For cham­pagne tastes

Be­neath the In­finiti’s swoopy pan­els is Mercedes A-Class run­ning gear

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - The Tick -

LIT­TLE things mean a lot in the In­finiti Q30. You could ar­gue it’s the same in ev­ery car, be­cause you need to feel good at the wheel and as a pas­sen­ger.

The In­finiti is a spe­cial case be­cause the Q30 is re­ally a Mercedes-Benz A-Class in a sharp lit­tle party frock. It ar­rives as part of a share deal between Daim­ler and Re­naultNis­san that will also spin off a Mercedes ute with Nis­san Navara un­der­pin­nings.

Given the donor ve­hi­cle, the Q30 comes as a com­pact fron­twheel drive with three turbo en­gine op­tions, in­clud­ing a diesel, and in GT, Sports and Sports Pre­mium pack­ages priced from $38,900 to $52,900. It is built in Bri­tain, con­ve­niently close to Daim­ler sup­pli­ers in Europe, de­spite com­ing from a Ja­panese brand.

In­finiti is launch­ing a ma­jor at­tack with the Q30 (and the QX30 all-wheel drive that sells along­side it), be­cause it fi­nally has a car with the right size and price to tempt buy­ers from other brands. Po­ten­tial tar­gets are un­com­mit­ted younger shop­pers and those who aren’t rusted on to the Ger­man pres­tige brands.

So the Q30 is the car that In­finiti des­per­ately needs to get the brand mov­ing in Aus­tralia, af­ter im­port­ing lack­lus­tre mid­sized mod­els and SUVs that worked in the US but strug­gled to make an im­pact here.

The car comes with five-star safety, de­spite the base GT lack­ing a re­vers­ing cam­era, and the five-door hatch dis­plays impressive qual­ity. Sus­pen­sion and steer­ing have been tuned to give a dif­fer­ent feel to the equiv­a­lent Ben­zes.

On that score, the Q30 pric­ing starts a lit­tle above the base A180 but has su­pe­rior per­for­mance, the Sports Pre­mium un­der­cuts the top- end A250 but does not come with all-wheel drive — and Benz still has the crack­ing A45 AMG as its flag­ship, at $77,616. My favourite Q30 is the GT, be­cause of its value and com­pli­ant ride, based on a tough day of pre­view driv­ing in the South­ern High­lands of NSW. But don’t get me started on leav­ing a re­vers­ing cam­era out of a $40,000 car.

The fully loaded $53K Sport Pre­mium that’s up for The Tick test is harsher in the ride than I like and it lacks the com­pli­ance of the GT, which rolls on smaller-di­am­e­ter al­loys with more side­wall in the tyres to soak up bumps, and there is more road noise.

The han­dling and steer­ing is noth­ing spe­cial ei­ther, although there are peo­ple who will be happy that it misses some of the manic sharp­ness of the A-Class. The orig­i­nal Benz crashed and tugged at the steer­ing, although a re­cent drive in an A45 showed that it’s a lot bet­ter now.

The 2.0-litre turbo four should be good but, as my co­driver Ali com­plains, it’s dozy un­less you hit the but­ton for Sport mode or re­ally step into the ac­cel­er­a­tor. It’s much more lively that way and quite good fun but, she ar­gues, that should be the de­fault set­ting for a car that looks like the Q30.

The seven-speed DSG works well, with pad­dle-shifters to prod the en­gine along. Claimed econ­omy of 6.3L/100km of pre­mium un­leaded is rea­son­able but on The Tick test the re­turn was 8.5L.

The Q30 ar­rives in the “pink cham­pagne” colour that’s be­come the car’s sig­na­ture and it’s a winner with ev­ery woman who talks about the car.

The body is slightly big­ger than the A-Class, which means greater cabin space, es­pe­cially a worth­while boost to rear head­room and an im­prove­ment in out­ward vi­sion.

There are seven airbags and auto safety brak­ing, and the Sport Pre­mium also comes with a 360-de­gree cam­era that eases park­ing. My favourite safety gad­gets are the ac­tive cruise con­trol, which is far less in­tru­sive than some, and speed­sign recog­ni­tion.

Its sat­nav is an im­prove­ment on the Benz and in­cludes speed cam­era warn­ings, although a larger in­fo­tain­ment screen would be ap­pre­ci­ated.

So now we come back to the lit­tle things in the cabin, in­clud­ing the In­finiti shift lever. It’s an old-school set-up, not the Benz’s wand-style selector on the steer­ing col­umn, and that is in its favour. (In­finiti in­sid­ers say the ex­tra de­vel­op­ment time it needed de­layed the car’s ar­rival in show­rooms.)

The sup­port­ive In­finiti seats are laud­able, even if the whitestrip­ed black leather re­minds me of a skunk. There are still am­ple re­minders of its Benz ori­gins, among them the but­tons on the steer­ing wheel to the seat ad­justers on the doors. The In­finiti Q30 emerges as the Benz that isn’t. It re­calls the Chrysler Cross­fire, a Mercedes SLK (though a pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion) un­der its ag­gres­sive Amer­i­can body­work.

It has the looks and the value to do the job. Likely buy­ers should be fine with the dy­namic pack­age and happy with the cabin’s pres­tige look and feel.

It’s also backed by a fouryear war­ranty, although the sched­uled ser­vice pack­age — $1620 on the test car — is for three years only.

Whether or not it’s crossshopp­ed against an A-Class, there are good rea­sons to go for the funky new In­finiti. It’s def­i­nitely worth The Tick.

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