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Engine options, top speed, acceleration and refinement

Infiniti’s turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol-engined Q30 plays an important role in the model range, filling the yawning gap between the 108 and 168bhp diesels – and filling it reasonably well.

Against the clock, the Q30 accelerates from rest to 60mph in 9.4sec, making it almost exactly as quick as most of its closest German rivals.

Can’t think of another manual car that makes finding reverse as tricky as this one or has a mushy, notchy gate

It also has enough low and mid-range torque, and sufficiently well-balanced gearing, to manage the 30-70mph fourth-gear sprint in just a smidge over 15 seconds – almost two seconds quicker than a BMW 118i.

More important, the Q30 manages that performance level without breaking much of a sweat.

That 1.6-litre motor is generally smooth and quiet everywhere except at very high engine speeds, and it does its work smartly and without fuss.

Our noise meter had the car at an advantage of several decibels versus a BMW 118i at a 50mph cruise, with road noise being as well smothered as engine thrum. So, although it’s not as economical as it might be (which we’ll come to), it’s a hard engine to fault in simple objective terms.

And yet the turbocharged motor seems oddly sluggish on first acquaintance, as a result of particularly strange accelerator pedal response, which seems to reserve about 50 percent of engine power for the last 10 percent of the pedal’s travel.

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It’s not immediately clear if it’s done in the interests of smoothness or economy, but the biggest impact is on driveability, which is far from all it might be. Those who want to drive the car around as gently as possible might just appreciate Infiniti’s thinking, but to everyone else, we suspect, it’d be a source of irritation.

That the Q30’s manual gearchange feels a bit slack and under-defined, and the brakes slightly over-assisted, only adds to the impression that the car’s driving experience hasn’t quite been finished to as high a standard as premium-brand customers may reasonably expect.