So far, Infiniti has struggled to tempt UK buyers away from more established brands such as Audi and BMW, but the new Infiniti Q50 could be about to change that.
A rival to compact executive saloons, such as the BMW 3 Series and Audi A3 saloon, the Q50 is the first Infiniti to be designed specifically for the European market.
While its predecessor, the G Series, was available with only a V6 petrol engine, the Q50 gets a 2.2-litre diesel that lets it compete directly with BMW’s big-selling 320d.
In manual form, this diesel Q50 actually offers slightly better fuel economy and CO2 figures than the equivalent 320d. However, the BMW still has the edge as an auto or if you opt for the super-frugal Efficient Dynamics version.
The other model in the Q50 range is a 3.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid, with a 0-62mph time of 5.1 seconds, but it isn't as economical as the diesel.
What is the 2013 Infiniti Q50 like to drive?
The new Direct Adaptive Steering (DAS) system has a big influence on the way the Q50 drives. This comes as standard on all hybrid models and the Sport trim diesel, and is an £800 option on the Premium diesel.
It not only allows you to alter how much effort is required to turn the steering wheel, it also varies the reaction of the wheels relative to a set steering input.
However, it also leaves you feeling rather disconnected from what the front wheels are doing. The standard steering setup is better, but still feels rather artificial.
Steering aside, the Q50 handles assuredly. There's minimal body roll through corners, and on our Spanish test route the ride was firm but controlled – although the UK's pockmarked roads will provide a sterner test.
With a 0-62mph time of just 5.1 seconds, the hybrid is marginally quicker than a BMW Active Hybrid 3 - a 3 Series which combines a 3.0-litre petrol engine with an electric motor.
This version of the Q50 responds immediately to throttle inputs. It also offers the enjoyable combination of near silent running when on electric power at lower speeds, and an entertaining V6 growl when you accelerate hard.
The 2.2-litre diesel engine is also noisy, but in a less entertaining way. It's grumbly and clattery, particularly at low speeds, although it is at least fairly strong. Granted, it isn't as flexible as the engine in the rival BMW 320d, but when combined with the automatic gearbox it pulls smoothly from low revs.
Road noise is relatively well suppressed, but some wind noise can be heard along the sides of the car.
What is the 2013 Infiniti Q50 like inside?
The old G saloon's cabin was a weak point, but the new Q50 is a big step forward. The materials on the dashboard and the seats feel relatively classy, and the assembly is tough to fault. Only one or two aspects, such as the cheap-feeling door handles, let the side down a bit.
It's easy to find a comfortable driving position, too, thanks to a good amount of adjustment in the seats and steering wheel.
Unfortunately, the dashboard layout is rather confusing. There are two touch screens – one that controls the infotainment functions, including the sat-nav, and another that controls the car's systems, such as the DAS steering.
This second screen is replete with 'apps', which may appeal to technically minded drivers, but the swiping action required and the detailed nature of the screen mean it can be distracting on the move. Thankfully, there are more user-friendly physical controls for the air-con and stereo volume.
Outer rear passengers have a decent amount of legroom, and headroom is adequate for all but the tallest of occupants. However, the central middle seat isn't ideal; headroom is far from generous and the chunky transmission tunnel encroaches on foot space.
At 500 litres, the boot is marginally bigger than rivals', but it's deep rather than wide and it tapers to a narrow point between the cabin and the luggage space. The opening is rather narrow, too, which hinders access.
Should I buy one?
The new Q50 is a more compelling proposition than any Infiniti saloon to date – especially the 2.2-litre diesel model.
Unfortunately, it's still off the pace in a number of key areas. The fiddly interior layout and anesthetised steering count against it, as does the below par refinement of the diesel engine.
The fact that it'll cost you more to run as a company car than either an Audi A3 saloon or a BMW 320d Efficient Dynamics is also impossible to ignore.
What Car? says...
Engine size 2.2-litre diesel auto
Price from £29,500
Torque 295lb ft
0-62mph 8.5 seconds
Top speed 143mph
Fuel economy 57.7-58.9mpg
CO2 emissions 124-128g/km
Engine size 3.5-litre V6 petrol-electric hybrid
Price from £40,000
Torque 403lb ft
0-62mph 5.1 seconds
Top speed 155mph
Fuel economy 41.5-45.6mpg
CO2 emissions 144-159g/km