I can’t help but feel this is one of those ‘could have been’ cars, because the 2017 Infiniti QX30 GT may well have offered a properly compelling offering in the premium small SUV segment.
But, unfortunately for Infiniti, it doesn’t. And this review will point out why.
First off: the price. For a base-model compact luxury SUV like the QX30 to kick off at $48,900 plus on-road costs, there’s a helluva lot of space below it; space that is filled by some of the best mainstream SUVs on the market from some of the hottest brands on the Australian automotive landscape. You can get a tonne of value in a Mazda CX-5 or Volkswagen Tiguan for this sort of cash.
At face value, it’s not even price competitive with its main peers: a Mini Countryman kicks off from just $39,900; the BMW X1 (the Mini’s twin) is from $49,990 in base model guise; an Audi Q2 can be had from $41,100 or a Q3 from $42,900.
That said, the QX30 has all-wheel drive as standard, and to get that in an X1, Countryman, Mercedes-Benz GLA, you’ve got to spend $60K or more - or in the case of the Audis, $47,900 (Q2) and $48,500 (Q3) respectively.
The QX30 offers some intriguing standard equipment inclusions and omissions. You don't get a rear-view camera, which is utterly disgraceful for a car at this (or any) price point, but you get rear parking sensors. In the top-spec version, there’s a surround-view camera system and front and rear parking sensors, which is packaged with a semi-autonomous parking system.
The lack of a back-up camera in the entry level GT is a real issue, because vision from the driver’s seat in the QX30 isn’t terrific: the chunky rear pillars and narrow rear glass make over-shoulder glances almost useless, and although the sensors help matters, it is a terrible oversight.
Now that’s off my chest, let’s consider some of the standard goodies that are pluses for the QX30, like the full LED headlights with cornering beams, the autonomous emergency braking (AEB) system, the standard-fit satellite navigation and 10-speaker Bose stereo system.
The interior is hit and miss, too: quite literally, actually, as the QX30’s ridiculously oversized door sills means you will almost certainly hit your feet as you get in. It is one of the most annoying elements of any car on sale, particularly if you have large feet, and if you or your family members plan to use the second-row a lot. The rear ingress and egress is terrible, with those sills tripping (and trapping) you as you get in and out. If you’re tall, you have to watch your head when entering and exiting too: I hit my noggin a couple of times during my time with the car.
The rear seat is very tight for legroom and foot-room, too, and headroom isn’t terrific in the back either. There are rear-seat air-vents, which are a nice inclusion, and there’s a ski-port, too, with the boot offering a reasonable (but far-from-exceptional) 430 litres of cargo capacity, and it has a flat floor with the 60:40 split-fold rear seats dropped down. If you’re after a more practical family compact SUV at this price point, check out the BMW or Mini, which have massive boots and even sliding rear seats for expanded room.
The materials used are of a good quality, despite the fact this is supposed to be a luxury car and doesn’t have leather seat-trim: the cloth trim is fine, and I guess they really wanted to have a two-model strategy. Perhaps that wasn’t the best idea.
I mean, it’s nearly fifty grand and it doesn’t have dual-zone climate control, and this spec misses out on the swish suede headlining that we liked so much when we had the high-spec model at our Mega Test late last year. Everything is well put together, and yes it has a certain Mercedes-Benz air to the cabin to some extent (the steering wheel, instrument cluster, plenty of the controls and the entire dashboard are all pretty much lifted straight out of the GLA).
Other questionable spec things: it has a key, not push-button start, but has keyless entry (huh?), and you don’t get blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning or adaptive cruise control. It has an auto-dimming rear-view mirror and an auto-dimming driver’s side mirror, but the passenger’s side doesn’t auto-dim, and that disparity can be a little annoying – it means the passenger mirror brightness stands out, making it a little distracting.
The infotainment system, too, isn’t as good as you’ll find elsewhere. Sure, Infiniti has its own rotary dial system, and yes it is reasonably easy to get the hang of, but the fonts on the screen are small and the menu layout is a little fiddly. The navigation graphics are dated, too.
If you’re thinking perhaps it may claw back some points when it comes to the drive experience, you’re right. Well, to an extent.
Under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with 155kW of power and 350Nm of torque, and shifting gears is a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. The all-wheel drive system is a part-time, on-demand style.
It’s a powertrain well suited to its application, offering fine acceleration and response, albeit with the dual-clutch gearbox feeling as though it can slur between gears at times. These transmissions are typically known for their precision in swapping between gears, and that can be the case with the QX30 in some instances, like when you’re pounding the accelerator from a standstill.
It is smooth in its shifts, no matter how you’re driving it – but it can be sluggish at low speeds. In city driving it can be a little lurchy under sudden throttle, with turbo lag and the engine’s stop-start system, combined with the dual-clutch auto, making effortless take-offs from traffic lights a bit of an artform. At highway speeds the engine is quiet and settles into a groove quite nicely, however.
The claimed fuel use for the turbocharged four-cylinder QX30 is 6.9 litres per 100 kilometres, and during our time in the car – across a range of driving, including urban, highway, and some gravel, we saw 8.9L/100km.
The QX30’s 18-inch wheels are fitted with run-flat tyres that sour the ride when it comes to sharp edges, and there’s no spare wheel either – you get a tyre repair kit, so perhaps don’t plan to do the Simpson Desert crossing in the QX30.
Still, we’ve driven it in off-road situations a few times now, and the traction on offer is good: you can feel the all-wheel-drive hardware working to ensure maintained progress, and on slippery grass and gravel the tyres offer good grip to complement the AWD system’s traction. But the QX30’s firm suspension means you can battle against bumps and lose momentum at times.
That suspension is so hard that it can rebound abruptly at times, particularly over broken surfaces. The electric steering system lacks feel and exhibits some dullness on the straight-ahead, but reacts nicely when you apply lock in corners, or when parking.
The Infiniti warranty program is four years or 100,000km, whichever occurs first, and there’s a capped-price servicing plan that requires maintenance every 12 months or 25,000km (whichever happens first) for the first five years/125,000km. The average cost is $540 per year (first three years).
I stand by the notion the Infiniti QX30 could have been a really intriguing option for premium SUV buyers: it has a look that people notice, it has some great tech available in the higher-spec model, and there’s some really nice luxury elements in that high-end version too.
In this spec, though, it falls well short of the competition. Perhaps if Infiniti had launched just one version of the QX30, a version packed with all the equipment in the top-spec model but at the price of this entry-level grade, it could be worthy of putting on your small prestige SUV shopping list. But, in all honesty, it’d be at the bottom of mine.
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