What is it? The Infiniti Q30 is the company’s most mainstream model yet, a fleet-appealing hatchback.
Key features: More powerful petrol engine, business-pitched option pack.
Our View: Ticks many boxes and offers a viable alternative to the Audi or BMW norm.
Review type: Full road test
Much of the brand’s hopes now ride on the Infiniti Q30, launched last year as a model to appeal to the mainstream market and especially fleet customers who might want something different to their Audi and BMW-driving colleagues.
The Infiniti Q30 is a hatch that ticks the right boxes for many UK buyers, and also offers an extra element in that while a Japanese car, it’s also a British one, built at the huge plant of parent brand Nissan in Sunderland.
The latest model to join the Q30 range carries a new version of the 1.6 petrol engine, matched to a 7DCT auto/manual transmission and with more power than its manual sister but also offering marginally better economy and emissions.
With petrol propulsion seemingly recovering some of its popularity, The Car Expert tried out the newcomer.
One of the most frequent criticisms levelled at the Infiniti Q30 is that it is rather too close to the Mercedes-Benz A-Class on whose architecture it is built around. Visually this is less than obvious, in fact this reviewer considers the exterior profile quite distinctive when compared to rivals, but was somewhat bemused when his son kept mistakenly heading for Nissan Jukes thinking they were the Q30!
While quite high in profile, the car also looks muscular, with a bold, purposeful front end and a rising belt line to a small rear window, in the process producing a pleasing coupe-like stance. The car does stand quite prominently, almost crossover-like, which is curious considering it has since gained a crossover sister in the QX30.
The stance translates to a very good view once one slips behind the wheel, visibility definitely superior to more normal rivals. Ahead the dash layout is fairly conventional though also functional. Our version had the optional Business Pack fitted which includes navigation, and this is placed high on the centre console for easy viewing, though we found the screen a bit garish in colours for what is aimed at an upmarket audience.
Fit and finish is very well done – the soft touch surfaces are of high quality, as is the stitching of the leather trim, all adding to a sense of something above the norm.
Sadly interior space does not live up to this impression. The high stance does not translate to generous headroom, while rear-seat space is on the cosy side. The boot is distinctly larger than rivals, however, at 430 litres, though accessing it is through a somewhat heavy tailgate.
The Infiniti Q30 is available with 1.5 109hp and 2.2-litre 170hp diesel engines which will likely attract most fleet buyers, while the petrol line-up includes a 2-litre range-topper with 211hp. However the majority of petrol buyers, on the comeback trail if you believe some reports, could well be swayed by this new variant of the 1.6-litre engine. Matched to a 7 DCT auto-manual transmission with steering-wheel paddles, it offers 156hp, which is 34 horses more than its manual-transmission sister unit.
As a result, 62mph comes up in 8.9 seconds, half a second faster than the manual version, but paradoxically economy and emissions are also ever so slightly improved, by an extra 1.5 miles per gallon and 2g/km.
The engine is a highly refined unit, very quiet in operation and smoothly accelerating, while the auto shifts are slick with no hunting. It all makes for fairly effortless progress.
On the road
The Infiniti Q30 chassis is inherited from the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, which attracted some criticism for its ride quality, but with much work apparently carried out the car handles normal road surfaces with confidence and an unexpected long motorway trawl during our test week was completed without fuss. Road noise can be quite loud, particularly on less than agreeable surfaces such as the Surrey section of the M25 motorway, but generally the car offers enough comfort to appeal.
Pushed on through a challenging series of bends, it won’t match up to the levels of perceived rivals such as Audi’s A3 or the BMW 1 Series, but it remains confident and poised. As a long-distance cruiser, the Q30 ticks all the boxes.
Our Q30 was finished to the base of three major trim levels, SE, Premium and Sport, though the latter two also offer sub levels dubbed InTouch with navigation fitted.
There’s a useful amount of equipment supplied with SE models, highlights including LED daytime running lights, auto headlamps, rear parking sensors and a touchscreen infotainment system with voice recognition and Bluetooth.
Also fitted to our test car was the Business Pack – this is a £2,270 option but adds a whole lot of extras, including dual-zone climate control, heated electric mirrors and front seats, LED front fog lamps, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, a lane departure warning and the In Touch navigation system that includes DAB digital radio and traffic sign recognition.
There are compromises to buying an Infiniti Q30 that keep it from seriously challenging the premium players in this market, the BMW 1 Series or Audi A3 Sportback. It’s not spacious enough in the back and it can’t match them for handling prowess. But at the same time the Q30 offers enough to lift it above more mainstream contenders from the likes of Ford or Volkswagen.
The car is well finished and an excellent choice particularly for those expecting to take plentiful long-distance journeys. And it is distinctive enough not to get lost in the car park amongst its more plentiful and more samey rivals.
Infiniti Q30 – key specifications
Test Date: October 2016
Model Tested: Infiniti Q30 1.6T 7DCT SE Business Edition
Options Fitted: Business Pack, £2,270
Price: £23,600; £25,870 with options
Insurance group: TBA
Engine: Petrol 4-cyl in-line, front-wheel-drive
Power (hp): 156 @ 5,300rpm.
Torque (Nm): 250 @ 1,250-4,000rpm.
0-62mph (sec): 8.9. Top speed (mph): 134.
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 48.7.
CO2 emissions (g/km): 136.
Key rivals: BMW 1 Series, Audi A3 Sportback, Volvo V40