Nissan’s luxury arm has pieced together a sporty ‘active compact’ with ‘German car’ credentials to create the Infiniti Q30 2.0T to woo the posh but practical buyer.
Infiniti has been a popular choice in the GCC this past decade, thanks to vehicles like the G35/37 sedan and a handful of sporty SUVs offering customers a balance between necessary luxury, affordability and curvaceous styling that is anything but ‘Japanese’. Now, they are opening a new chapter by introducing the all-new Q30 in the premium hatchback market. However, the once non-existent segment now comprises of formidable foes, such as the BMW 1-Series, Audi A3, Volvo V40 and the popular VW Golf. Also, thanks to a strategic technical partnership between Renault-Nissan and the Daimler Group, the Q30 uses the underpinnings and interior trims from the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, which is also a vehicle the Infiniti Q30 has to combat for sales.
Infiniti offers the Q30 in three variants: the base car comes with a turbo 1.6-litre engine, followed by a 2.0T Premium and the 2.0T Sport. After a few days behind the wheel of the range topper, we have ‘ayes and nays’ aplenty to share!
DESIGN & AESTHETICS
The Infiniti Q30 is an all-new car for Infiniti and calling it a hatchback is a bit of a misnomer. Its slightly elevated ride height is why it is being positioned between hatchback and crossover, creating yet another pseudo-class called the active compact.
Manufacturers today are making cars that appear to be falling in line with a bid to conform – but Infiniti is going out on a limb and bringing in adventurous designs. The Q30 embodies the voice of individuality and bodacious styling. The whole vehicle is wrapped in swoopy bodywork with so many bulges and creases, there isn’t a straight line on this machine! Infiniti also had to innovate new panel-forming processes for the project.
The sharp streaks of LED daytime running lamps (DRLs) within the headlamps lend the car an aggressive, yet enticing, face; the illuminated motif is echoed in the rear cluster as well. The signature double arch frontal grille with chrome surrounds is not the ordinary slatted variety, neither is it the exhausted, hexagonal type. If you know anything about fashion design, you’ll see it resembles the complex product of a pattern-making method called smocking. Then, there are the crescent-shaped C-Pillars that are so conspicuous but, somehow, keep up with the overall congruity of the design.
Nine different paint schemes are on offer, but if you catch a glimpse of this hatch in liquid copper matched with sporty 19-inch alloys and rectangular exhaust tips – both finished in dark chrome – you’ll be sold. The lesser sibling rides on a 5 twin-spoke design too, but its 18-inch size doesn’t work my aesthetic taste buds. With the Infiniti Q30, they created a unique and highly desirable hatchback that is arguably the best-looking car they make. It also trumps its competition – including its counterpart, the A-Class – in terms of curb appeal.
Thanks to reasonably large door openings, ingress and egress is effortless. The cabin up front has plenty of room, but with three adults in the rear, claustrophobia can be a part of the conversation. It is only when you enter the cabin that you see the by-products of the technical partnership – starting with the key fob, which is almost a replica, except for the badging. The dashboard bears Infiniti-esque architecture but a closer look reveals lots of trims that have been pilfered from the German hatchback. The flat-bottom 3-spoke steering, for example, is borrowed and so are the multi-function buttons that go on its spokes and the indicator stalks. The power window and seat adjustments found on the door panels, buttons and knobs on the centre console, and even the pint-sized shift lever – all of them have been directly lifted from its German counterpart.
To scale up the luxury, Infiniti has draped almost every surface, including those on the dashboard, with double-stitched leather. They have also tastefully added satin finish trims around the asymmetrical air vents and bits of piano black trims everywhere else to up cabin shimmer. Even so, architecture lacks enchantment, as compared to cars like the A-Class.
The ergonomic quotient, however, is generally high with a large, easy-to-access switch gear with legible lettering and plenty of stowage space. Not everything has a German origin or inclination here; there is a fair bit of Japanese tech and familiarity too – like the zero gravity seats, present in Nissan models, designed to provide maximum spinal support and reduce pressure on muscles; I’d also vouch for their seating comfort. In the top-spec model, you have seats wrapped in nappa leather. Nestled in the dash is the Infiniti InTouch infotainment screen. The viewing size is fine and the touch sensitivity is reasonable but the screen could be closer to your fingertips. All screen options can be navigated via an Infiniti-style rotary controller.
POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE
The technical partnership shares benefits under the bonnet too. The base Infiniti Q30 comes with a possibly useful turbocharged 1.6-litre engine, but the higher ranks are equipped with a Direct Injection, turbocharged 2.0-litre inline 4-cylinder engine; just because it’s a Japanese car, it does sell itself short in comparison to the A-Class, in terms of power outputs. At 5,500 rpm, the engine makes 208 bhp and puts out 350 Nm of twist at the crank between 1,200-4,000 rpm. Connecting the crank to the propeller shaft is a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.
On our general runs about town, we found that the suspension doesn’t absorb the vibrations coming off road undulations, which makes the Q30 ride uneasy. It may have to do with the Sport suspension it came equipped with, which lowers ride height by 15 mm and makes the suspension stiffer by 7 per cent. Perhaps the lesser variants fare better with the regular suspension setup. The other bit that contributes to cabin comfort is noise or the lack of it; according to Infiniti, thanks to active noise cancellation and better cabin insulation, the Q30 is 10 per cent quieter than its competitors.
If you get the opportunity to scurry down an empty stretch of tarmac, you’ll understand the potency of this motor. There is plenty of power to be exploited – enough to rival the Golf GTI. The 7-speeder dual clutch takes a while to kick down a few gears and there is the turbo lag, but if you keep the pot on boil (nothing that Sport mode can’t fix), there is plenty of fun to be had. In the Infiniti Q30, it is fairly easy to zig-zag around traffic and complete a 3-point turn, thanks to the 11.4 m turning diameter. When pushed hard, the Q30 does exhibit some body but the front wheel-biased AWD is resolute and coerces the body into following whichever direction you sway the front wheels. The Sport model benefits from Brembo-sourced brakes, with large 320 mm ventilated discs up front and 295 mm discs at the rear. Quite unusually, Infiniti has chosen to go with a single piston-floating caliper for both ends. Even so, braking is reasonably strong and consistent.
Going by the manufacturer’s books, almost nothing separates the efficiencies of the 1.6T and the 2.0T, which are 5.9L/100km and 6L/100km, respectively. Our 2.0T test car – which was subjected to mostly relaxed driving with few testosterone-stimulated moments – to our surprise, returned slightly dismal economy figures of 15L/100km – miles away from company claims. We attribute this to the need for a mandated service or some other technical issue linked to this particular test car.
FEATURES & FUNCTIONALITY
In the business of entertainment, the base car gets a 6-speaker audio system. The Infiniti Q30 2.0T models come with a more vocal 10-speaker Bose audio system and with the help of two USB ports, Bluetooth and a music library, you can subject your passengers to music to appease or annoy them. The navigation system isn’t cutting edge, in terms of graphics, but it offers a 2D overhead view or a 3D bird-view perspective.
Hatchbacks have long been associated with spatial usability and the Q30 is not one to disappoint. The liftgate opens up to a 430-litre boot, which is as much as mid-size sedans offer. By dropping down the split-folding seats, you can also make way for small furniture or a cycle. Infiniti’s catalogue allows you to equip it with a load carrier net or a trunk organiser.
Nissan’s luxury arm may not be at the forefront of safety technologies but they offer plenty of features to keep you safe. Seven airbags, dual-stage front, side-impact and roof-mounted curtain and knee air bags will help mitigate impact. The Infiniti Q30 is capable of parking itself safely at the press of a button. Or, you can use the 12 sensors and the Around View Monitor that gets its feed off four different cameras to do it yourself.
Traffic Sign Recognition can read regulated highways speeds, Forward Collision Warning alerts you if you are approaching a car faster than you should, Lane Departure Warning monitors lane markings and warns you audibly and physically through steering wheel vibrations, and Intelligent Cruise Control is much recommended for those who frequent the highways.
If you are an upscale urban dweller who’d like to find a sizeable hatchback with bodacious styling, one that is primed with usable power and engaging chassis dynamics for an affordable retail price, the 2016 Infiniti Q30 will speak volumes to your wallet and soul. Ride quality and fuel economy offered are not ideal, but they’re not deal-breakers either.
Body type: 5-seater; 5-door premium hatchback
Engine: Front-engine; turbocharged 2.0-litre inline 4-cylinder; front-wheel drive
Transmission: 7-speed DCT (automated manual)
Peak output: 208 bhp @ 5,500 rpm; 350 Nm @ 1,200-4,000 rpm
0 to 100km/h: 7,2 seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 240 km/h (drag limited; claimed)
Price: Starting at AED 105,000
Pros: Personable size; aggressively styled; proper M power and chassis dynamics
Cons: Can seem pricey; has shelf-sized rear seats; fiddly shift lever doesn’t have a ‘P’ mode
Author’s rating: 7/10 stars