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The Infiniti Q30 attracts with its design language.

Samuel Ee checks out two premium compact hatchbacks.
Nov 12, 2016 5:50 AM

Infiniti's inaugural foray into the compact segment may be inspired by another brand, but it is not about to hide it. Instead, the luxury division of Nissan expects its exclusive design language to set it apart.

The Infiniti Q30 compact hatchback is based on the Mercedes-Benz GLA and it not only shares the same platform, but also many other bits and pieces in the cabin.

While the Q30 is mechanically related to the GLA and virtually similar in size, it looks bigger because of its distinctive design. Sculpted flanks and accentuated wheel arches give it a muscled air, with a racy profile from a roofline that arcs downwards for a very unusual rear pillar.

Inside, the interior has a unique look despite virtually all moving parts transplanted from the small Mercedes, such as the dinky gear lever with its drive mode selector button, electric seat controls and power window buttons on the door, and flat-bottomed steering with its multi-function controls.

The multi-function display is also unchanged, with its familiar font and info screens. Still, the curvaceous dashboard and two-tone nappa leather seats help the Q30 to form its own visual identity, and the result is surprisingly pleasing.

The interior packaging is unexpectedly good too, with a spacious rear bench and a deep boot.

When Infiniti re-introduced itself to Singapore five years ago, it did so with relatively big engines. The part-crossover Q30, however, continues the Japanese premium brand's efforts to downsize and a 1.5 turbo-diesel engine option is its first COE Categoy A model.

But the flagship variant is the Infiniti Q30 2.0T Sport with a two-litre turbo-charged petrol engine and AWD All-Wheel-Drive. As the "Sport'' in 2.0T Sport implies, it is 15 mm lower than the other Q30 alternatives. It also has big 19-inch wheels.

The suspension is supposed to be firmer but the 2.0T is actually more comfortable than sporty. So when going fast around a bend, the way it leans into the corner is not as what you might expect.

Vis-à-vis the GLA, the Q30 2.0T Sport is eight mm longer and at 1,480 mm tall, 14 mm lower. It also weighs in at 1,540 kg, which is about 100 kg heavier than a front-wheel-driven GLA200 with a 1.6-litre turbo engine.

Both have the same seven-speed dual clutch transmission but with its bigger engine and AWD, the Q30 sprints from stationary to 100 kmh in a quicker time of 7.3 seconds.

Like a Merc, the drive mode selector has Eco, Sport and Manual settings. In Sport, the Q30 is always raring to go because it keeps the transmission in a lower gear although this can be a bit hyper for some. Eco is more chill but displays the same delayed throttle response of an older Mercedes.

In terms of standard equipment, the 2.0T Sport has the standard premium selection such as an electric glass roof, seven airbags and lane departure warning. It also has keyless entry but the key - an identically shaped Mercedes-Benz fob - is required to start the car.

So why would anyone choose the Q30 over a GLA? The sharper styling is one reason, and the interior packaging is another. If design language is your lingua franca, then the Infiniti is for you.

Infiniti Q30 2.0T Sport

Engine 1,991cc inline-4 turbocharged

Gearbox 7-speed dual clutch transmission

Max power 208 hp @ 5,500 rpm

Max torque 350 Nm @ 1,200-4,000 rpm

0-100 kmh 7.3 secs

Top speed 230 kmh

CO2 emissions 156 g/km

Average OMV S$37,000

Price S$169,800 (with COE)

Distributor Wearnes Automotive T.6430-4840