Let’s not worry about the uncertainties lurking around Infiniti’s brand appeal in the UK.
We all know it’s still establishing itself, and that most people will just look puzzled when you tell them what you drive. Fair enough.
New doesn’t mean bad, and this Infiniti QX30 could well make more sense than any other Infiniti given the high demand for compact premium SUVs of this ilk, not to mention the company’s well-rooted global reputation in the upmarket 4x4 classes.
It's got the same body and interior as the Q30, but jacked up by 30mm, and complete with bespoke suspension set-up, compulsory four-wheel drive, 168bhp 2.1-litre diesel motor and seven-speed dual-clutch auto that’ll be familiar to anyone who’s paid attention to Mercedes’ range over the last decade or so.
Actually, it still doesn’t feel overtly SUV-like from the driver’s seat. You do sit reasonably high up, but there’s still the strong sense of crossover-ness in the low-set seat, the high waistline and the tapering window line.
The way it drives, too, smacks of deliberate hatchback-like qualities. Sure there’s a fair bit of body roll, but turn-in is keen enough and the steering offers decent resistance immediately off the straight-ahead. It’s a shame that, as you wind lock on, weight builds until it feels like it’s trying a bit too hard to prove an unnecessarily sporting point, but it’s progressive enough that most will find it intuitive and inoffensive. Sling it into a corner with gusto and it’s understeer that’ll be the dominant result, but it does grip stoically enough to engender confidence.
Less alright is the gearbox, which is quite slow to respond in default Eco mode, but then in Sport gets all rev-happy and lets the 2.1 diesel stray into its gritty-sounding and more strained-feeling higher range. You’re best just leaving it in Eco and living with the lazy, long-travel throttle response in order to enjoy the Infiniti’s smooth, easygoing everyday cruising abilities, which is the sort of use that it feels most at home in. Engine noise dies away, the loping, long-wave ride settles down and you’re left to relax and enjoy the really rather decent refinement.
So, all-in, dynamically and in terms of its driving position, the QX30 is distinctly alright. Nothing more, nothing less. It slogs up to 62mph as quickly as most rivals and, but for the odd lumpy suspension heave around town, it’s quite comfortable, quiet and good enough at threading down a reasonable road.
What’s most disappointing is the interior space. As we highlighted when we road tested the Q30, Infiniti has gone for the reverse-tardis affair and somehow made this car big on the outside and small on the inside. Most will be fine up front, but adults in the back will find that head and leg room feel distinctly meagre. The boot, while offering a decent floor size, also isn’t as easy to access as you might expect of an SUV.
Surprisingly, even the new, notably more compact Audi Q2 has better rear passenger space than a QX30, and while the Audi Q3 and Mini Countryman are hardly capacious, they're both still better than the Infiniti, while the BMW X1 is notably better to drive and for practicality.
At least the dash is reasonably easy to figure out, although the sat-nav graphics look dated, and it’s not always obvious how to do simple things, like browse a station list.
However, the QX30 has some clear attractions, sure. It's softer-riding and quieter than quite a few of the notable rivals, and then, of course, there’s the styling and that intangible sense of being a bit different to the norm.
There are only two trim levels and even base Premium gets a sat-nav, the full gamut of connectivity, heated front seats and wing mirrors, rear parking sensors, lots of safety kit and climate and cruise controls, so it’s not badly equipped.
We’d avoid the Premium Tech model you see here because it brings some questionable wood trim and a substantial price hike, but, at £29,490, the Premium version is quite well priced compared with four-wheel drive, automatic versions of the Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz GLA.
Clearly, there are better alternatives, and while we love an unconventional option in any class, in this instance our money would go on one of the roomier, sharper-handling rivals.