Which is just as well since this premium small hatch targets tough rivals like Audi’s A3, BMW’s 1 Series and the car it’s based upon, Mercedes’ A-Class. It’s a difficult brief.
So what’s it like to drive? Well, this Q30 may be derived directly from the underpinnings of a Mercedes A-Class but Infiniti’s engineers were determined that it would offer buyers a more comfortable and relaxing driving experience than either that car or its German rivals tend to deliver. Sure enough, the ride quality’s un-bettered in this class, plus you get refinement that’s also unsurpassed in this market segment. It’s all enough to make this car a very pleasant long-journeying companion. Inevitably, the flip side of that is a dynamic experience that isn’t quite as involving as some rivals can offer, but the steering feels direct and levels of cornering grip and traction are quite high, especially if you go for the AWD system that’s optional on the pokiest petrol and diesel models.
These come only with 7DCT twin-clutch auto transmission – there’s a choice between either a 211PS 2. 0-litre petrol turbo or the 170PS 2. 2-litre diesel we’re trying here. Most Q30 buyers though, will be looking at the lower-powered derivatives. At the foot of the range, there’s a 1. 6-litre petrol turbo with 122PS – or 156PS if you order it with auto transmission. Alternatively, there’s a 109PS 1. 5-litre diesel that makes up for its relative lack of power with extra torque and greater efficiency – expect 68. 9mpg on the combined cycle and 108g/km of C02.
Visually, this car simply has to offer something different in its segment if it’s to have any chance at all of making sales headway against the established opposition. Fortunately, it does. Styled at Nissan’s Paddington design studio in London, the Q30’s shape is a riot of dramatic curves and turbulent lines, enabling it to stand out in a way that makes German prestige-branded rivals look very conservative indeed.
Time to move inside. Is it as stylish and eye-catching in here as the exterior panelwork suggests that it might be? No. Still, it’s pretty nice all the same.
We particularly like the brilliant ‘spinal support’ seats, designed to match the curvature of your back and reduce fatigue on long journeys by up to 30%.
Nor are you stuck with the kind of centre dash infotainment screen that on a rival A-Class looks like an iPad glued to the fascia as an after-thought. Here, the 7-inch colour display provided is beautifully built in to the flowing curves of the dash top and proves to be usefully informative, with Bluetooth ‘phone and audio functions easy to operate using either voice, touch or this intuitive controller behind the gearlever.
Time to take a seat in the back. The curve of the rear side windows and the amount that the rear wheelarches intrude into the door openings mean that getting in isn’t quite as easy as it would be in a more conventional Focus-sized C-segment hatch, though the process is helped by the way that the doors open right out to 90-degrees.
It’s also pretty snug once you get yourself installed inside. Two modestly-proportioned folk should be fine though – and on plusher models they’ll be served by this fold-down centre armrest with its neat-clip-out cupholders.
On to the boot. The 368-litre capacity total is a little more than you’d get in an A-Class, quite a lot more than you’d get in a Volvo V40 or Alfa Giulietta but directly comparable with the room on offer from an Audi A3 or a BMW 1 Series.
There’s no doubt that Infiniti is closer than it’s ever been before to its goal of premium market credibility. It’ll need a much larger dealer network of course to really bother the established brands, but to achieve that, it needs a strong product range filled with more cars like this Q30.
Carefully specify an A-Class, a BMW 1 Series or an Audi A3 and your car will feel impressive. Carefully specify this Infiniti to your taste though, and it’ll feel special. If you can appreciate that difference, then you’ll appreciate one of these.