Infiniti Q30 Was upmarket hatch an Audi beater?
The bar is set high for premium compact hatches. Did the Q30 manage to soar above it during six months of scrutiny?
Time has come for the Infiniti Q30 to leave us. And, to be honest, the car has left us a little bit cold. Our six-month test with the Q30 was a chance for us to try to dig deep with the car, to try to find the reasons why it’s not selling like the Audi A3 and other premium models against which Infiniti is pitching it.
We opted for the 2.2-litre diesel, the punchier and more refined of the oilburning engines. We also decided to embrace the role of the car’s intended upmarket audience by opting for the high-spec Premium Tech Intouch trim with the optional Safety Pack. This gave us a wealth of gadgets and gizmos, including a parking assistant system, around-view monitor and Intouch sat-nav and infotainment.
Interestingly, during our time with the car, a new champion rose to the top in the premium hatchback class. In the first six months of this year, almost 23,000 examples of the Mercedes-benz A-class hatch were sold. Infiniti’s sales are on the up, too: the brand had a 36% increase in its market share the first half of 2017 compared with 2016. But that still equated to only 2131 cars, of which 70% were Q30 models. I’ve seen only four others on the road.
Why mention this? Well, it’s a notable divide in sales success given that the Q30 is closely based on the A-class. You can clearly see where the two cross over and the Infiniti’s valet key still has a three-pointed star on it. Is that sales deficit simply due to brand perception?
I’ve tested the Q30 as rigorously as possible over six months and my lasting impressions are of how quiet it is on the motorway and how Infiniti is trying to charge nigh-on BMW 5 Series money for a hatchback. Still, I could contemplate the latter in comfort while driving the Q30: the cabin is as serene as you could ask for in a premium hatch. Long, smooth journeys are where it feels most at home. A bit like a 5 Series, then.
In my previous report, I highlighted that, despite all that optional tech, there isn’t much in the Q30 that rivals don’t offer and there’s nothing to mark it out from an ever-growing crowd of upmarket hatchbacks.
Part of the problem, I think, is Infiniti’s brand image. Infiniti is relatively new on the market, but instead of trying to stand out and make a name for itself, there’s little in the Q30’s styling that’s aesthetically different from a number of other hatches. It’s almost identical to the cheaper Mazda 3, for example. There’s no fashionable yet muscular elegance like the A-class, on which
it’s based, no solid dependability like the A3 and no long-nosed sportiness like the BMW 3 Series. There’s plenty of visual drama, but no real standout feature to set it apart. When I was filling up at a petrol station once, someone liked the styling and then asked if I was driving a Toyota.
The Q30’s failure to really stand out grew more notable the longer I spent in it. Where other cars reveal charm and personality over time, the Q30 flatlined. A car’s character is often what you remember about it, rather than electrical gadgetry or a leather-trimmed cabin. But the Q30, with its throttle by wire and other trickery, left me cold in this respect.
Ostensibly, it has some of the makings of a decent car: good boot space, a plush cabin, a strong engine, good refinement and a decent amount of kit. But it’s the drawbacks that stick in my mind: the poor rear space, conspicuously placed cheap trim and fiddly user interface. They’re areas of a car that customers frequently come into contact with and remember.
If I was to recommend a Q30, I’d suggest the Safety Park is a good option to have. It’s not an easy car to see out of and the around-view monitor helped me park it in the tightest of spaces with ease. Tyres with generous sidewalls – rather than the low-profile ones on the more attractive ‘sport’ alloys – ensured no kerbing happened, too.
Fuel economy was a mixed bag. It averaged 43.1mpg, occasionally dipping into the high-30s, at best touching on the high-50s. I couldn’t get close to the claimed economy of 64.2mpg doing a mix of a short urban commute and a bi-weekly long motorway journey. But although it’s not a frugal diesel, the Sport driving mode was at least entertaining on the occasions we engaged it. Add that fuel economy onto fairly hefty depreciation, though – Infiniti’s fledgling status in the UK and the car’s relative anonymity can be apportioned some blame here – and ownership costs can mount up.
Objectively, the Q30 is tech-heavy yet expensive, refined but thirsty, handsome yet undistinctive. Still, it has the right ingredients to show promise; the A-class on which it’s based might not be a class leader in terms of capability, but it offers enough to make buyers flock to it in remarkable numbers.
Subjectively, the Q30 is too expensive, over-thought, thirsty and too much of an unknown entity to pose a real threat to the top-sellers of the class. That’s a shame, because the good bits are really promising. It’s just a pity that, in a mixed bag of a car that competes in such a competitive segment, it isn’t as rounded as its chief rivals. The challenge for Infiniti is to really stand out. To do that, it needs a car that breaks the mould and that’s not currently the Q30.
At a petrol station, someone liked the styling and then asked if I was driving a Toyota
Beckwith appreciat the Q30’s capabilit as a hushed crui
It worked well as comfortable and refined transport
A tyre picked up a nail; the Q30 itself ran faultlessly
Boot is a decent size, but at the expense of rear passenger space