Infiniti QX30 all-wheel-drive SUV road test and review
DON'T tell me. Another small SUV for the Australian market?
Of course. Why wouldn't you dive into the hottest segment in town; the water is very warm. This is the Infiniti QX30 crossover, a funky little premium challenger ready to markedly boost Infiniti's Australian sales.
Ah, Infiniti. The posh Nissans, right?
If you like. Let's get it out of the way for those not listening at the back: Infiniti is Nissan's premium arm as Lexus is to Toyota, but should be regarded as a separate entity. Infiniti has been in Australia for four years now, sales are on the up but they still only shifted 574 units last year.
Why are they only selling in such small numbers, are Infinitis no good?
Far from it. The model range is getting more complete each year and from the Infinitis I've tested thus far, I've been generally impressed. Most look good, are really well specced and the tech and performance can be damn impressive.
Why aren't they selling? You try establishing a car brand in Australia these days. Look how quickly Opel came and went after realising how competitive it is here with more than 50 different manufacturers vying for our business. All in a country with a relatively small population.
Not many main dealers, models in less popular segments, a lack of brand awareness, fear of the new from buyers, quality competition. Take your pick as to why Infinitis are left off most shopping lists.
But don't we Aussies love a battler? Infiniti says it is here to stay, so don't dash down to your BMW/Merc/Audi dealer without first educating yourself about the new competition.
All right, I'm all ears. But hang on a minute, didn't I see one of these Infinitis launched a few weeks back?
Kinda. That was the Q30, the front-wheel drive version of this small SUV/premium hatchback crossover. That's also categorised as a small SUV, but this QX30 - with practically the same body as the Q30 - is the one to take off the bitumen thanks to a higher ride height and all-paw traction courtesy of the all-wheel drive system borrowed from Merc's GLA SUV.
Okay, so what's the full line-up then?
Prepare yourself, there are plenty to choose from. But we're told premium buyers demand choice, and that's what Infiniti has done.
Your two-wheel drive Q30s are a GT (from $38,900), Sport (from $44,900) and Premium (from $52,900). GTs have a 1.6-litre turbo petrol while the others come with either a 2.0-litre turbo petrol or 2.1-litre turbo diesel.
QX30 all-wheel drives all come with just the 2.0-litre turbo petrol and in GT (from $48,900) and Premium guise (from $56,900).
All models come with dual-clutch, seven-speed autos and paddle shifters, and those prices are before on-roads, by the way.
So about $4k more to go the AWD QX30 then. What else do I get over a Q30?
You get 10mm more width thanks to the plastic moulded arches and 35mm more height (or 55mm more than a Q30 Sport) thanks to higher suspension and roof rails.
There are grain plastic side sills and more off-roady front and rear bumpers too, plus different style 18-inch alloys.
The pair do look very similar, but the Q30 is certainly the more swanky urbanite (and more like a normal hatchback, really) and the QX30 the soft-road, active lifestyle option.
And you know what? They are really striking and attractive things. Small, but stylishly formed.
If I'm paying for premium, I want lashings of luxury inside. Does the QX30 deliver?
Sure does, but stretch to the Premium model for proper pampering. It's a delight of a cabin, with modern wave-shape lines and a not unpleasant Mercedes-Benz familiarity. Infiniti and Daimler are equity partners, so the Q30 and QX30 share platforms with Merc's A-Class and GLA small SUV.
A bit of sharing also comes with the instrument fonts, switchgear, steering wheel stalk (and electric seat controls in the Premium), which all look very Benz. A good thing, really.
Seating is delightfully comfy. Black Fibretech for the GT cars feels superb for cloth, but the Premium's Nappa leather is what you really want. The latter also scores suede-like interior headlining and genuine wood inserts for the door panels and centre console.
You'll be paying about $62k drive away for one of these Premiums, but it really feels like you've treated yourself. That's not always the case at this price point with other premium rivals.
Chock-full of toys too? And I've gotta think about safety stuff I suppose…
All QX30s get a Nappa leather steering wheel, heated mirrors, adaptive front lights with cornering function, auto wipers, 7-inch touchscreen, Infiniti InTouch apps, navigation with live traffic updates, 10-speaker Bose sounds, seven airbags, forward collision warning and forward emergency braking.
Premium models adds Nappa leather throughout, eight-way power adjustable heated front seats, a glass roof, dual-zone climate control and ambient lighting,
Plenty of active safety with the Premium too, including intelligent cruise control and brake assist, lane departure and blind spot warnings, around view monitor, park assist and traffic sign recognition.
All right, what's not included I should know about?
A few bits, but hopefully not deal-breakers. No reversing camera and sensors are the big omissions in GT grade, while there's no keyless start and no Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto smartphone integration in any QX30. No option for them either, just metallic paint for $1200 to go for if you fancy.
Are these crossovers a bit jack of all trades, master of none, or are they actually decent on- and off-road?
I had a good few hundred kilometres testing the QX30 in city traffic, on the highway, on fun twisty roads and over some easy unsealed sections. Impressions? Sheer ease to drive, and impressive in its lack of cabin noise and vibration into the cabin. It feels a solid and quality offering - imperative at its premium price point.
Buyers will spend most of their time in the city or on highways and it absorbs most bumps in an unfussed manner, but it's no match for its lower two-wheel drive Q30 stablemate in terms of balance and outright comfort on the tighter stuff. This is to be expected, though, with the higher suspension, more all-road tyres and perceived use of the all-wheel drive version.
The QX30's all-wheel drive traction on the unsealed stuff is a key selling point. Again, cabin serenity prevailed over the rough stuff (though we didn't do any serious off-roading), and its sure-footedness inspired confidence to keep the speed up, and it even showed a playful nature in the turns, communicating nicely what both ends were up to.
It won't be climbing mountains, however, there's just not the ground clearance. If you regularly use unsealed roads, go the QX30, if not, save a few grand and stick with the Q30.
The engine's 155kW and 350Nm are all you need to punt along - it's not a sports car remember - although it's a bit of a mystery why the diesel engine found in the two-wheel drive Q30 couldn't be offered in the QX30; it would suit it well.
Are small SUVs really any use for families?
Look, the QX30 feels roomy and airy in the front, but you can't fight physics. The slanting roof design and skinny rear windows make it a tad claustrophobic in the rear seats for adults, but three younger kids or a couple of child seats would work.
Boot space is 430-litres, making it a good 80-litres larger than the small SUV class leader, Mazda's CX-3, but it lags a way behind the room offered in Merc's GLA and BMW's X1.
Should I be scared of its premium running costs?
Not too much. Average service cost over three years is $541, with service intervals every 25,000km (or 12 months). That, plus the four-year/100,000km warranty, are decent.
My test saw the QX30 gulp 8.4L/100km over sealed and unsealed roads, which is expected, with a quoted combined average of 6.9L/100km. That extra all-wheel drive weight makes the QX30 a fair bit thirstier than its two-wheel drive Q30 mate.
So, who'll buy the QX30 then?
Premium shoppers who'd typically go for a Mercedes-Benz GLA, Audi Q3 or BMW X1 really, or even those who'd fancy a step up from the likes of Nissan's Qashqai. The Infiniti's a good point of difference, and you certainly won't be part of the sheep herd in a QX30.
Should I buy one?
You should at least give it a look. But make sure you need the all-wheel drive QX30 before choosing it over the cheaper and slightly more bitumen-friendly Q30 version.
These Infinitis certainly have style and presence, while stacking up well against the ubiquitous German rivals on the spec front. They are both luxurious and easy to pilot through town and for highway slogs, while a decent all-wheel drive system makes the QX30 a surefooted and even fun thing on the unsealed stuff.
Okay, but will people buy one?
These Q30s and QX30s are in the right segment to really give Infiniti a sales boost: small SUVs are surging in Australia. Infiniti may not be a recognised player here yet, but its left-field choice may add to its appeal.
If all your neighbours have BMWs and Benzes, how about daring to be different?
Model: Infiniti QX30.
Details: Five-door, all-wheel drive, premium, small, crossover SUV.
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbo petrol generating maximum power of 155kW @ 5500rpm and 350Nm @ 1200rpm.
Transmission: 7-speed, dual-clutch automatic.
Consumption: 6.9-litres/100km (combined).
Bottom line plus on-roads: $48,900 (GT); $56,900 (Premium).
Driving experience 14/20
Features and equipment 15/20
Functionality and comfort 15/20
Value for money 14/20
Style and design 18/20