Compact crossovers are selling like hotcakes at the moment, in both the mainstream and premium markets. Keen to cash in, the folks at Infiniti hatched (heh) a plan.
Rather than spending big bucks developing its own platform, it turned to Mercedes-Benz and set about rebadging the GLA-Class to create the Q30 and QX30. The result is a car with a number of similarities with the A-Class or GLA, complete with an Infiniti interior and none of the brand recognition. Hmmm.
Power in the Q30 2.0T comes from a 2.0-litre petrol four-cylinder turbocharged engine making 155kW and 350Nm, put to the front wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. They're warm-hatch numbers, although the car's 7.3-second sprint to 100km/h is more 'punchy' than 'eye-popping'.
It's a Mercedes-Benz unit, shared with the previous-generation A-Class and soon-to-be-replaced GLA, and is easily the strongest part of the Q30. It's not the most refined unit in the world, with a slightly gruff idle and a tendency to get a bit shouty when pressed, but it feels muscular on the move, like it's bigger than it actually is.
Unfortunately, it's mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (or 7G-DCT) from the A-Class launch in 2012. Whereas the latest dual-clutch transmissions do a passable torque-converter impersonation around town and offer seamless shifts at full noise, the 7G-DCT in the Q30 shows its age at times.
It can be jerky off the line, especially when the overeager start/stop system is activated, and doesn't offer whip-crack shifts (up or down) as you move through the rev range. Locking the car into Sport mode forces it to hang onto gears longer, and there's also an Eco Mode that does the opposite.
We'd leave the button alone, because the paddles behind the wheel are a far better way to make sure the Q30 is in the right gear at the right time.
Standard gear in our 2.0T Sport is generous thanks to a recent range reshuffle. Adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, a 360-degree camera system, and semi-autonomous reverse parking are all standard, along with high-beam assist, lane-departure warning and traffic sign recognition.
Inside, there's a 10-speaker Bose audio system, dual-zone climate control with rear air vents, leather seats and electric adjustment for both driver and passenger, complete with memory.
Gone is the Mercedes-Benz Comand infotainment system, which is replaced with a touchscreen set-up from the Infiniti parts bin. There's also a rotary controller on the centre console for the inbuilt navigation. The MB centre stack has carried over, but the buttons have been given a fresh layout in the Q30.
First, the positives. The Q30 doesn't have Infiniti's infernal dual-screen infotainment system, which is a positive. Climate control is handled by a set of hard buttons at the base of the dashboard, just like the old days, and there are hard buttons for things like audio input. Phew.
The bad? The graphics are old hat, the screen is slow to respond, and the rotary controller only works once you've delved into a menu. Knowing when to use it can be tricky. There's nothing objectively wrong with it, but it just feels Fisher-Price compared to the original Mercedes-Benz set-up. If you're going to replace something from the three-pointed star, it should at least be better...
Smartphone mirroring is notably absent, but Bluetooth streaming and phone connectivity mean you're still dialled into the outside world on the move.
Age may have wearied the Q30's infotainment, but the years have been kinder to the dials, which are crystal clear. There's a small colour display in between the analogue clocks, too, but it's almost not necessary. Some things were better in the olden days.
Gone is the Mercedes-Benz column-meets-wand gear shifter, leaving a blank space on the right-hand side of the steering column where it would have otherwise sat. It's been replaced with a small shifter on the transmission tunnel, which eats into space used for storage in the GLA.
It's clear the platform-sharing arrangement favoured the Germans, not the Japanese in this case.
If you're tall, the standard panoramic glass roof (not a sliding sunroof, just a glass roof) eats into headroom, and the headrests on the one-piece seats sit awkwardly in the back of your neck if you're tall. They're very pretty, though.
In fact, the interior trim is very pretty all around, with lovely leather the dominant material on the seats along with a leather-look trim on the dashboard. You even get some white contrasting leather for a bit of added style.
Rear seat accommodation is very similar to that of the soon-to-be superseded GLA, which means it's fine for smaller adults, but the stylised window line and large sills make it tricky to get in and out. Leg room isn't great, especially when there are taller drivers up front, and foot room is very poor.
At least the boot is a good size, with space for a full-size bike with the rear seats folded. With 430L of space in the boot, it's a handy 89L larger than the equivalent GLA's load bay, although that might change when the new compact Mercedes crossover touches down. It took my road bike with its wheels on, which is a big positive.
Style is subjective, but it's worth noting the Q30 is a sharp looker in the metal. Swooping lines and some neat detailing, along with nice touches like an interesting rear three-quarter treatment. It's also distinctly Japanese, which brings with it pros (you'll stand out!) and cons (it looks very Mazda 3 from some angles).
It's definitely prettier than the GLA, that much is clear, and the slightly taller-than-average ride height lends it presence on the road.
All these issues would be less jarring if the Q30 were a bargain-basement luxury offering, but even a recent price cut doesn't do quite enough to justify its foibles.
The value equation is improved by a four-year, 100,000km warranty, but the car's $46,888 price before on-road costs is under $1000 less than a current-generation A200, and only $2600 less than an all-wheel-drive A250. Yes, the Infiniti is bigger than the Mercedes, but both are pitched as compact, luxury hatchbacks.
Under Infiniti's capped-price servicing program, the first three visits to the dealer cost $434.70, $653.36 and $662.06. Maintenance happens every 10,000km or 12 months.
You'd more than likely be able to strike a bargain with your nearest dealership, but we can only really operate based on the MLRP.
But unless you can get a great deal on a Q30, there's no shortage of nicer-driving, better-specced options out there. The game has moved on, and the recently re-specced, repriced Infiniti hatchback hasn't kept up.