7-speed automatic
Top Speed 230km/h
0-100km/h 7.3 seconds
Fuel efficiency 6.4*L/100km
CO2 149*g/km
Price To be announced
Availability Second half, 2016

* provisional figures

Infiniti Q30 - handouts - 15092015


5 seat 5-door hatchback infiniti petrol q30 sport

About the Author

Leow Ju Len

CarBuyer Singapore's original originator, Ju-Len in person is exactly how he is on the written word and behind the wheel. Meaning that he darts all over the place and just when you thought he's lost the plot, you realise that it's just you not keeping up with his incredible rate of speed and thought.

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