The Q starts here
Infiniti throws down the gauntlet ... with a little help from the baby Benz
FROM today, there are no excuses for Infiniti in Australia.
It finally has the car it needs to connect with picky prestige shoppers, instead of relying on American-centric SUV muscle and outdated cruiser coupes.
The Q30 begins a major product overhaul at Infiniti and is the right size and price, from $38,900 with lots of kit, to convert customers who are looking for something that’s everyday usable but still has some personality.
There is also a QX30, coming next month, with slightly more crossover content including allwheel drive.
The baby of the Infiniti family has a huge advantage in the hidden bits, which it shares with the Mercedes-Benz A-Class family. That means the ignition key and switches and controls in the cabin are familiar and the basic suspension and drivelines are from Germany.
Infiniti has produced its own bodywork and the touch-and-feel stuff to move it away from the Benz basics. It’s longer and taller than its three-pointed star counterparts and, typically for the brand, the styling is look-atme edgy but thankfully not as street brawler aggressive as the QX80 flagship.
Most importantly, and obvious to anyone who has complained about the overly sporty driving dynamics in the A-Class, the Q30 is relaxed. And comfortable. Quiet in the cabin. And pleasant to drive.
But there is no reversing camera, except on the flagship model which goes overkill with a 360-degree vision package.
Infiniti admits it is only a challenger brand here, with only four real years of sales against Benz, BMW and Audi despite an original effort back in 1989. That’s why the Q30 comes with a four-year warranty that beats the luxury standard, as well as affordable capped-price servicing, a three-model line-
up, and three engines with two suspension settings.
It is hitting the restart button — after badly overpricing its cars in 2012 — but company chief Jean-Philippe Roux denies that the Q30 is a makeor-break car.
“I will say it is a milestone car. It’s not a fresh start. It’s the beginning of a full suite of models,” he says.
“There is a plan. We have four new products coming this year. There are more again next year.”
As for the crossover styling, pricing and equipment, he says, “We are targeting people who are looking for something different.”
A prestige compact crossover, according to Infiniti, the Q30 also could be pitched as a hatch in the same vein as the BMW X1 and Audi Q3.
Engines are 1.6 and 2.0-litre petrol and a 2.2-litre turbo diesel. Drive goes to the front wheels via a seven-speed DSG gearbox.
The model grades are GT at $38,900, Sport at $44,900 and Sport Premium at $52,900, and Infiniti says the only option is a 10-speaker Bose audio on the Sport for $1000.
ON THE ROAD
The Q30 is same-same, but different, to the baby Benzes.
The difference is sufficient for Infiniti buyers to believe they are unique and special and not just part of the A-Class crowd. The styling works well and there is visual cut-through in traffic, while the cabin — even in the basic GT — is refined and uses quality materials.
The seats are well shaped and supportive, too, and there is the security of blind-spot warning and auto safety braking.
The best thing about the Q30 is the refinement in the suspension. It feels to have more damper capacity than the A-Class cars, which means the ride is both smoother and more controlled. It’s not upset by potholes or broken surfaces but still has good cornering grip.
My time begins with the GT and I like it, even without a reversing camera and only an inflation kit in the boot for punctures. It would benefit from a bigger infotainment screen and Apple Carplay but the basics are right and the 1.6litre is fine for people who want a suburban runabout.
Switching to the Sport Premium brings more equipment and a more sumptuous look and feel, from nappa leather seat trim to alcantara for the roof lining, but the black-and-white striped trim reminds me of a skunk.
The all-round camera works well, the safety gear is even better with radar cruise control and speed sign recognition — which, as in the Mazda3, really works — and it’s just as relaxing for highway cruising with a bit more 2.0-litre punch for traffic lights and twisty roads.
All up, the Q30 is what we’ve been waiting for and a car to happily recommend to friends. The big challenge now, for Infiniti, is creating some cutthrough to get people to take a test drive.