HAPPY Australian birthday Infiniti, how's the first four years been?
It was 2012 when Nissan's premium arm landed down under, and while sales are on the up, only 574 cars were shifted in 2015.
Put this down to lack of brand awareness or only seven national dealerships, but Infiniti is no premium bit part player globally. In the USA last year Infiniti sold around twice as many cars as Land Rover or Volvo, and about ten times Jaguar's total. It's a very big deal Stateside.
Giving the market what it wants is key, and don't we 'Strayans just love a small SUV? Here's Infiniti's effort: the Q30 crossover, a front-wheel drive style statement somewhere between a small SUV and a premium hatchback, which will be followed in coming weeks by an all-wheel drive QX30 version. And it's targeting you, Gen X and Gen Y shoppers.
The Q30 is British built on a Mercedes A-Class chassis, with Infiniti quick to point out the Q30's height and width are the same as Merc's GLA small SUV. But this is no Benz facsimile with a less familiar badge. The Infiniti is more daring in design with its edgy coupe-esque body, has a more comfort-focused suspension tune and brings pretty generous tech and equipment as standard.
Three Q30s are available. The one to get you in the showroom, the 1.6-litre petrol GT, costs from $38,900 before on-roads, but a 2.0-litre petrol looks the pick in Sport guise from $44,900. Kit gets more generous if you opt for a Premium model (from $52,900), while a 2.1-litre diesel Sport and Sport Premium are also on offer. The diesel will probably be more relevant for the AWD QX30 version though.
Fancy moving from a Merc to an Infiniti Q30? You'll feel at home in here then. Your instruments, switchgear, steering wheel stalk (and electric seat controls in the Premium) are all very Benz, and are clear and simple to operate. A central seven-inch screen looks a bit dated and undersized for a premium car, but the sweeping soft-touch dash, lovely ergonomic gear shifter and steering wheel give an air of class.
Seats are cloth, Alcantara or leather as you move through the three grades; all proved excellent over many hours of driving, with the Alcantara lovely enough to not need to go Premium.
Now here's the big win for Infiniti. Cabin serenity. Excellent insulation and a ride that's not trying to be a sportscar means makes for a sublime cosseting experience. The Q30 absorbs bumps beautifully - especially the GT with higher ride height and smaller rims. In the city or as highway cruiser it is a revelation for a small car in terms of blocking out noise and harshness.
On the road
Q30 drivers shouldn't be seeking BMW rear-wheel drive thrills and engagement. Instead, the baby Infiniti knows its remit: be very easy to drive and damn comfortable. It succeeds.
The entry-level GT's 115kW petrol motor would suffice many small SUV drivers, but for a bit more guts you need the Sport's 155kW/350Nm 2.0-litre, which has decent urge when pushed. All use a smooth seven-speed dual-clutch auto.
Different suspension settings have Sport versions sitting 15mm lower than the GT, so the latter's ride is a smidge comfier, aided by normal rather than run flat tyres, plus smaller rims.
Rebound springs do a decent job of keeping all Q30s flat through the turns, but it pays for its SUV aspirations by feeling more top heavy and less dynamic than a hatchback during enthusiastic cornering.
What do you get?
Entry GT cars get 18-inch alloys, cloth seats, leatherette dashboard, gear shift paddles, climate control, auto headlights and wipers, remote keyless entry, seven-inch touchscreen, InTouch apps and sat nav, cruise control, rear parking sensors, and active safety systems forward collision warning and forward emergency braking.
Sport variants add 19-inch wheels, Sport body styling, aluminium pedals, Alcantara/leatherette heated Sport seats and trim, lane departure warning and traffic sign recognition alerting you to changed speed zones.
Premium buyers score Nappa leather for the upholstery and dash top, moon roof, power memory seats, dual zone climate, ambient lighting, BOSE sounds, around view monitor with moving object detection and it'll parallel park itself.
There's sadly no keyless start or Apple CarPlay or Android Auto available.
A 430-litre boot space puts the Q30 on a par with a Nissan Qashqai, and trumps small SUV leader, the Mazda CX-3, by a good 80-litres. The boot lip is low to make loading easy.
Rear seating is for two only really, and adults will find sitting in the back a tad claustrophobic thanks to the Q30's coupe-esque slanting roof and skinny rear windows.
The petrol models (the ones people will buy) hover around 6.0-litres/100km on paper, and on our lengthy city and country test we returned figures not too much higher which is commendable.
Average service costs are over $500 a time which is expected of a premium car, while 25,000km (or 12 months) between services is excellent.
The Q30 is a bit of a niche carver, sitting between premium hatches and small SUVs. Crossover best describes it, so closest rival would be the Mini Countryman ($34,150), or even the Citroen DS4 ($45,990). Infiniti also pitches Q30 against the BMW X1 ($49,500), Audi Q3 ($42,900) and Mercedes GLA ($42,900).
You will get in a premium hatch for less, so also consider a Mercedes A-Class ($37,200), BMW 1 Series ($36,900) and Audi A3 Sportback ($36,500).
It looks more like a small SUV in the metal than it does in the pictures, and its coupe styling with sharp creases in the flanks (bloody hard to do apparently) is a triumph of design.
The rear too has nice muscular arches not a million miles removed from Jaguar's new F-Pace SUV, and from the rear especially the Q30 has a striking presence.
Certainly a car to get tongues wagging and heads turned more than a Merc GLA or BMW X1 due to its rarity, the Q30's for those daring and wanting to be different. Sport Premium buyers should option the liquid copper body colour - which is almost rose gold - and you're piloting a delicious style statement that will hopefully age well.
The Q30 is the most important car Infiniti has brought to Australia thus far, and could and should see a surge in sales and Infiniti brand awareness as the crossover/small SUV segment remains so hot right now.
Not a thrilling drive, but the Q30 nails it for wonderful comfort, cabin serenity and a gorgeous body design to make you proud to park one on your driveway.
Not great brand awareness, slightly dated infotainment and high-ish price may hold this Infiniti back, but the Q30 is nonetheless a delightful thing that offers a much appreciated premium point of difference to the ubiquitous Germans.
Model: Infiniti Q30.
Details: Five-door front-wheel drive premium small crossover SUV.
Engines: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol generating 115kW @ 5300rpm and 250Nm @ 1250rpm (GT 1.6t); 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol with 155kW @ 5500rpm and 350Nm @ 1200rpm (S 2.0t and S Premium 2.0t); 2.1-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel with 125kW @ 3400rpm and 350Nm @ 1400rpm (S 2.2d and S Premium 2.2d).
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic.
Consumption: 6.0L/100km (GT 1.6t); 6.3L/100km (S 2.0t and S Premium 2.0t); 5.2L/100km (S 2.2d and S Premium 2.2d).
Performance 0-100kmh: 8.9s (GT 1.6t); 7.3s (S 2.0t and S Premium 2.0t); 8.3s (S 2.2d and S Premium 2.2d).
Bottom line plus on-roads: $38,900 (GT 1.6t); $44,900 (S 2.0t); $46,900 (S 2.2d); $52,900 (S Premium 2.0t) $54,900 (S Premium 2.2d).
What matters most
What we liked: Striking design nailing the remit for desirable and funky small crossovers, impressive in-car quietness, comfortable ride in town/country/freeway, sheer ease to drive, less "me too" than a German small SUV.
What we'd like to see: Bit more driver enjoyment, keyless start, more up-to-date infotainment with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and larger screen, less claustrophobic in the rear, it's well specced but looks pricey for an emerging brand.
Warranty and servicing: Four-year/100,000km warranty with servicing every 12 months/25,000km. First three services average out at $551 (1.6-litre), $544 (2.0-litre) and $612 (2.2-litre diesel) per service.
Driving experience 16/20
Features and equipment 16/20
Functionality and comfort 17/20
Value for money 14/20
Style and design 19/20
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