Manhattan, April 2006. On my first visit to New York ten years ago I couldn’t help but notice lot’s of strange ( in a good way ) looking SUV’s sporting a logo I was not familiar with. These cars were in fact “Infiniti’s” the luxury subsidiary of Nissan & at that point, weren’t available in the UK.
Three years later Infiniti launched in the UK, but the range of gas guzzling models it offered then, just didn’t appeal to the UK or European sensibility for fuel economy & it wasn’t until 2014 when Infiniti’s Q50 was fitted with a 2.2 diesel engine, that UK fleet customers started to notice the brand.
Fast-forwrard to 2016 & Infiniti’s new small hatchback the Q30 was launched. Designed in London & manufactured in Sunderland, the Q30 shares a common platform with the Mercedes Benz A Class, as part of the Renault-Nissan-Daimler alliance. But, whilst it does contain some of the same dash board switchgear & matches the overall shape of the Mercedes, Infiniti have altered just enough of the Q30 to make it stand on it’s own.
The Q30 is available with four engine choices, 1.5 & 2.2-litre diesels and 1.6 and 2.0-litre petrol units. The 1.6 and 1.5-litre engines are both available with a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed automatic, while the two larger engines are only available with the automatic gearbox but they can be purchased in two- or four-wheel-drive guises.
For Company Car’s purposes, we road tested both the diesel models, beginning with the 1.5-litre turbodiesel powered by the tried & tested Nissan diesel unit, which will make up the bulk of UK sales of the Infiniti range.
Firstly, don’t be put off by the size of this engine, because it offers 108bhp & 260Nm of torque & will hit 62mph in 12 seconds but feels quicker. Admittedly, around town, it does feel a little underpowered, but once it’s up to motorway speed it has no problem overtaking or cruising at a steady 70 mph & it is on the motorway where it impresses. The Q30 is fitted with a simple to use cruise control stalk on the left hand size off the steering column enabling the driver to adjust the cars speed to suit traffic conditions, which with so many motorway speed restrictiuons nowadays, further enhances the Q30 as a motorway cruiser.
Where the Q30 really comes into it’s own is with it’s comfort & ride. There’s a nice mix of softness with flexibility in the suspension, so the car rides extremely well. The Q30’s seats have also been given special “spinal support” treatment which according to Infiniti, results in 30% less driver fatigue with 40% less downward force on the spine. This sounds like great news for me as I rarely exit a car after a 3 hour plus journey without feeling a twinge in my lower back & although I didn’t drive the Q30 for three hours, fort the two I was in one, it was a most comfortable place to be.
Inside the cabin, things are very quiet with a noticeable lack of wind or road noise entering from the outside. The dashboard is clearly if conservatively laid out & satnav screen in the centre console finishes it off nicely. Although quite small, the satnav controls are easy to use with some touchscreen functions coupled with a centrally located ‘i-drive’ set up between the front seats. These enable both the front passenger or driver to scroll through the options available & to access the Bluetooth hands-free phone system, which works really well. The switchgear will be familiar with some, as it’s largely lifted from a Mercedes. For example, the electric parking brake is located close to the drivers right knee.
Infiniti have also made quality cars & the Q30 is no different. Taking it’s cue more from a Lexus perhaps than an Audi, the cabin itself is spacious for the sector & you will comfortably fit four adults inside in relative comfort. The boot too is a good size, offering 430 litres of space which increases to 1223 litres with the rear seats folded. The seats also spit 60:40, however they don’t go completely flat. The hatch opening is tall & wide though the boot itself is quite shallow.
Like all Infiniti models, the Q30 range comes well equipped. There are four trim levels; Base, Premium, Premium Tech, plus the Sport version. The base version gives you Bluetooth, a DAB radio, a 7” touchscreen, air-con & city automatic emergency braking. I got to drive the Premium Tech model which with an on the road price of £27,550 comes with amongst other things with 4-wheel Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD), Traction Control System (TCS) & Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC). Seven airbags (front driver and passenger airbags, front hip-thorax side airbags, front-to-rear curtain airbags, driver knee airbag). Adaptive brake assist, auto dimming driver door mirror & rear view mirror, central locking, cruise control, electronic parking brake, forward collision warning & stop, heated windscreen washer jets, Lane Departure Warning (LDW), LED daytime running light, rain sensing wipers, rear parking sensors, speed limiter & a tyre pressure monitoring system are also on the Premium Tech. My test car also featured white Nappa leather, with both the steering wheel & gear stick also finished in leather. For those of you who like to listen to music while you drive, there are 2 USB ports with smart phone & iPod connectivity & a 6 speaker sound system with a CD player. There’s also automatic air conditioning with dual zone climate control, front and rear one touch up and down electric windows & electrically folding adjustable wing mirrors.
Business customers need to know that the 1.5 offers a combined fuel economy of 68.9 mpg with emissions of 108g/km, which are both impressive if a little higher than similar Audi or BMW models. The 2.2-litre diesel is quicker & comes with a lovely automatic gear box, which improves the fun factor especially around town & on country roads. The 2.2 is not quite as frugal, achieving 57.7mpg on the combined cycle, emitting just 134g/km of CO2. Its also more expensive costing £31,180 on the road, so this fun does come at a cost. Looking at the Q30 model range, I would tend to lean towards the 1.5 diesel manual in Premium spec which starts at £22,250.
Could the Q30 tempt you out of your BMW, Audi or Mercedes Benz ? The Q30 ticks most of the boxes required to achieve this, offering Lexus like quality with German technology & with the added bonus of exclusivity, at least until customers cotton on to the Infiniti brand. One of my neighbours has had an Infiniti SUV for the past 3 years & not only raves about the car itself, but also waxes lyrical about Infiniti’s customer experience, which he says is ” miles better than Merceds Benz or Audi.”
As I write in February 2016, contract hire rates on the 1.5 diesel Base model are set at around £210 a month + vat, on a 3 year 3 + 35, 10,000 per annum non maintained contract, so the Q30 is also competitively priced to attract new business.
What the Q30 does for Infiniti, is to finally offer the brand a competitive European car perfect for the European market. Only time will tell if that is enough to get customers out of their Lexus or Mercedes. I felt that the Q30 was equally as good if not better than the A-Class, Lexus CT or Volvo V40, but still lags a little bit behind both the A3 & 1 Series for both drivability & fuel economy. Infiniti are getting closer.
A Derek Jeter 3.5/5.