Small, upmarket SUVs are a Marmite class of car, and the brash-looking Infiniti QX30 is likely to be more opinion-dividing than most. The latest product from Nissan’s premium marque, the Infiniti QX30 is effectively a jacked-up version of the Q30 hatchback, complete with 30mm more ride height and bespoke suspension.
It’s only available with a 2.1-litre diesel engine, a seven-speed automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive, so it appears rather expensive compared with many rivals. However, the QX30 is competitively priced against equivalent four-wheel-drive, automatic versions of the Audi Q3, Mercedes-Benz GLA and BMW X1 - it's just that those models are available with smaller engines, front-wheel drive and manual gearboxes, which keeps their prices more reasonable.
What's the 2016 Infiniti QX30 like to drive?
Put simply, it falls short of its sharper-driving rivals at the top of this class. The steering is needlessly heavy, even without cornering forces involved. It gets even weightier at higher speeds and through bends, making it feel very artificial. The steering does give you enough confidence to enjoy the fair amount of grip available, but barrel into a corner with more optimism than sense and the QX30's nose will run wide of your intended line much earlier than a BMW X1's.
There’s also quite a bit of body lean, which further serves to dull the Infiniti's handling. In short, if you're after an SUV with a hint of sportiness, the QX30 definitely isn't for you.
The flip side is that the QX30 offers reasonable ride comfort. Small ruts and ripples are kept from bothering occupants too much at all, and things stay settled at high speeds. Expansion joints or sharp-edged potholes do cause a noticeable thunk and shudder inside - regardless of speed - but the Infiniti is still pretty comfortable by class standards.
The 2.1-litre diesel motor isn’t the smoothest-revving engine in the world and becomes unpleasantly vocal if you rev it too hard, but in the mid-rev range engine noise dies down and provides a hushed interior. Wind and road noise build to a noticeable background din at motorway speeds, but by class standards the QX30 is one of the more peaceful cruisers.
It’s therefore a shame that the automatic gearbox is slow to respond when you ask for a burst of acceleration and is prone to holding on to gears for too long at other times. At least the engine is gutsy enough to get you up to speed swiftly enough.
What's the 2016 Infiniti QX30 like inside?
Small. Remarkably so, in fact. Those sitting in the front are okay for space, but the QX30 is still narrower inside than many rivals. In fact, adults sat in the back will find less head and leg room than in some superminis. The boot isn't too pokey and the rear seats fold flat, but again, rivals offer more load space and better versatility - particularly the BMW X1 and Volkswagen Tiguan.
The QX30's dashboard is borrowed straight from the Q30, which means that you get some soft-touch materials and logically laid out buttons and switches. However, there are enough scratchier-feeling plastics dotted around the interior to make overall quality disappointing compared with key rivals. Visibility is about as bad as it gets in this class, too, since the thick forward pillars often obscure your view out of junctions, and the snazzy looking rear pillars and tapering windowline create sizeable blind spots when looking over your shoulder.
Infiniti's infotainment system also lags behind rivals', including the BMW X1 and Audi Q3. It’s easy enough to flick between the QX30's system's key functions, but doing anything remotely more complex – such as looking for a list of radio stations – is tricky. Dated-looking sat-nav graphics also disappoint, although the QX30's system isn't the worst in the class.
You do at least get lots of kit, even on Premium trim, the lower of the two trim level choices. Bluetooth connectivity, a USB input, a DAB radio and sat-nav are all standard. Heated front seats and door mirrors, rear parking sensors, climate and cruise controls, and automatic lights and wipers are also thrown in. Standard safety equipment is also impressive; the list includes seven airbags – including a driver’s knee bag – automatic emergency braking and lane keeping assist.
Should I buy one?
Predicted resale values for the QX30 haven’t been confirmed but are potentially a daunting prospect, given that many UK buyers aren’t even aware of Infiniti as a brand. On top of that, the BMW X1 handles better and offers vastly more space and practicality, and even the Audi Q3 – known for being quite small by class standards – is roomier and better to drive. The Mercedes GLA, with its classier-looking dashboard and more rear passenger space is also more recommendable. Not to mention that all of these alternatives offer a much broader range of engines. Or, if you're you prepared to do without a premium badge, the VW Tiguan and Nissan Qashqai also offer more space for less cash.
At this point, it becomes very hard to recommend the new QX30. Even if you really love the looks and must have four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox, the Infiniti's limited objective merits mean you're probably better off looking elsewhere.
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Infiniti QX30 Premium
Engine size 2.1-litre diesel
Price from £29,490
Torque 258lb ft
Top speed 134mph
Fuel economy (official combined) 57.6mpg
CO2/BIK band 128g/km/25%