Car reviews - Infiniti - Q30 - GT 1.6t
Design, engineering, performance, ride, safety, individualism, Infiniti service and extended warranty
Room for improvement
Pick-a-part interior presentation, no reverse camera, tight rear seat
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20 Dec 2016
Price and equipment
FOUR years after Nissan’s luxury brand reappeared on the Australian market, it is finally in with a chance of mainstream success.
Sure, the Skyline-based G37 Coupe was cool and all that, and we’re not quite sure why the striking FX/QX70 SUV hasn’t sold better against largely inferior German rivals, but let’s face it – if you’re going to stir up the premium establishment, you’ll need something distinctive, not derivative.
Against the Audi A3 Sportback, BMW 1 Series, Lexus CT, and Mercedes-Benz A-Class, the front-drive Q30 hatchback (and its AWD, higher-riding QX30 sibling), has that certain difference.
Using Daimler’s MFA modular front-drive architecture, as well as most of the Mercedes A-Class internals including retuned powertrain, suspension, steering, and electrical systems, the Q30 wears a unique set of clothes with some basic differences to the dashtop, front seats, and trim.
Otherwise, it’s pure Stuttgart – albeit one built in Sunderland, UK, oddly enough. Even the dimensions correlates with the Mercedes, measuring in at 4225mm long, 2083mm wide and 1495mm high in the base 1.6t GT spec tested here.
If you haven’t guessed by the name, the Q30 1.6t GT is powered by Mercedes’ punchy little 115kW/250Nm 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four-pot, driving the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
For your $38,900 (plus on-road costs), the 1.6t GT uses the same engine/gearbox combo is the same as the $44K Merc A200 hatch, and undercuts the 90kW/200Nm 1.6L GLA by about $5000.
Except for the bewildering lack of reversing camera (it’s coming, but just not yet), the entry Q30 is well specified, with seven airbags, autonomous emergency braking, trauma-reducing pop-up bonnet on impact (helping to achieve a solid five-star ANCAP safety rating), reverse sensors, cloth seats, climate control air-con, cruise control, automatic headlights and wipers, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, leather wheel, heated mirrors, and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Note that the 1.6t GT rides 15mm higher than the other Q30s (Sports and Sports Premium), which run either a 155kW/350Nm 2.0L turbo or 135kW/350Nm 2.1L turbo-diesel, both engines from Mercedes.
If you close your eyes, open the door, sit inside (made a little easier by a higher-than-usual hip point), and take in the atmosphere, it will feel like you’re in a quality Euro hatch.
Peepers open, though, and the Eurasian mishmash that awaits is, frankly, disappointing for such an important all-new model line.
While the dashtop and centre screen graphics are Nissan-esque (straight out of an Altima or Qashqai), everything else is Mercedes through and through – including the instrument markings, climate control switchgear, steering wheel design and buttons, headlight knob, and transmission lever (though thankfully it’s of the AMG floor-mounted variety, not the horrid old column shifter that blights most other Benzes).
And guess what? With a four year head start, the A-Class bits all work well enough, with a honed quality as expected from the German brand, backed up by excellent fit and finish, ample space up front on sufficiently comfy seats, and an agreeable driving position.
Things that do let the Q30 down include a too-Nissany-for-an-Infiniti touchscreen, low-set climate control switchgear that is a bit of a stretch, and poor side and rear vision when reversing – an issue not helped by the so-far AWOL camera, although there are sensors back there.
Being A-Class-based, on exactly the same wheelbase, the fact that rear legroom isn’t great should come as no shock, but the cushion itself is fine for two adults to travel in reasonable comfort, while the sizeable 430-litre luggage area is enhanced by split/fold rear seats.
Engine and transmission
At the other end of the Q30 1.6t GT is the Benz-sourced 115kW/250Nm 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine.
Strong, smooth, and impressively refined, it is one of the most appealing aspects of the Infiniti, providing lively acceleration across a wide rev range.
Smart gearing from the quick-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch transmission means the GT is rarely caught short of breath, and pulls surprisingly hard in the 60-120km/h mid-range area.
Taking 8.9 seconds to accelerate from zero to 100km/h and with a top speed of 215km/h, this is no slouch.
Just as importantly, the entry-level Q30 is quite a miser, averaging 6.0 litres per 100km officially, or under 9.0L/100km in the real world as tested. Not bad for a racy, rorty little number.
Ride and handling
More good news for fans of fun small cars. The Q30 has inherited much of what makes the GLA a decent car dynamically, and then adds some more to boot.
Take the steering – though not especially sharp and perhaps a tad light for keener drivers, it nevertheless is expertly tuned to provide measured and consistent cornering, across a wide band of conditions.
High-speed grip is also commendable, while kickback is virtually non-existent, even through tight turns over rough roads. That’s not unexpected, actually, since both the GLA and A-Class Benzes display similar characteristics.
Where the Infiniti shows its German sources up is in the base model’s ride quality, which is relatively supple and comfy, despite riding on 235/50R18 rubber.
And there isn’t too much road noise intrusion either, further underlining the Q30’s premiumnness. This is progress for an MFA-chassis without the aid of adaptive dampers.
Finally, the Brembo-assisted brakes do a great job hauling the British-built hatch up in a very short distance.
Quite the enjoyable ride, then. For under $40K, the Infiniti lives up to its mini-GT moniker.
Safety and servicing
The Q30 scores a five-star ANCAP crash-test rating.
Like all Infinitis, it is backed by a four-year, 100,000km warranty (whichever comes first).
Under the Infiniti Assure program, fixed-price servicing is available for up to eight years or 96,000km (at 10,000km intervals), with free roadside assistance during the warranty period also included.
As a base model proposition, the 1.6t GT ended up being an unexpected pleasure.
Punching above its weight in terms of performance, efficiency, and ride comfort, the Infiniti still managed to provide enough premium quality to qualify as a successful alternative to lower-level range Germans like the BMW 118i and Audi A3 Sportback 1.4 TFSI.
On the other hand, much of that goodness comes naturally with the Mercedes GLA-based chassis that lurks underneath, the interior’s presentation is a little inconsistent in design (if not execution), and the lack of a reverse camera at this level is an incomprehensible oversight.
Still, for under $40K, the Q30 1.6t GT is a likeable, individualistic newcomer that deserves a look-in.
Audi A3 Sportback 1.4 TFSI CoD S-tronic ($39,900 plus on-roads)Recently facelifted with a sharper nose and upgraded multimedia systems, the revamped A3 Sportback in bestselling 1.4 TFSI CoD Cylinder on Demand guise shines with gutsy performance, a brilliantly dynamic chassis, excellent ride, beautiful fittings, superb ergonomics and sufficient space. The class champ reigns on.
BMW 118i ($36,900 plus on-roads)Keenly priced, and boosted by a wonderfully gutsy 1.5-litre three-pot turbo and brilliant eight-speed auto, the definitively rear-drive BMW hatch bears all the hallmarks of the Bavarian brand’s dynamic capabilities, though a firm ride, tight rear seat, and dated dash are drawbacks. Still a cracking little car anyway.
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