Another cushy compact crossover may or may not be what the world needs now, but it’s exactly what Infiniti needs. Enter the swoopy, stub-tailed QX30—which Infiniti is pitching as a “premium active crossover”—to give the brand an entrant in a segment poised for explosive growth. We tested an all-wheel-drive QX30 and found it does a reasonable job of being a cushy compact crossover, with its 8.0 inches of ground clearance, skid plates, and roof rails joining the creature comforts and chrome that come with being an Infiniti.
A No-Flannel Zone
That said, not all QX30s are crossovers. (In fact, it’s arguable whether any of them really are.) Of the three QX30 models Infiniti will offer in the United States—including the standard front-wheel-drive QX30 and the zestier, also front-drive QX30 Sport we drove for this story—only the all-wheel-drive model makes the best argument to qualify as a crossover. The others lack crossover cred not only because they’re front-drivers, but also on account of their wheel/tire combos, specific interior and exterior design, and most significantly, lower suspensions that bring the base model 1.2 inches closer to the ground and the Sport version another 0.7 inch lower still. Expressive though their designs may be, these two QX30s in no way suggest any semblance of off-road capability; their drivers are hardly flannel-clad outdoorsmen. These are really upscale hatchbacks.
But that’s no insult. We like hatchbacks, and after our first back-to-back drives of the front-wheel-drive QX30 Sport and the all-wheel-drive QX30, we can understand why the front-wheel-drive models go by a different name—Q30—in markets outside the United States. In fact, Infiniti says it was mainly considering the needs of the European market when it crafted this car from the rib of the Mercedes-Benz GLA-class. In a deal with Daimler, Infiniti co-developed the QX30 using A-class/GLA-class bits, including its chassis architecture, its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine (with the same 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque), and its seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, as well as sundry interior items. Unfortunately, the cars also share their low roofs, contributing to relatively cramped rear seats and modest cargo areas. The QX30’s bolt-upright rear seatback is particularly unpleasant.
The Infiniti Bits
While most of the hard parts come from Mercedes, Infiniti claims responsibility for the QX30’s springs, dampers, and rolling stock, which for the Sport model, brings 19-inch wheels and 235/45-series run-flat summer tires versus the 18-inch wheels and 235/50-series all-season rubber on other QX30s. The Sport’s spring rates are 7 percent stiffer, too, and the front brakes get cross-drilled rotors. Incidentally, Mercedes does not offer any GLA tuned quite like this; the only GLA-class with a performance bent of any sort is the pricey and rather more excessive Mercedes-AMG GLA45.
Not surprisingly, the QX30 Sport proved altogether more confidence-inspiring than its crossover sibling; it also was friskier even than the heavier all-wheel-drive Q30 Sport that’s exclusive to Europe. The direct and linear steering feels tight and responds quickly to inputs, with a pleasing effort buildup in corners. The body remains mostly flat in hard cornering, although the car is still somewhat prone to understeer, and the ride quality seems as if it would be annoyingly firm for everyday duty. The upgraded brakes initially felt rather grabby while we slogged through morning traffic in the city, but as the day went on, we came to appreciate their strength and firm pedal feel.
Our impressions of the engine and transmission and their attendant drive modes, gleaned during our test of the all-wheel-drive QX30, remained in the neither-love-it-nor-hate-it realm. Power is generally sufficient, but we’d still like a drive mode between Economy and Sport. On back roads, Sport mode kept the engine exactly where it needed to be to maintain turbo pressure and keep the throttle alert to our commands, although it seemed too jumpy around town. In Economy mode, things got much calmer, but turbo lag was a frequent offender. We also would love for Infiniti to have squeezed out at least a few more ponies for the Sport. (The company could be saving that for a Red Sport model in the future, we suppose.) At least torque steer seems well managed; we performed a hands-off-the-wheel, full-throttle launch to 60 mph—which we estimate will take 6.7 seconds—and the Sport tracked straight.
The QX30 Sport also looks sufficiently premium and sporty inside and out. Particularly in the case of our Magnetic Red metallic test car, which came loaded with LED lighting, the Sport Leather package’s black leather upholstery with white accents, and the Technology package’s driver-assistance features, including a 360-degree monitor. The Sport’s exterior styling is arguably the best of the QX30 trio, thanks mostly to its larger wheels, lower stance, and more aggressive nose. Inside, the QX30 Sport’s cabin gets supportive seats and a black microsuede headliner (both standard), with better materials than one finds in the simpler cabin of the Volkswagen GTI or the GLA-class.
As configured, our test car would sticker for $43,150, but the Sport can be had for $39,450, a price that includes a panoramic sunroof and navigation. Admittedly that’s a steep climb from other Euro hatches such as the GTI, but it’s a fair value next to the Audi Q3, BMW X1, and Lexus NX that are the QX30’s stated competition.
But those are crossovers. And as we’ve stated before, the QX30 Sport is not really a crossover, but rather a Euro hatch, one that Infiniti happily did not leave in Europe.
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback
BASE PRICE: $39,450
ENGINE TYPE: turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 122 cu in, 1991 cc
Power: 208 hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 258 lb-ft @ 1200 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual shifting mode
Wheelbase: 106.3 in
Length: 174.2 in
Width: 71.5 in Height: 58.1 in
Passenger volume: 89 cu ft
Cargo volume: 19 cu ft
Curb weight: 3250 lb (C/D est)
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST):
Zero to 60 mph: 6.7 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 17.9 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 15.1 sec
Top speed: 130 mph
FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST):
EPA city/highway driving: 25/32 mpg