Infiniti Q30 review
It's more than just a posh Nissan, as the Q30 is Mercedes-based and built in Sunderland. But should you buy one?
The Infiniti Q30 is uniquely styled and competent enough to prove a decent alternative to the premium German masses. It won't be to all tastes, but the curvy exterior and plush cabin gives it the showroom appeal necessary.
It's not a cheap offering, however. The lower-spec models look reasonable value, albeit similar to the Audi A3 and the BMW 1 Series. But flagship trims, particularly the Q30 2.0 Sport, are overpriced, while theres faster and more economical offerings about.
It’s a good long distance cruiser with high levels of comfort, but show it a corner and things aren't as impressive. A slightly higher driving position than most hatchbacks will appeal to some but practicality is hindered by an oddly-shaped boot and cramped rear.
Infiniti is a subsidiary of Nissan, created with the aim of making more luxury-biased cars that will sell with a premium pricetag attached. As you'd expect parts are shared from the Japanese manufacturer’s other models, but also from Nissan’s Alliance partners Renault and Mercedes, which shares its A-Class platform with the Q30.
So far Infinitis have mainly been aimed at the American market, with a limited and expensive range ensuring UK sales have been slim. However, the Q30 is trying to change all that. It’s an important car for the UK because it’s built in Sunderland and it’s also more attractive to private buyers on the European market due to its smaller dimensions.
The Q30 is a fresh start in some respects but it hasn’t completely shied away from the existing Infiniti guidelines. The stylistic bowed grille and sweeping headlights - inspired by a human eye - have remained. The swooping curves and various angles are far more distinctive than the straight-laced Audi A3, but we'll leave it to you to be the judge of which is better looking.
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There are two bodystyles to choose from, the standard Q30 or the pumped-up Sport version. The latter sits 15mm lower, has sportier seats, bigger wheels and tweaked bumpers. Those who want a taller, SUV-inspired version will soon be able to order the QX30 - a crossover version with a raised up body.
Infiniti believes the Q30 sits between the compact hatchback and crossover segments, so in theory it stands against no rivals in it’s sector. However, it is very similar to the Mercedes A-Class (and GLA) in terms of interior design and engines.
The Q30 is available with four engine choices: 1.5 and 2.2-litre diesels and 1.6 and 2.0-litre petrol units. The 1.6 and 1.5-litre engines are both available with a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed automatic, while the two larger engines are only available with the automatic gearbox.
The 2.1-litre diesel (curiously badged 2.2) is available with both front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, whille the 208bhp 2.0-litre petrol is all-wheel drive only.
Engines, performance and drive
The Q30 isn’t particularly fun to drive, The 1.5-litre turbodiesel is expected to be the most popular as it is the most efficient, while performance is adequate enough.
The Q30’s redeeming feature when it comes to the driving experience is its smooth ride - in fact, it's one of the most comfortable cars in its class - which makes it feel effortless. If you’re going to be doing a lot of miles, they’ll fly by in this car.
There's one proviso on this, however. The lower and stiffer suspension of Sport spec takes away some of this ride comfort, but doesn't offer much more in the way of agility or fun. The bigger brakes means it stops with confidence, but there's not much wrong with the standard setup. Premium spec is a better choice.
City driving isn’t as easy as rivals thanks to less-than-perfect visibility. It doesn’t make a meal of winding roads, but the class standards in driver enjoyment set by the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series are a tough act to follow.
The manual gearbox is a little bit disappointing. The Q30 is claiming to be a premium car but its self-shifter doesn’t offer a sophisticated experience. The automatic DCT gearbox is smoother, however.
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The most popular engine for the Q30 is expected to be the 1.5-litre turbodiesel. Although it might seem like a dull choice, for most buyers it will be more than enough.
It has 108bhp, 260Nm of torque and will hit 62mph in 12 seconds, so you'll be revving it through the gears to make progress. It feels reasonably swift in the mid-range, however.
The 1.5 isn't the quietest unit, but more powerful engines (like the punchy 2.2-litre diesel) are available with noise cancelling technology in the speakers to cut out some of the clatter.
The 1.6-litre turbo petrol offers similar credentials, although maximum torque is lower, it is available for longer and power is also higher at 155bhp. It's quiet at idle and on the move, but requires more revving than the diesel and efficiency takes a hit.
The one we'd avoid is the 2.0-litre petrol. It's not an unpleasant engine by any means (it's borrowed from the Mercedes GLA 250) with plenty of mid-range thrust and decent refinement. But it just isn't anywhere near as fast as hatchback rivals with a similar £32k pricetag. 0-62mph takes 7.2 seconds - Vauxhall will sell you a 1.6-litre Astra that is faster than that.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
The Infiniti Q30 won’t be the cheapest to run but it won’t break the bank. However, compared to the Mercedes A-Class that it shares most of it’s engines with, the running costs are higher.
None of the engines will be tax-exempt as the lowest amount of CO2 emitted is 108g/km from the 1.5-litre diesel. This engine also achieves 68.9mpg on a combined cycle, which isn’t that impressive compared to the A-Class or BMW 1 Series, both producing over 80mpg from engines of similar performance.
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Going up the range, the 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine will achieve 47.1mpg on a combined cycle and emits a higher 138g/km CO2. Again, most rivals with similar performance claim greater efficiency.
The 2.0-litre Sport is, as you'd expect, the least efficient. Thanks to four-wheel-drive and an automatic gearbox it emits 156g/km of CO2 and has a combined economy figure of 42.2mpg, putting it in the £180 a year tax band. It's the same as a BMW 125i, which is notably quicker (and cheaper).
Sitting in the middle of all this is the 2.2-litre diesel, which offers a reasonable but not brilliant mix of efficiency and performance. Infiniti claims it will achieve 57.7mpg from its 166bhp engine and emits 134g/km of CO2.
Insurance groups range from 13 on the low powered cars to 22 for the most powerful Sport model. In this respect the Q30 does fractionally better than its competition. The BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class are only slightly higher at group 15.
Interior, design and technology
The Q30 is clearly part of the Infiniti family and shares the curves of its relatives - but in a much more accentuated way. The curved grille and sweeping lights are also familiar. There are some questionable bits of trim around the boot opening but on the whole it appears to be very well built.
There is also the option of the Sport trim. This makes the car 15mm lower and the bulkier bumpers and black details add to the overall sportier look, even if it's subtle. The Sport model also sits on 19-inch wheels rather than the standard 18s.
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On the inside the Infiniti is well-appointed and feels plush. Comfort is the key word here: You get the sense that Infiniti has built this car as a mile muncher, someone spending a lot of time in the driver’s seat would appreciate the pleasant materials and air of 'premium'. For example, the seats have been designed with the aim of supporting your upper and lower back to relieve pressure by not straining one particular part.
In terms of solidity and quality, however, it's a mixed bag. You'll find better fit-and-finish in German rivals, with certain areas feeling a bit flimsy and rattles on models we've tested.
On the technology front the higher specification cars come with the option of sound cancelling speakers, to cut out some of the engine and road noise/ When it comes to clever tech there isn’t anything particularly special on the Q30, however. The majority of electrical features you can see appear to be pinched from Mercedes, which does at least show its premium origins.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The Infiniti InTouch infotainment system is reasonably easy to use. The control interface combines a touchscreen with a wheel and a selection of buttons on the centre console. This does make it easy to navigate using one or both ways of controlling the system, though there's no source or track skip buttons on the wheel.
We went off the sat-nav’s route a lot when we were testing the car and it was always quick to replan the route, so quick sometimes you didn’t even realise you’d taken the wrong turn. The mapping display looks very similar to the Mercedes COMAND system, but brighter colours do make it easier to read.
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Practicality, comfort and boot space
The Q30 is only available with five doors and five seats, but space isn't particularly generous. Taller drivers may find the footwell cramped, while those in the back arent overly endowed with head or legroom. There is quite a lip along the top of the doors, which taller people may find themselves having to stoop under.
Passengers using the middle seat will be in for more of a squeeze, too, and there is the annoyance of the large transmission tunnel on the floor. In Sport models, the dark headlining combined with the large C-pillars mean it feels a bit claustrophobic.
Cabin storage isn’t brilliant, either. The glovebox is large enough for a 500ml water bottle, as are the door pockets but there’s not a lot more space other than that. There is the option of adding storage in the armrest to help ease the problem.
Boot space is 368-litres and whether you could actually use its full capacity is debatable. The shape of the boot is quite awkward because of the curves of the hatch.
Visibility out of the front isn’t outstanding because of the chunky A-pillars but it doesn’t cause any massive problems.
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Overall the Q30 is almost 4.5m long (4,425mm) and 1.8m wide. This makes it longer that a Nissan Qashqai but less tall and narrower. It’s also larger than a Mercedes A-Class, Volkswagen Golf or Audi A3, (although the A3 is wider) which makes the rear seat space all the more disappointing. It has 210mm ground clearance.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
Because the front seats in the Q30 are raised off the ground slightly, you get enough extra room to tuck your feet under. However with the driver’s seat placed for someone six-foot tall, this would make legroom pretty tight for anyone sat behind.
The Q30 also gets electric adjustable seats with three memory settings and buttons mimicking the sections of the seat. This is useful if you share the car with someone who favours a very different driving position to your own.
The rear doors open to almost 90-degress for access, but the roofline is a bit low and the narrowing at the bottom of the door does make stepping in awkward. Once you’re in, there are Isofix points on the two outer seats.
The boot is 368-litres with the rear seats in place. There are tie down points to secure your luggage and you should be able to fit a large suitcase, but the shape of the boot means you’ll struggle to fit more.
When we tested the car we managed to easily fit two medium-sized suitcases and some smaller bags without a problem. If you needed to carry more you can fold the rear seats with a 60:40 split, however they don’t go completely flat. The hatch opening is wide though, this means there’s no need to bend down to lift things out although there is a pronounced boot lip.
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Reliability and Safety
The Q30 is available with Infiniti’s 3-year or 60,000-mile warranty, which even covers any imperfections in the paint.
Safety features include Blind Spot Warning, that warns of other vehicles in neighbouring lanes hidden in the driver’s blind spots. Forward Collision Warning with Forward Emergency Braking, alerts the driver to hazards in the road ahead – and ultimately takes automatic action, applying the brakes to help avoid or mitigate the effects of a collision.
Auto High Beam Assist, a highly-intuitive technology improves safety during night-time driving by automatically dipping headlamps to avoid ‘blinding’ cars driving in the opposite direction. Meanwhile, intelligent Cruise Control can maintain a safe distance from the car in front for a safe and relaxing drive