Power meets form meets function in a hatchback unlike any other, as Alvin Thomas takes the Japanese luxury label’s first crossover foray out for a spin.
Luxury car-maker Infiniti has been hitting the ball out of the park with its strong market presence here in the Middle East courtesy of its Q50 sedan and QX80 SUV. Little wonder then that the Japanese firm hasn’t really altered much over the last five years to its lineup – until now.
After two-odd decades of service in the region, it was evident that a hatchback would join the brand to plug the gap that had left buyers wanting more. So, two years ago, the car-maker tied hands with the best in the business – Mercedes-Benz – to churn out what must be one of the prettiest hatchbacks ever built – the Infiniti QX30.
There’s really no rivalling the QX30 in design: With its strong character lines and chiseled curves on the body, it’s nothing short of avant garde. Sure, the ‘Moonlight White’ paint-job on the model we tested was a tad mellow, but I assume the car to shine (literally) if you opt for stronger accents, such as the model’s golden-bronze version for example.
With its swooping, two-prong effect daytime-running LED lights that house bi-xenon projectors, the headlights are definitely unlike those seen on other vehicles in this class. These, coupled with the Infiniti’s traditional, 3-D grille, you wouldn’t be wrong in saying it looks downright menacing.
The rear, on the other hand, maintains a more radical approach. The tail lamps are a touch generic but are still unique to Infiniti. That, coupled with dual-exhausts and the black accents on the bumper, round off the posterior.
Things took a sharp turn the moment I hopped into the car. While the interior is fantastic, think the love-child between Nissan’s new venture with Daimler, the QX30 itself is based heavily on the Mercedes-Benz A-Class.
That’s a great thing, because the fit and finish inside is impeccable and all the design elements are in line with what a buyer would look for in a German car. Think of the QX30 as the marriage between a Japanese and a German car – and that’s what I’d call a perfect combination.
Case in point: The dials on the instrument cluster, the multi-information display, the light stokes, and even the buttons that control the functions are picked up straight from the A-Class. The placement of the buttons, A/C vents, and the dials are impeccable – it’s almost like they anticipated the buyer before they even sold the car. Very German, indeed.
Much of the cabin is wrapped in soft leatherette, while the seats are finished in full leather. Plastic only flanks a few panels on the lower portion of the dashboard, as is the norm nowadays. Other fittings include a panoramic moon-roof, an intuitive blind-spot monitoring system, an ‘Around-View Monitoring’ system, ‘Lane Departure Warning’, and even an ‘Automatic Parking Assistance’ feature.
Space inside the QX30 is on-par with its rivals. Front passengers have little to nothing to complain about, with plenty of head- and leg-room. However, the rear seats – which can certainly seat five – may fall short in leg-room. Head-room is made adequate (despite the sloping roofline) by a chiseled headliner.
Where the QX30 pulls through and away from its competitors is in boot space. The square shape and the low-loading lip means it’s easy to load and carry heavy goods inside. My test confirmed that the car could carry three full-sized suitcases without any squeeze. Conveniently, the seats also fold flat if you’re looking to load long items (your camping gear or golf clubs, for instance).
The hatchback is powered by a Mercedes-Benz-sourced 2.0-litre in-line, four-cylinder turbo-charged pot-banger that produces 208hp and a gruff 350Nms of torque. While the numbers may encroach into the hot-hatchback territory from the early 21st century, the QX30 by no means intends to be one.
Power delivery is linear, albeit the torque will kick you hard when you floor the accelerator. A quick-witted seven-speed dual-clutch, automatic gearbox takes care of shifting the cogs, and sends power to the front wheels. This means you’ll be hitting the 100kph mark in about eight seconds – but that’s only because the front wheels are sent into a frenzy when the torque kicks in.
Wheel spin and understeer were common occurrences during the course of the test drive. To eliminate that, you can opt for the all-wheel drive variant, which I firmly believe deals with the power more effectively. Turbo-lag is evident from the get-go, but you can alleviate it by holding the revolutions at about 2,500rpm.
The chassis – which is also carried over – is tuned for softness, thereby nulling out most of the harshness and vibrations from road surfaces. That, coupled with the high-profile tires, add to the overall ride experience.
As an added benefit, I found the electric-assisted hydraulic steering on the Q30 to be bang on-target. Overall, the experience shadows what you’ll find in Infiniti’s own Q50 sedan. A button placed near the gearbox also changes the character of the steering – for instance, you can increase the weight of the steering wheel by setting the button in ‘S’ (Sport mode). Meanwhile, the brakes are powerful and linear in their characteristics.
Infiniti’s first attempt at building a hatchback may have been a collaborative effort, but it works – and very well we might add! Think of the QX30 as a car that brings together the best of both worlds: Japanese car design and the best technology from the German stables. If that isn’t a combination to die for, then I don’t know what is.
• Engine: 2.0-litre In-line four cylinder turbocharged engine
• Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch transmission
• Horsepower: 208hp
• Torque: 350 Nm
• Automatic parking assistance
• 360-degree Around-View Monitor
• Intelligent cruise control
• Lane departure warning
• Nappa leather seating
• Infiniti InTouch navigation system
• Panoramic moonroof
• 18-inch alloy wheels
• Dual-zone climate control
• Power adjusting seats with memory
• Heated front seats