First Drive: Infiniti Q30

Is the Q30 the car to make buyers finally stand up and take notice of Infiniti?

Just 1,195 people took delivery of a new Infiniti last year, fewer than have picked up a Bentley but marginally ahead of Aston Martin’s numbers. However, that figure is less than 1% of Audi’s sales in the same period, and they’re a more realistic competitor.

The new Q30, the most mainstream car Infiniti has produced, therefore has to work wonders, rivalling as it does the Audi A3 as well as the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class. It’s the latter that’s especially intriguing, as the smallest Infiniti to date has an awful lot in common with the smallest Mercedes.

The chassis, some engines, a gearbox and the basic suspension setups are common amongst both cars, but Infiniti has gone to great lengths to ensure the Q30 stands out as an individual model in its own right. This is no budget hand-me-down.

The first thing you notice is the height; it’s been raised up higher than your average hatchback, but falls short of being a proper SUV, filling a middle ground that nobody knew existed. It does it rather well too. Combining a long wheelbase, bold creases and meandering curves around the car, with a bit of chrome across the front, the Q30 is unmistakably not part of the mainstream triumvirate from Germany, and really conveys the premium image Infiniti is keen to project.

It continues inside, where there’s a rather indulgent cabin – at least on this Premium Tech specification test car – that has Nappa leather covered surfaces in front, alongside and on the seats, with a deeply sculpted dashboard that swoops around dramatically. Other surfaces are covered in a suede-like fabric, really ramming home that premium message.

It’s not quite perfect though; a plastic key borrowed from the A-Class isn’t as solid as you’d hope for, while there’s a smattering of plastics in use for things like the heating and ventilation controls that is just too cheap and flimsy.

On the road it fortunately feels very solid. Instead of being set up to chase lap records, Infiniti has tuned the Q30 to ride exceptionally well. So good, in fact, that there’s little this side of a Bentley that absorbs those long frequency undulations you’ll find on the motorway. It’s not quite so good at lower speeds, but never becomes uncomfortable.

Even the seats have been engineered for increased comfort, featuring a specific curvature that supports the back in a slightly different way to other car seats, so says Infiniti. True or not, the seats are all the better for the lack of thigh crushing or stomach threatening side bolsters.

Fortunately, with the 1.5-litre diesel engine fitted to the test car, you won’t be needing race-car like support. Built by Renault, there’s just 107bhp so it’s steady at best, taking some 11.9 seconds to hit 62mph, but that disguises its reasonable sense of urgency in town. Once up to motorway speeds it’s got enough poke to cruise along without issue, but you might need to drop down a gear or two for overtaking moves.

There’s little wind noise at speed and, if you’ve opted for the larger (and somewhat rougher) 2.2-litre diesel option, there’s even active noise cancellation to drown out the diesel drone – this uses hidden microphones to measure noise, then works some computer magic before blasting those sound waves with exactly opposite waves from the speakers.

The quality of the ride, comfort and lack of noise reduces fatigue considerably, making this an excellent choice for those pounding the nation’s motorways day in, day out.

Automatic LED headlights, main beam and wipers, cruise control, automatic emergency braking and an excellent infotainment system come as standard in the Premium, but even the base model (there’s no name to it, it’s just Q30) gets a decent equipment list. Premium and Premium Tech throw more toys at the mix, while Sport adds a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, bigger wheels and suspension that’s a little stiffer.

By avoiding the temptation to make the Q30 one car for all customers, Infiniti will give up sales to those wanting an engaging and sporty hatch to the likes of BMW and Audi. However, for those covering endless miles, the focus on comfort will undoubtedly attract buyers.

The Q30 offers a genuinely viable alternative to the traditional German trio, and a badge that guarantees exclusivity in the car park, but it might still be a tough sell. With just 11 dealers in the country, servicing won’t be as easy as you’d like (although there might be a tie up with Nissan dealers coming) which could put off many, while a lack of marketing budget will ensure many don’t even know the car exists.

That would be a shame, as it really is a genuinely likeable car.

Model Tested: Infiniti Q30 1.5d Premium Tech
Price: £26,430
Engine: 1.5-litre turbo diesel
Top speed: 119 mph
0-62 mph: 11.9 seconds
Power: 109 PS (107 bhp)
Torque: 260 Nm (192 ft-lb)
Official fuel economy: 68.9 mpg
Road Test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 108 g/km
VED Band: B / £20 per year
Car insurance group: 14E
Kerb weight: 1,464 kg
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Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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