The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 2.6
The Infiniti Q30 offers an interesting leftfield alternative to prestige hatchbacks like the Audi A3 Sportback and BMW 1 Series. The thing is, those rivals are popular for a reason, which is that they have exceptional all-round ability. Indeed, they outperform the Q30 in pretty much every key area, particularly its practicality, its ownership costs and its balance of ride and handling.
Reasons to buy
- Individual styling
- Fairly high-quality interior
- Most versions come with plenty of safety kit
At a glance
- How good does it look? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's the interior like? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How practical is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's it like to drive? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How powerful is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much will it cost me? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How reliable is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How safe is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much equipment do I get? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- Why buy? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
How good does it look?
The Q30 shares much of its mechanical make-up with the Mercedes A-Class, but its styling is one thing that certainly sets it apart from its sister car. In a class of cars where conservatism is the norm, the Q30 is something a bit different. There are plenty of bold details and some interesting creases, and the car certainly gets plenty of attention from pedestrians as you roll past. All versions come with alloy wheels as standard, but you get more and more styling goodies as you progress up the range.
What's the interior like?
Depending on the trim level you choose, the Q30’s interior has a design that’s based around either luxuriousness or sportiness. Whichever you choose, the cabin looks smart, with some very pleasant materials on display, finished with some glitzy-looking trims. Anyone familiar with the A-Class will recognize much of the Q30’s switchgear, which is lifted straight out of the Mercedes, but that’s no bad thing because it looks good and most of it is pretty easy to use. It does mean, however, that the Q30 shares some of the Merc’s more annoying foibles. The switch for the electronic parking brake is tucked away underneath the dashboard and works in an unintuitive way (you push the switch to engage it and pull to disengage). The pedals are heavily offset, too, while the small rear window means your rear visibility is less than ideal.
How practical is it?
To be honest, the Q30 does a pretty disappointing job in this area. The rear seats have a reasonable (if not particularly generous) amount of legroom and headroom, but with a roof that curves downwards on either side of the car, your passengers will have to duck underneath it when getting in and out, and will knock the side of their head each time you go around a bend. The limited shoulder space, narrow middle seat and bulky transmission tunnel also make this a car that’s best suited to carrying four people, rather than five. The boot is a decent size for the class at 368 litres, and the rear seats fold more-or-less flat when you need to boost capacity. However, the loadspace is hard to get at due to a narrow boot opening and a high load lip.
What's it like to drive?
Infiniti says the Q30 provides an ideal balance between ride and handling, but we beg to differ. While calling the ride uncomfortable would be overly harsh, there are too many types of road surface where the suspension doesn’t keep life smooth enough, meaning it’s nowhere near as cosseting as it best rivals. That wouldn’t be so bad if the Infiniti could out-handle the competition, but sadly, it can’t. The body control is fairly decent once the car settles into a bend, but there’s an initial period of sloppiness before that, which makes the turn-in feel rather laboured. There’s plenty of grip and reasonably quick steering, but you don’t get a great deal of feedback through the wheel. Sport models, with their lowered and stiffened suspension, don’t feel any more involving in the corners than more humble Q30s, either, but at least their ride quality isn’t any more punishing.
How powerful is it?
There are four engines to choose from - two petrol and two diesel - and it’s the diesels that are likely to prove most popular. The 107bhp 1.5 is the most sensible option, thanks to its relative efficiency and affordability, and it’s also the best engine we’ve tried. It’s smooth and quiet most of the time, and although it doesn’t make the Q30 all that quick, it’s nice and flexible for an easy, relaxed life. The manual gearshift is a shade notchy, but it’s nothing that spoils the experience. The 168bhp 2.1-litre diesel (Infiniti calls it a 2.2, but it’s not) is faster, but it’s not much more flexible so isn’t really worth the extra you’ll pay. It’s not as smooth or as quiet as the 1.5, either, but it’s more refined than it is in the several Mercedes models in which it also makes an appearance. Much of this is down to the active noise cancellation technology at work (the stereo emits sound waves to counteract external noises), but you also feel less vibration through the controls. The 208bhp 2.0-litre petrol also uses the noise cancellation, but that doesn’t stop it from sounding wheezy and whiney, which is especially disappointing given that this is supposed to be the sportiest version. It doesn’t feel particularly quick, either, and it’s paired as standard with a seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox that’s rather schizophrenic in character; it feels too lazy in Eco mode, too hardcore in Sport mode, and there’s no happy medium in between. The turbocharged 120bhp 1.6 petrol isn’t worth bothering with, either. It feels woefully flat at the bottom of the rev range, meaning you need to keep the revs high for half-decent acceleration, and the engine takes an absolute age to build revs, making it feel even lazier.
How much will it cost me?
The Q30 costs a bit less to buy than rivals from Audi and BMW, but the difference isn’t as big as you might expect. It’ll be no cheaper to run day-to-day, either, but at least fuel economy and CO2 emissions are reasonably competitive by class standards. The 1.5-litre diesel is the star performer on that score, with CO2 emissions of 108g/km and official fuel economy of 68.9mpg. What aren’t competitive, though, are the Q30’s resale values. They’re considerably lower than they are for the car’s desirable rivals, and this will put a considerable dent in your whole-life running costs.
How reliable is it?
This is rather a tricky one. Infiniti hasn’t existed for long enough in the UK – and hasn’t yet sold enough cars – for there to be any meaningful reliability data on the company’s products. Now, you could take heart from parent company Nissan’s performance in this area, because it’s a brand that’s riding fairly high in Warranty Direct’s manufacturer standings, as well as other reliability studies. However, since the Q30 shares so much with the A-Class, it’s probably more sensible to look at Mercedes’ performance, which is nowhere near as strong. The fact that the car’s production process involves assembling Mercedes parts in a Nissan-operated factory (the car is built in Sunderland) adds another level of uncertainty. Whatever the situation turns out to be, prospective owners might struggle with servicing and repairing their car, due to the logistical difficulties posed by Infiniti’s tiny UK dealer network.
How safe is it?
All Q30s come with a total of seven airbags to help keep you safe in a smash, along with a range of systems to help prevent you from having one in the first place. Stability control, advanced anti-lock brakes and an automatic collision mitigation system are all standard. Upgrading to Premium trim also earns you a lane departure warning function, while upgrading a notch further will add adaptive LED headlights and traffic sign recognition. When the Q30 was crash tested by the experts at Euro NCAP, it achieved the maximum five-star rating.
How much equipment do I get?
The Q30’s trim structure is, frankly, baffling. Essentially, the levels on offer are based around SE, Prestige and Sport trims, but upwards of Prestige trim, there are all sorts of sub-trims that give you kit with one hand, and take away with the other, substituting it for other kit. SE-grade Q30s come with four electric windows, air-conditioning, automatic headlights, rear parking sensors and Bluetooth, but Prestige trim is worth the upgrade for its dual-zone climate control, electrically-adjusting door mirrors, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, and heated front seats. The various Premium-based trims offer you things like keyless entry, leather upholstery and a parking assistant with a variety of cameras, depending on which one you pick. The Sport-based models get similar, along with styling upgrades inside and out, and sports suspension. We reckon it’s a bit mean, however, that not all versions get a DAB radio.
Because you want something a little different to the other cars in the ultra-conservative premium hatchback class, and the Infiniti Q30 certainly offers that. However, it doesn’t offer anywhere near as much ability in a number of key areas as its more obvious rivals, so we still think you’re better off with one of those.