The Infiniti Q30 is but a rebadged Mercedes-Benz GLA. It’s an intriguing alternative to the premium German hatchback norm. The large stylized grille and sweeping headlights give the Q30 a distinctive look, while the swooping curves and various angles are far more distinctive than the straight-laced Audi A3.
Through the Q30, Infiniti has put a lot of work into differentiating its potato-shaped thing from Benz’s potato-shaped thing, meaning the narrative heard ’round the internet, that this is just a Mercedes knockoff, is not wholly accurate. The Q30 is its odd animal, and therein lies some of its appeal.
Infiniti is taking a different approach to the increasingly crowded compact luxury segment with its 2017 Q30. The Japanese luxury brand’s new gateway model isn’t a traditional sedan ( Audi A3 ) or a sedan with a coupe profile (Mercedes-Benz CLA ) like the latest German entries to storm the marketplace.
As with most not-quite-cars/not-quite-trucks, serious drivers may want something more focused. For everyone else, the Q30’s coy charade as neither a Benz nor a crossover works to give Infiniti showrooms something different, something with a little, um, romance.
The interior is unfiltered Infiniti, pleasantly more luxurious than the GLA’s decidedly entry-level innards but just as tight for four adults. The window switches, steering-wheel buttons, door-mounted power-seat controls, and the steering-column stalks stand out as the only visible Benz components. Infiniti’s seven-inch touchscreen crowns the centre stack. Chief vehicle engineer Grahame Cornforth describes the screen’s integration with Mercedes’ proprietary electronics platform as having been a colossal undertaking. We’d describe it as worthwhile, especially the work that went into making sure the diagnostic equipment at Infiniti’s dealerships can play doctor with the Q30’s German electronics.
Things like the gauges, steering column control stalks, centre-stack controls, window switches, transmission shift lever and flat-bottom steering wheel are sourced from Benz’s parts bin. The overall blockier design of the dashboard, conversely, is all Infiniti, and it looks excellent with stitched, suede-like trim covering main touch points. Even what few hard plastics exist feel more substantial than those found in the CLA. The cockpit’s sport seats with integrated headrests were comfortable to get comfortable in, and they held me in place nicely while bombing around corners throughout the afternoon.
Anyone stepping out of a late-model Mercedes into a QX30 will notice that the majority of the switch-gear and the instrument cluster are cribbed right from the Daimler parts bin. The infotainment system and centre-console controller are Infiniti bits, mainly because they were needed to work with Infiniti’s safety systems, like the Around View Monitor bird’s eye camera that activates when reversing.
A 2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder with 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque married to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is the sole drive-train combination. My aforementioned stop-and-go driving through crowded city streets is where dual-clutch gearbox tuning is indeed put to the test, and the Q30 proved delightful. It consistently balanced right-now takeoffs from throttle tip-in paired with smooth shift performance. Notably, that’s not always the case in the CLA, which has muted throttle response and is plagued at times with harsh, jerky gear changes.
All versions make 208 hp at 5,500 rpm and 258 lb-ft of torque between 1,200 and 4,400 rpm – more than adequate but less than thrilling. The engine sends power along through a dim-witted seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, which occasionally got crossed up in Sport mode and is a snooze in Eco. Even though Infiniti did the throttle and transmission calibration, it’s a very German driving experience: torque comes on quick and in volume, a bit like a Biergarten server bringing an armful of lager all at once. After the first round, the beer doesn’t come at quite the same generous rate, but you’re far enough along not to mind.
The Q30’s transmission offers three modes: Economy, Sport and Manual. The economy is for when you’re feeling fuel frugal, and the gearbox short-shifts like crazy, trying to get the engine into high gear and low revs. Manual mode is as described, with excellent response to paddle shifter commands for both up- and downshifts, and it’s a perfect setting for the times you want to play race-car driver on your way home from work.
The Q30 is essentially a Mercedes-Benz GLA250 with full exterior styling and partial interior design by Infiniti, built in the UK alongside several other Nissans. The power-train and chassis, including the optional AWD system, were all “co-developed” with partner Daimler, final calibration and tuning by Infiniti engineers.
Overall the Q30 is almost 4.5m long (4,425mm) and 1.8m wide. This makes it longer than a Nissan Qashqai but not as tall and narrower. It’s also larger than a Mercedes A-Class, Volkswagen Golf or Audi A3.
Someone spending a lot of time in the driver’s seat would appreciate the friendly materials and air of ‘premium’. For example, the seats have been designed with the aim of supporting your upper and lower back to relieve pressure by not straining one particular part.