2017 Infiniti QX30: Aimed at Winning

Published on July 20, 2016 in First Drives by Mathieu St-Pierre

SEATTLE, Washington—Badge engineering all but decimated the Big Three North-American carmakers. Taking a Chevy Cavalier and slapping a Cadillac ornament on the hood some 30 years ago was such a mistake that GM’s still suffering setbacks from the massive blunder. The Japanese and Europeans brands also played the game, and they too learned a few things in the process.

Although the practice still exists, the exercise has evolved and can be a great cost-cutting measure. In fact, here, it has never been better exploited.

Case in point: the new 2017 Infiniti QX30. Back in 2011, the Renault-Nissan Alliance struck a deal with Daimler (Mercedes-Benz) where they would provide a rolling chassis on which Nissan’s engineers and designers would build a vehicle in their own image. If this could have been perceived as a risky move some years ago, Infiniti has proven that it can be done, and properly.

The new QX30 enters the compact luxury CUV segment at a time when it is in full bloom. Consumers are moving away from traditional sedans into far more utilitarian (read smart) five-door hatchback cars with a raised ride height. The QX30 blends handsome good looks with a sporty drive and a lovely interior.

I think this might be the most brilliant car move of the decade.

Infiniti sauce

What is it, you ask? Well, Infiniti’s the German Japanese car brand, meaning that it has managed to blend refinement with sportiness without neglecting luxury. That extra dose of driving dynamics over Lexus and Acura is what helps the make stand out.

The Mercedes GLA, the donor car, is already fairly refined; however, Infiniti’s managed to turn it up a notch, and tie it down at the same time. It’s actually an impressive feat.

Mechanically, both are quite nearly identical. The turbocharged, 2.0L four-cylinder engine develops 208 horsepower and a generous 258 torques. A seven-speed, dual-clutch automated transmission transfers the power to the front or all four wheels. Infiniti’s engineers did tweak the autobox, but only a back-to-back comparison would divulge what was actually done. Either way, the transmission is sharp, but not as quick or efficient as Audi’s S tronic gearbox, for example.

The 2.0T delivers all of its torque from 1200 rpm to 4000 rpm. This juicy piece of oomph makes the QX30 a pleasure to drive in town. Left in “normal” mode, the ‘box seamlessly shifts while the throttle remains responsive. In “sport” mode, gears are held longer and the go pedal gets a little nervous. All QX30s feature paddle shifters, which is a nice touch, but not quite necessary in this vehicle. They do match the compact ute’s aura though.

It’s all fun and good, but there’s a slight lull in power delivery between 4000 and 5500 rpm, at peak power, that becomes more obvious under harder driving. The tested AWD version was far from fast, although quick enough for fun times on some twisty back-roads west of Seattle.

One of the QX30’s best aspects is its ride and handling. Infiniti has also retuned the front MacPherson and rear multi-link independent suspension, lifted from the GLA, and the results are superb.

The regular QX30’s ride height is typical small crossover. However, the Sport version is dropped 15 mm while the AWD gains 30 mm in ground clearance. Despite the taller ride, the AWD handled the aforementioned switchbacks with impressive precision and aplomb. Handling is fairly neutral with little presence of understeer and a limited amount of body roll. In all seriousness, the 2017 Infiniti QX30 drives more like a sporty compact car than a CUV equivalent. The electronic steering is well weighted, with decent feel and feedback.

The AWD system is front-wheel biased and can send up to 50% of the torque to rear wheels. This setup is very common and should account for roughly 85% of all QX30 sales in Canada, and with reason.

Distinctly handsome

A glance will more than likely get you excited about the QX30. The Infiniti has character, far more than the Mercedes, as Nissan’s luxury brand is not shy about throwing creases and wild lines onto its products.

The signature double-arch grille is lovely and powerful, while the crescent-cut “C” pillars are unique. Depending on trim, variations in the front fascia exists as do different wheels. Interestingly, the wheelbase is unchanged from the GLA’s, yet the QX30 is marginally longer and wider. This is a big influence on the vehicle’s wide, hunkered-down look.

The cabin is snug, ideal for four passengers. The Mercedes influence is obvious in the controls and the steering wheel, but Infiniti has managed to make it all its own. The dashboard design is very contemporary and well put together.

The seven-inch touchscreen display can also be manipulated via the Infiniti Controller where the available navigation system, communications and audio can be adjusted. The standard Nappa leather covered seats are very comfortable and the driving position is excellent. Another selling point is the trunk which, at 544 litres, is one of the largest in the segment.

Only one thing stands in the way

The new 2017 Infiniti QX30 is armed to the teeth with reasons to be considered among the established Audi Q3, BMW X1 and, of course, Mercedes GLA.

According to Infiniti, the QX30 should end up representing 16% of the brand’s total sales. If we consider that the driving experience is far more entertaining than expected, and the fact that the compact crossover segment (C segment) is growing and the hottest in the business, I think the number will be greater.

All will depend on the pricing which has yet to be announced. If the difference between it and the GLA is significant enough, Infiniti won’t be able to meet the demand. That’s winning.

Test drive report
Test model 2017 Infiniti QX30
Trim level AWD
Price range N/A
Price as tested N/A
Warranty (basic) 4 years/10,000 km
Warranty (powertrain) 6 years/110,000 km
Fuel economy (city/highway/observed) 8,7 / 5,5 / N/A L/100km
Options N/A
Competitive models Audi Q3, BMW X1, GMC Terrain, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Volkswagen Tiguan
Strong points
  • Gorgeous styling
  • Impressive handling
  • Efficient engine
  • Loaded with modern technology
Weak points
  • Back seat limited to two occupants
  • Pricing could make or break a good vehicle
  • Power drop between 4000 and 5500 rpm
  • Can get noisy on board at highway speeds
Editor's rating
Fuel economy 3.5/5 Numbers not yet available, but are expected to be average.
Comfort 4.0/5 Great seats, better than decent ride comfort.
Performance 3.5/5 The added weight of the AWD system robs the 2.0T engine of some vigour, but the low-end torque is great for urban driving.
Infotainment 4.0/5 Standard touchscreen, loads of connectivity options all with decent navigation.
Driving 4.0/5 Impressive handling, fun steering and good brakes. The transmission’s a player, too.
Overall 4.5/5 Overnight, the segment has a major contender to the title of best of the bunch. If Nissan plays it cool with the pricing, it could become king.
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