For champagne tastes
Beneath the Infiniti’s swoopy panels is Mercedes A-Class running gear
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.