We drove the all-new Q30 in Lebanon last year and came away quite impressed with Infiniti’s first ever foray into the premium compact segment.
The all-wheel drive BMW 1 Series and Audi A3 rival proved a lively performer thanks to its turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine which was blessed with a healthy 208bhp and a thumping 350Nm of torque. Best of all, since it shared the same platform with another rival, the third-generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class (the Q30 is the result of a Nissan and Mercedes partnership agreement to share technology, meaning this is more of a friendly rather than fierce rivalry...) it helped to give the newbie sure-footed handling and we came away thinking that Nissan’s luxury arm could truly threaten Europe’s premium automotive brands.
Now, we test the model with the standard 1.6-litre turbo mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and immediately the lack of fire power makes itself known during a routine overtaking manoeuvre which ends up with us requiring new pants. With only 154 horses at a screaming 5,300rpm it’s not exactly potent and you find you need a lead foot and a lot of courage to get around slower moving traffic and as we felt back in Lebanon, the automatic sure reminds us of the dreaded continually variable transmission. We aren’t the CVT’s biggest fans here at wheels mostly because they always sound like they’re stuck in first gear, as does this Q30, and with exactly 100Nm less torque than the 2.0-litre, you need a little patience to get this hatchback going. Once it hits its stride, it chugs along quite pleasantly and sure revels long cruises down the highway (as will you once the transmission stops droning) — but it also soaks up bumps in the road without a fuss thanks to its supple suspension. However, don’t expect great things when you show it twistier roads. It isn’t a desperately good-handling hatch — it rolls a lot more than the stiffer A-Class and isn’t nearly as engaging as a 1 Series or the A3 but it offers a more refined and smooth ride than the Germans.
Immediately the lack of fire power makes itself known during a routine overtaking manoeuvre which ends up with us requiring new pants.
Another plus is the fact that the interior is full of Mercedes switchgear (the instrument binnacle and ignition key is identical to that of its sister brand) so you get more of a premium feel than you would usually get with Infiniti — and it also has lots of leather-covered and piano black surfaces and an intuitive 7.0in infotainment system which displays the radio and Bluetooth phone functions and the optional sat-nav if you have it fitted, our Magnetic Red painted tester didn’t. But like the A-Class it isn’t the roomiest meaning taller passengers seated in the second row may find legroom is at a premium.
If you are considering buying one then we would recommend you opt for the blown 2.0-litre with AWD. The 1.6 isn’t exactly outstanding — but with an attractively styled exterior that packs LED auto headlights, daytime running lights, dual exhausts with polished tips and rides on 18in wheels along with a neat interior housing a glass sun roof, automatic dual zone climate control and lots of safety tech (lane departure warning, front and rear parking sensors with monitor guide display and seven air bags) and then throw in the fact that it serves up a polished ride too, it is a very credible model in the segment — but it falls just short in trumping its established European rivals.