What is it?
Infiniti is still something of a minnow compared to the German brands hogging the premium pond, but that is something that Nissan’s luxury arm hopes to change with the Q30. Taking on the likes of the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3, it uses sizable chunks of Mercedes-Benz A-Class under the skin.
Despite this, the Japanese brand proudly claims to have made the Q30 its own with careful suspension tuning and a thorough restyle both inside and out. Despite the Mercedes lineage, this is unmistakably an Infiniti.
A range of petrol and diesel engines are available, with the most frugal 1.5-litre Renault-derived oil-burner capable of a claimed 68.9mpg and 108g/km. The version we’re looking at here is the top-of-the-range 2.2-litre diesel AWD model that manages 57.6mpg and 127g/km of CO2 when riding on 18in wheels.
What's it like?
In some respects the Q30 is a familiar beast, yet in others it’s quite different. Firing the diesel into life brings a familiar rumble to the cabin, one that can get loud once you pass 3000rpm. At a cruise, however, the Mercedes unit is much more subdued than it is in other recipients of this powerplant.
Active sound cancellation may help quieten the engine but it can’t hide the tyre roar and wind noise around the A-pillars. At least there’s plenty of poke, even from low revs. We can wholly believe the claimed 8.5sec 0-62mph sprint time, while the standard seven speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox makes good choices of ratio. Manual shifts are a little tardy even in Sport mode, however.
We tried the Q30 in both Premium Tech and Sport variants, the latter bringing racier styling and a 15mm suspension drop with 7% stiffer springs. The Premium Tech variant proved comfortable, although it displayed with more body roll than you might expect. Grip is good, with the front predictably letting go before the rear, which makes for stable if unexciting progress.
Sport models roll less but aren’t as comfortable; the stiffer springs mean you feel more of the road, although its bigger 19in wheels don’t help. It’s no more exciting to drive, but then this isn’t exactly a hot hatch wannabe. Instead, think more Audi S line and you’re about there. As for the steering, tall tyres blunt the response and it’s heavier than you might expect.
Climb into the driver’s seat and there’s plenty of space even for the loftiest of occupants. Both the steering wheel and seat have plenty of adjustment, although the chairs could hold you better during keen cornering.
Initial impressions of quality are good, with plenty of squidgy plastics, tasteful trims and classy bits of metal. Further investigation reveals hard, unyielding plastic, but to be fair, it’s all fairly well hidden. The infotainment system looks nice enough but isn’t as easy to use as the best systems. Sat-nav is a £1400 option on most trim levels and isn’t the easiest to follow.
Depending on their stature, rear seat occupants may not be quite so happy as those in the front. There’s not a great deal of glass back there, while grown-ups will find their head brushing the ceiling and knees jammed up against the front seats. Overall, it’s pretty claustrophobic.
Should I buy one?
Compared with its rivals, the Q30 is certainly more distinctive than an equivalent A3 or 1 Series, but Infinitis always have stood out. Where the Q30 differs is that it there are more than just the looks to tempt you; here, there’s some real substance, too.
Running costs aren’t too far off the competition, quality is for the most part good, the boot is huge and you get plenty of equipment. You’ll pay to stand out, though - an Audi A3 Sportback 2.0 TDI 184 quattro S Tronic is faster, nicer inside and better to drive - and cheaper in the long run thanks to bigger discounts and lower servicing costs.
Location Tyne and Wear; On sale Now; Price £31,180; Engine 4 cyls, 2143cc, diesel; Power 168bhp at 3400-4000rpm; Torque 258lb ft at 1400-3400rpm; 0-62mph 8.5sec; Top speed 134mph; Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic; Kerb weight 1622kg; Economy 57.6mpg (combined); CO2 rating & BIK tax band 127g/km, 23%