MO­TOR­ING

The Q30 is a new­comer in the pre­mium com­pact seg­ment. Al­though it is a good all­rounder, can this In­finiti sur­pass its European ri­vals? wheels’ Im­ran Ma­lik finds out

Friday - - CONTENTS - PHO­TOS BY STE­FAN LINDEQUE

In­finiti’s new Q30 is pretty, but does this hatch­back have the power un­der the hood to knock its Ger­man ri­vals out of the race?

We drove the all-new Q30 in Le­banon in 2016 and came away quite im­pressed with In­finiti’s first foray into the pre­mium com­pact seg­ment. The all-wheel drive BMW 1 Se­ries and Audi A3 ri­val proved a lively per­former thanks to its tur­bocharged 2.0-litre four-cylin­der en­gine, which was blessed with a healthy 208bhp and a thump­ing 350Nm of torque. Best of all, since it shared the same plat­form with an­other ri­val, the third-gen­er­a­tion Mercedes-Benz A-Class (the Q30 is the re­sult of a Nis­san and Mercedes part­ner­ship agree­ment to share tech­nol­ogy, mean­ing this is more of a friendly rather than fierce ri­valry) it helped to give the new­bie sure-footed han­dling. We came away think­ing that Nis­san’s lux­ury arm could truly threaten Europe’s pre­mium au­to­mo­tive brands.

Now, we test the model with the stan­dard 1.6-litre turbo mated to a seven-speed du­al­clutch au­to­matic and im­me­di­ately the lack of fire power makes it­self known dur­ing a rou­tine over­tak­ing ma­noeu­vre that ends up with us re­quir­ing new pants.

With only 154 horses at a scream­ing 5,300rpm it’s not ex­actly po­tent and you find you need a lead foot and a lot of courage to get around slower-mov­ing traf­fic and as we felt back in Le­banon, the au­to­matic sure re­minds us of the dreaded con­tin­u­ally vari­able trans­mis­sion. I’m not the CVT’s big­gest fan mostly be­cause they al­ways sound like they’re stuck in first gear, as does this Q30, and with ex­actly 100Nm less torque than the 2.0-litre, you need a lit­tle pa­tience to get this hatch­back go­ing. Once it hits its stride, it chugs along quite pleas­antly and rev­els in long cruises down the high­way (as will you once the trans­mis­sion stops dron­ing) – but it also soaks up bumps in the road with­out a fuss thanks to its sup­ple sus­pen­sion.

How­ever, don’t ex­pect great things when you show it twistier roads. It isn’t a des­per­ately good-han­dling hatch – it rolls a lot more than the stiffer A-Class and isn’t nearly as en­gag­ing as a 1 Se­ries or the A3 but it of­fers a more re­fined and smooth ride than the Ger­mans. An­other plus is the fact that the in­te­rior is full of Mercedes switchgear (the in­stru­ment bin­na­cle and ig­ni­tion

key is iden­ti­cal to that of its sis­ter brand) so you get more of a pre­mium feel than you would usu­ally get with In­finiti – and it also has lots of leather-cov­ered and pi­ano black sur­faces and an in­tu­itive 7.0in in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem which dis­plays the ra­dio and Bluetooth phone func­tions and the op­tional sat-nav if you have it fit­ted (our Magnetic Red painted tester didn’t). But like the A-Class it isn’t the roomi­est mean­ing taller pas­sen­gers seated in the sec­ond row may find legroom is at a pre­mium.

If you are con­sid­er­ing buy­ing one then I’d rec­om­mend you opt for the blown 2.0-litre with AWD. The 1.6 isn’t ex­actly out­stand­ing – but with an at­trac­tively styled ex­te­rior that packs LED auto head­lights, day­time run­ning lights, dual ex­hausts with pol­ished tips and rides on 18in wheels along with a neat in­te­rior hous­ing a glass sun roof, au­to­matic dual zone cli­mate con­trol and lots of safety tech (lane de­par­ture warn­ing, front and rear parking sensors with mon­i­tor guide dis­play and seven air bags) and then throw in the fact that it serves up a pol­ished ride too, it is a very cred­i­ble model in the seg­ment – but it falls just short in trump­ing its es­tab­lished European ri­vals.

With ex­actly 100Nm less torque than the 2.0-litre ver­sion of Q30, you need a lit­tle pa­tience to get this hatch­back go­ing

The Q30 might be a poor cousin to its Ger­man ri­vals but it still makes a good ride

The in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem and the at­trac­tive ex­te­ri­ors make Q30 a wor­thy com­pact

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