Inflate Peugeot’s 208 to 100PSI and this is what you get
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OK, what’s this? It’s the new Infiniti Q30, a highish-rise hatchback that’s the firm’s entry-level model. It’s halfway to being a crossover. We’ve driven it before with a 2.2-litre diesel, but now it’s in right-hand drive with the smaller 1.5-litre diesel. And a manual gearbox. And front wheel drive. It’s as plain as it sounds. It does sound very ordinary. And it is. But as a concept the Q30 is quite interesting. Infiniti got to cherry-pick the bits they wanted from Merc’s parts bin, so the Q30 is a blend of A-Class and GLA-Class bits, the idea being to create a hatch with longer travel suspension to improve comfort. Have they succeeded?
That’s the key problem. It looks like it should be a plush riding motor, all lollopy, relaxed and easy-going. But in actual fact it’s pattery and stilted. Tense describes it quite well – the car is constantly holding itself in check against body roll, when it should just embrace it, offering something different instead of trying to compete head-to-head with the Germans. A car this tall, in this class, aimed at the sort of buyers this one is, should not concern itself with feeling sporty. It just shouldn’t. If a car looks like it will offer pillowy softness, I see no reason why it shouldn’t follow up on that. Are there any good points? Several. Although none of them are the packaging or the gearchange. The Q30 has cramped back seats and the six-speed manual gearbox (from Mercedes) isn’t pleasant to use. Mercedes has never been good at manual shifts – quite why Infiniti didn’t turn to Nissan for this I have no good idea. However, this Q30 does use a Nissan engine. This is a good thing – the 1.5 diesel is way smoother, quieter and more pleasant than the Mercedes-sourced 2.2 that’s in the more expensive models. It’s not fast though. Really not fast. 0-62mph takes a yawning 12 seconds. At least the time passes quietly. It does, and you have that slightly raised driving position that crossover buyers must like so much. And I actually think the Q30 is an interestingly proportioned car. But I still don’t know what an Infiniti looks like – this one just has too much styling going on. I’m not sure what an Infiniti feels like either. Because not enough Infiniti cloaking has been put over the Mercedes components here – and as a result the Q30 doesn’t have much of a personality of its own. So it takes a leap to decide you’d rather spend £22,550 on a Premium spec Q30 1.5 diesel instead of an equivalent Audi A3 2.0TDI or BMW 118d. Agreed. What about the QX30 though, is that any better? It’s the same car, just with 4wd. The suspension isn’t raised any higher or anything. So you’d have to be very sure you needed 4wd with the extra expense and lower economy that goes hand-in-hand with it. Look, if I was going to have a Q30, it would probably be this one, although maybe with the seven-speed auto (another £1,500). The 1.5 is very economical, running costs are low, but there are better options out there and the biggest problem for the Q30 is that it doesn’t have a USP to make it stand out. If only they’d given it plush suspension.