Seattle is youngish, middle-class hip and still a little outdoorsy. It has its own style – and tech money – but it’s not too flashy. It’s a lot like the QX30, Infiniti’s all-new CUV.
Infiniti’s eager to join the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA in the hot compact CUV game – the three sold nearly 11,000 vehicles last year, up from 6,000 the year before.
Why are they so popular? They’re more sport-wagons than they are SUVs – they drive like a car, have more cargo space than a sedan, but can still easily fit into a downtown parking space so you can grab a flat white at Starbucks on your way to yoga. For the QX30, Infiniti says its target buyer is 32-36 years of age, has a young (that is, small) family and is looking for their first luxury car.
The QX30 is built in England but has German DNA – it’s the Mercedes GLA 250’s fraternal twin – the result of a joint-development project between Nissan and Daimler. It shares the GLA’s 2.0-litre turbocharged, 208-horsepower four-cylinder engine and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with paddle shifters. But the GX30 is no Mercedes clone, Infiniti says.
“The transmission, the engine, the throttle response, all of the stiffness of the suspension is all tuned uniquely for our vehicle,” said Mark Snyder, deputy chief engineer at Infiniti. “The upper body is all new, the navigation system and the shift control is unique to Infiniti – so, as a vehicle, it’s really different.”
While there’s definitely a strong family resemblance with the GLA, the QX30 is the better-looking twin, inside and out. It has Infiniti’s crescent-cut C-pillar and double-arch grille and Infiniti says it’s tuned to be sporty. In the all-wheel drive version, that sportiness isn’t quite there when eco mode is on, but there’s a dramatic change when you push the button to change to sport. It’s noticeably better on the road – especially when it’s winding and hilly.
Inside, it shares some switches and gauges with the GLA, but it has a bigger touchscreen and simpler radio controls.
It comes standard with heated Nappa leather seats, heated power-folding side mirrors, dual zone climate-control, rearview camera and auto-dimming rearview and driver’s side mirrors. A premium package adds GPS, 10-speaker Bose audio, a fixed glass panoramic moonroof, rain-sensing wipers and parking sensors.
The technology package is safety-focused and includes a nifty around-view monitor with moving object detection. It helped us spot the kids on skateboards who were circling our test vehicle. It also has blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning and forward emergency braking.
It comes in three versions: standard, AWD and Sport. The AWD is noticeably taller than the Sport. Infiniti expects it to make up for 80-85 per cent of Canadian sales.
The Sport’s on stiffer suspension springs and 19-inch wheels, compared to 18 for the base and AWD. It has sportier tuning – although the difference from the AWD is subtle – and comes with all the bells and whistles.
The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.
Base price: $35,990
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): TBD
Alternatives: Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA
You’ll like this vehicle if ... you’re looking for slightly more stylish (and likely cheaper) sports-wagon alternative to BMW, Mercedes and Audi.
Looks: Its swoopy lines turned heads in downtown Seattle and on our all-day test run around Puget Sound.
Interior: Mostly, controls are simple and intuitive. You get the Mercedes door-mounted seat controls. Seats are comfortable. Finishes are fine, but are less luxurious than more expensive Infiniti models. Rear seats might be tight for three adults.
Performance: It’s not exhilarating to drive, but it’s competent – and that’s not meant as faint praise. The transmission is smooth – you can barely feel the shifting.
Technology: There’s no Apple Carplay or Android Auto. You’ll have to pay extra for the safety features, including the around-view monitor. It gives you an overhead view of all four sides of the vehicle – and alerts you if somebody moves into it.
Cargo: Infiniti took some rear seat space from the GLA to give the QX30 more cargo room – the most in its class with the seats up.
The QX30 is competent, good-looking sports-wagon and, if pricing stays low, it’s the cheapest in the class.