The Infiniti QX30 is not an Infiniti. It’s not even a Nissan product. It is a Mercedes disguised as an Infiniti, and that disguise is pretty well done, at least on the outside. One would think that any company that would take a Mercedes-Benz product and badge-engineer it as their own would have a winner on their hands, but that is not necessarily the case here.
The problem is that the QX30 is based on the Mercedes GLA. I have driven both the GLA 250 and the AMG GLA 45. The GLA 250 seemed unlike any Mercedes I have ever driven – it seemed cheap and econo-hatchback-like. I was smitten by the AMG version because it had a bonkers engine and it handled great. The big issue with the AMG GLA 45 is that this Subaru WRX STI-like car had a nutty price tag.
But how is the Infiniti QX30? How does it differ from the GLA? Did Infiniti improve on the dud Benz?
There is an immediate problem with the QX30 that goes beyond trim and features – the overall design. This vehicle is considered to be a cross-over utility vehicle. This implies that such vehicle would have a higher sitting position, increased visibility, and more passenger and cargo space. But the QX30 does not possess any of that.
The beltline, the line at which windows start, is rather high on the QX30. This makes for relatively short windows. With the seat being low and the short windows, the sitting position is more sports car-like than CUV-like. From front to back, the beltline raises while the roofline slopes down. This makes for even shorter windows in the back. Rear seat headroom is compromised, as is the cargo area.
The idea behind buying a CUV is that at one point the vehicle is expected to carry more than one passenger. Those sitting in the back of the QX30 will undoubtedly complain about the lack of leg and head room. I have not seen a smaller rear seat on a CUV yet, and I drove the MINI Countryman and Mazda CX-3. Even my five and ten year old kids said they were tight and most small sedans and hatchbacks seem to have more space. Heck, third rows on many SUVs seem more spacious.
Another issue is that the QX30 is branded as a luxury vehicle. By definition it should have stuff in it. Stuff like ventilated seats, latest infotainment technology, seats adjustable in a magnitude of ways, tacky mood lighting, wireless charging, and other such stuff that defines today’s luxury. It’s stuff that’s available on most Kias, a bargain brand if there ever was one. But the QX30 has none of those things. It’s about as well equipped as a mid-level VW Golf.
The whole interior is lifted right out of the GLA 250. It’s has Mercedes climate controls, Mercedes shifter, Mercedes start button, and even a Mercedes not-an-ashtray. The one thing that is Nissan-designed, which perhaps should have been retained from the Mercedes as it is rather dated, is the infotainment system. The screen is small by any measurement and it lacks the crucial Apple CarPlay and Android interface.
One thing that’s done better on the Infiniti is the exterior design. The Benz GLA looks like a CLA with its ass cut off, because that’s what it is. It’s looks awkward because typically Mercedes are seen as sedans, so the buttless look is weird. But the Infiniti manages to pull it off. The front-end is very Infiniti, if a bit fishy-looking, with familiar grill and headlight design. Side panels are carefully molded to match the front-end, so it’s not just a front-clip swap. Even the fake C-pillar not-a-window works well. And it all comes together in the rear which nicely complements the front. Sure, it’s not everyone’s taste but it works.
Driving dynamics of the QX30 are typical to that of other such small CUVs. It does everything well, like most modern cars do, without doing anything better. The buzzy two-liter 4-cylinder turbo engine makes 208 hp at 5,500 rpm and 258 lb-ft between 1,200-4,400 rpm. It’s nothing to write home about but it is sufficient. If there is one truly annoying thing it’s the rather rough start/stop system which needs to deactivated every time the vehicle is started for the sake of sanity.
The 2018 Infiniti QX30 starts at $29,950 and goes to over $43,000 for the Sport model with all the options checked off. That’s slightly less than the Benz across the range. I am guessing that Infiniti saw an opportunity to fill a gap in its model lineup with the small GLA-based vehicle. With low development costs and short schedule, the QX30 slotted nicely into the niche. In the SUV-loving world this makes sense, but that world is filled with many other vehicles that do things better or are less expensive.
[Disclaimer: Infiniti provided the vehicle for the purpose of this review.]
All images copyright Kamil Kaluski/Hooniverse 2017