Does the new Infinti Q30 have any chance of lifting the brand’s sales and profile in Australia? The answer will depend very much on how it’s priced and equipped, and these details are still months from being announced…
WHAT IS IT?
A compact premium front-drive five-seat hatch with a touch of crossover, built on Mercedes-Benz’s MFA transverse-engine small-car platform.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT
Production of the Q30 just has begun, but it won’t reach Australia until the third quarter of 2016. The recent international launch in Lisbon was a chance to taste-test the model which could become the premium brand’s best seller here.
Citroen DS4, Mini Countryman, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Peugeot 3008, and any other hatch/crossover fusions you can think of.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
Not perfect, but not terrible, either. Q30 brings a take-it-or-leave-it look to the premium small-ish hatch segment. Decent dynamics and impressively quiet, but interior is a bit of a mish-mash and the sole diesel drivetrain lacks responsiveness.
PLUS: Overall refinement; strong 2.0t petrol turbo; standard AEB; style (if you like it)
MINUS: Front passenger seat too high: doughy throttle of 2.2d diesel; style (if you dislike it)
THE WHEELS REVIEW
SOME marriages, it’s said, are made in heaven. This one is made in Sunderland, in the north-east of England. The Q30 is a partnership production of the Renault-Nissan Alliance and Daimler, owners of Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz respectively. The pair inked a broad-ranging strategic co-operation agreement in 2010.
Which is how an English factory comes to be producing a premium-price five-door hatchback that’s mostly German, even though it wears a Japanese badge.
Infiniti spokespeople refuse to reveal how much Mercedes-Benz it takes to make a Q30, but it’s obviously a lot. As has been widely reported already, the Infiniti uses the same transverse front-engine MFA platform that’s the foundation for the A-Class, B-Class, CLA and GLA. It has the same wheelbase, and appears to use the same suspension, steering and braking components. Three of the Q30’s four engines, and the transmissions they’re teamed with, are Mercedes as well. None of this is obvious from outside the Infiniti, but inside the Q30 there are familiar Mercedes components; steering wheel, column wands, headlight and electric window switches, and ignition key.
Infiniti prefers to stress how much it contributed to the Q30. The curvy, high-waisted exterior steel, for example, remains fairly faithful to the 2013 show car’s design. Behind an instrument panel echoing the swoopiness outside is a pair of front seats engineered specifically for the Infiniti. And the company highlights the extensive development program it ran – 750 engineers – in Japan, North America and Europe to tune the Q30’s suspension and ensure its durability.
The Q30’s key dimensions are much closer to Mercedes-Benz’s GLA than the A-Class. Infiniti says the aim was to create something midway between conventional hatch and crossover. A slightly elevated and easy-to-access seating position was seen as an essential attribute.
Although Infiniti produces the Q30 with all-wheel-drive, six-speed manual transmissions (though only with low-powered engines) and a Renault-made 1.5-litre turbo diesel four, none of these will be offered when it launches in Australia later in 2016. What we’ll see around August next year is a choice of three Mercedes-sourced drivetrains, three equipment grades, and few options.
That distant arrival date means Infiniti won’t talk cost or specification. “Australian prices for the Infiniti Q30 will be attractive and competitive, with generous standard equipment levels planned,” is the official line. What this <should> mean is a starting price around $35,000, with steps upward in power and equipment to arrive at a range-topper around $50,000.
The engine line-up looks like this; 115kW 1.6-litre and 155 kW 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol fours, plus a 125kW 2.1-litre turbo diesel four (which Infiniti misleadingly labels ‘2.2d’). All will be teamed solely with a seven-speed double-clutch transmission and, as mentioned earlier, drive through the front wheels.
None of the Q30s at the international launch in Lisbon was a match for what’s heading to Australia. While there were 2.0t and 2.2d models with double-clutch, all were all-wheel-drive.
Ride and handling seemed well sorted, even in the 2.0t in Sport spec (15mm lower ride height) wearing 19-inch wheels. Performance was fine, though the 2.0t sounded a bit Hoover-ish when revved and the 2.2d’s throttle response was doughy. What does stand out is the rolling refinement of the Q30. It’s a quiet thing, even on the cobbled roads to be found near the centre of the Portuguese capital.
The front seats are brilliant; firm, well shaped and supportive. But the Infiniti’s high hip point spells a shortage of headroom if there’s no seat height adjustment, as was the case on the passenger side of the 2.0t Sport. The rear seat is reasonably roomy, as is the 368-litre cargo area.
The Q30’s high waistline doesn’t hinder vision too much, and a standard rear-view camera is promised for Australia. An autonomous emergency braking system goes into every Q30 made.
The basics aren’t bad, but whether the Q30 will be able to boost to Infiniti’s tortoise-slow sales in Australia depends very much on something we don’t know about it… price.
In late 2016, just months after the Q30 arrives, Infiniti will launch the QX30 SUV in Australia. Its steel body is identical to the Q30, but the QX30 will wear different plastic parts, including front and rear bumpers and side sills. The QX30 will also ride a little higher and will likely feature all-wheel drive as standard. That difference is certain to mean slightly higher prices, slightly more weight and slightly less performance. Still, with Australia’s appetite for SUVs showing no sight of abating, the QX30 could be a better seller than the Q30.
Model: Infiniti Q30 2.0t Sport
Engine: 1991cc in-line 4-cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo
Max power: 155kW at 5500rpm
Max torque: 350Nm at 1200 to 4000rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch
Kerb weight: 1477kg
0-100km/h: 7.2sec (claimed)
Fuel economy: TBC
Price: $50,000 (est)
On sale: Q3 2016