The premium brands conjured up by Japanese manufacturers in the 1980s to sell more cars in the US have proven remarkably averse to global success.

Carlos Ghosn’s bright idea (formulated, one imagines, not long after he considered canning Nissan’s luxury wing entirely) of turning Infiniti into the Japanese BMW has still not gained serious traction in Europe, despite a wholesale rebranding of the line-up.

Nevertheless, its latest model, the Q30, demonstrates a more cogent step forward in the strategy.

The Q30 is a premium compact hatchback – crucial fodder in Europe if you wish to generate meaningful sales volume – and a direct product of the wide-ranging partnership that Renault-Nissan sealed with German giant Daimler several years ago.

So rather than employing the CMF-CD platform that underpins both the Nissan Pulsar and the Renault Mégane, the Q30 is underpinned – quite overtly in places, as we’ll see – by the same architecture used by the Mercedes A-Class.

Additionally, the new model is the first Infiniti to be built in Europe, specifically at Nissan’s Sunderland plant, which has been expanded for the purpose.

Like the platform, the engines are inherited from Daimler (apart from the 1.5-litre diesel, which, while used in the A-Class, will be familiar to many as Renault’s workmanlike dCi).

For the purposes of this test, however, we’ll focus on the 120bhp 1.6-litre petrol motor, mated to a standard six-speed manual gearbox.

At £21,600 in lower-end Premium trim, the new model counts everything from a Ford Focus to an Audi A3 as a potential rival.

That’s a steep face to climb when you consider that the A-Class – even with the buoyancy aid of Mercedes’ established desirability – was not met with universal acclaim upon introduction. To even go one better would be some achievement for comparative newcomer Infiniti.

Top 5 Premium hatches

  • BMW i3
    Two versions of the BMW i3 are on sale: a pure electric model or a range-extender variant

    BMW i3

    1
  • Audi A3 Sportback
    All Audi A3s feature multi-link rear suspension, denied to some other MQB-based VW Group cars

    Audi A3 Sportback

    2
  • Volvo V40
    The new Volvo V40 is the Swedish firm's sleek and sporty-looking answer to the VW Golf, A3 Sportback and BMW 1-series

    Volvo V40

    3
  • The second generation 'more grown-up' Mini Clubman

    Mini Clubman

    4
  • BMW 1 Series
    BMW 1 Series gets nip-and-tuck treatment for 2015

    BMW 1 Series

    5

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