Amid the rolling landscape of Portugal’s capital city there’s a new music ricocheting off the architecture. No, it’s not the heartfelt Fado music for which Lisbon is known, permeating its salons and beaches, but the surprisingly robust exhaust note of the new Infiniti Q30.
With the this car Infiniti has recalibrated their attack on the category defining BMW 1-series, determined to be much more than an also-ran among sport saloons. It’s hard to say who the archetypical Q30 buyer will be, partly because the model is so new, but also because the competition is so entrenched. Then again, maybe that’s an opportunity; Infiniti represents an alternative to a number of options that, while well regarded, verge on boring in their ubiquity. So, if you’ve had it with z Germans, have no love for Lexus, and think descriptions of Acura as luxurious are inaccurate… how could you not want to check out the Q30?
Actually, if you like the Q30, you may wish to rethink your stance on German cars. As part of a deal between Nissan and Daimler, Infiniti has based this car on the Mercedes A Class platform. Infiniti told BBC TopGear that “it did lots of research about family hatchbacks and noted that, in pursuit of ‘sportiness’, several of them are uncomfortably firm, the (pre-facelift) A-Class in particular.” We tend to agree, and the result is that the Q30 isn’t shod in low-profile tyres, and benefits from a longer travel, Mercedes GLA-spec suspension to handle the rough stuff. So the Q30 ride a bit higher, and has a little bit of crossover mojo going.
Our region will surely favour the top tier Q30, with its 2.0-litre, four cylinder in-line, DOHC, turbocharged power plant good for 208hp and 350Nm. This high tech four banger offers continuously variable valve timing control system and variable valve event & lift for optimized performance and efficiency.
In this configuration the Q30 feels planted and powerful, with plenty of torque off the line and ponies to spare. There’s no trouble overtaking and plenty of enjoyment to be had hitting on ramps in the Q30, even if it isn’t quite a super saloon (I imagine Infiniti has something up its sleeve in this department, but only time will tell—probably not a Vettel edition). It sports a throaty exhaust burble that’s gratifying, if slightly less enraged than say, and AMG A Class, but that’s to be expected. Then again, Infiniti strikes me as a luxury marque that is much more beloved by tuners than, say, z German stuff— I’d love to hear what a Magnaflow does to the low notes.
On the inside, the Q30 is a tech nerd’s paradise, delivering a user-friendly tablet-like experience via the 7” touch-screen HMI (human machine interface). One word of advice: just because you can tune the radio and follow the nav screen at the same time doesn’t mean it’s a good idea— let’s keep our eyes on the road people. The Q30 is definitely a sort of geek temptress, with a smorgasbord of connected apps in the pipeline.
Depending on market, InTouch allows owners to access their calendar, email and social media channels, while providing driving performance data to give an overview of fuel consumption, time and other trip information. An Intelligent-View display shows key information to the driver through the instrument binnacle, within the driver’s line of sight, while Bluetooth hands-free connectivity also helps to minimise distractions and encourage drivers to keep their eyes on the road ahead.
Naturally, certain function like heating and cooling, are operated by hard switches, because consumer focus groups have made it clear to automakers that the people do not want to control their heated seats with a touch screen. Oh, and if you really don’t feel like touching the screen, you need to upgrade the larger, more deluxe Q50 is one of the first cars to offer gestural control, allowing you to navigate the screen with a few deft waves of the hand.
The Infiniti Q30 might be the easiest car to park among rivals in the premium compact segment thanks to Automatic Park Assist, which helps guide the car into parallel spaces and designated parking bays in a car park. Parking is made even easier with the addition of a new Around View Monitor, with moving object detection, using four wide-angle lenses – one on each side of the vehicle – to create a ‘birds-eye’ view on the centre console and give drivers a clear picture of nearby hazards during low-speed manoeuvres.
There’s a boatload of safety on offer here too, including Blind Spot Warning, warning of other vehicles in neighbouring lanes hidden in the driver’s blind spots; Forward Collision Warning with Forward Emergency Braking, reducing the stress of driving in heavy traffic or in the city by alerting the driver of hazards in the road ahead – and taking automatic action to help avoid or mitigate the effects of a collision; Auto High Beam Assist, a highly-intuitive technology that improves safety and confidence during night-time driving by automatically dipping headlamps to avoid ‘blinding’ cars driving in the opposite direction, and Intelligent Cruise Control, maintaining a safe distance from the car in front for a safe and relaxing drive
Naturally the guts of the Q30 are wrapped in leather (your choice of wheat or graphite) accented by ‘Kacchu’ aluminium highlights inspired by traditional Samurai armaments (if John Belushi were alive he would drive this car) and available genuine maple wood trim. Rounding out the goodie basket, you’ve got a six speaker sound system, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, an air purifier and plenty of other available tech options.
The Q30 attacks corners enthusiastically and out classes any number of lesser saloons in the handling department, but we’re not sure to what extent that’s a function of Dual-pinion, electronically-assisted power steering or the suspension. Then again the Q30 boasts a fairly impressive provenance, having enjoyed its refinement at the hands of four-time Formula One World Driver's Champion Sebastian Vettel as well as Infiniti Red Bull Racing Test & Reserve driver Sebastien Buemi.
The Infiniti looks great, can compete on price, performance and efficiency, comes exceedingly well equipped, and you won’t see one every five minutes on Sheikh Zayed Road. Infiniti would like to change that of course, but for now the Q30 is a bit of a dark horse and, if you share my sensibility, that’s a very good thing.
Type Four cylinder in-line, DOHC, turbocharged
Capacity 2.0-litres, 1,991 cc
Bore and stroke 92.0 x 83.0 mm
Compression ratio 9.8:1
Max power 208hp (155 kW) @ 5,500 rpm
Max torque 350 Nm (258 lb ft) @ 1,200-4,000 rpm
Valves 16 (four per cylinder)
Fuel system Direct injection gasoline (DIG)