Engine: 2.0-litre four-cyl turbo
Transmission: Seven-speed auto, AWD
Max power: 208bhp @ 5,500rpm
Max torque: 350Nm @ 1,200rpm
Top speed: NA
The global crossover vehicles market has been witnessing incredible growth over the last decade, and this trend shows no sign of abating. In fact, the segment is projected to grow at a rate of over 8 per cent between 2018 and 2022. With this in mind, auto manufacturers are scrambling to cover their bases and partake in what promises to be a lavish sales feast.
Nissan’s premium arm Infiniti has had a decent line-up of utility vehicles, from the humongous QX80, the stylish QX70, the practical QX60 and the compact QX50. However, until 2016, it had no player in the all-important sub-compact crossover segment. It’s this gap at the lower end of its utility vehicle range that the Japanese premium brand seeks to fill with the QX30, launched in the Middle East at last year’s Dubai Motor Show and on sale here since early this year.
Rather than developing a small crossover from scratch, Infiniti chose to take the technology sharing route, pooling resources with Mercedes-Benz. The QX30 is based on a Mercedes-developed architecture, with a sizeable number of parts and switches also borrowed from the German partner. Even the 208bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre engine and the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission are Mercedes units. So is the key to the car, which is different only in the badge.
Essentially, the QX30 is a Merc GLA in Infiniti garb. However, Infiniti has done a brilliant job in differentiating its version from the vehicle it’s based on. There’s absolutely no visual cue on the outside that gives away the Mercedes connection. Even parked next to a GLA, it will be hard to tell that the two cars are essentially the same underneath.
In fact, the Infiniti arguably boasts a more exciting design than the Merc’s relatively matter of fact styling language. If you want to stand out in a world of similar-looking crossovers, you would do well choosing this over a GLA.
The cabin is more subtly styled compared to the exterior, with an ergonomically laid out centre console dominated by a high-mounted infotainment screen. Those who have driven Mercedes-Benz models will find many of the controls and switches in the cabin familiar, including the rotary controller. The interior is well put together, with supple leather and soft touch plastic trim all around.
While the seats are generally well padded, there rear is cramped, even for adults of average height. This is odd as the QX30’s wheelbase is decent compared to the segment average. Carrying any more than two passengers in the back seats will get extremely uncomfortable. It also takes a fair amount of contortion for a tall driver or passenger to get inside, which also beats the whole point of a crossover vehicle.
But what it lacks in terms of practicality, the QX30 compensates with its performance and driving dynamics. The crossover’s handling is sharp and the turbocharged engine, mated to a smooth-shifting transmission, affords satisfactory straight line performance. The statistics aren’t extraordinary, but they are adequate for the QX30’s proportions and weight. Ride quality is acceptable for an entry-level luxury vehicle, but refinement and comfort are more in line with what you’d expect from a hatchback than a crossover.
There’s plenty of technology features that are thrown in as standard kit include an intelligent key, dual-zone air conditioning, a rear-view monitor, eight-way adjustable seats etc along with a host of active safety and hazard avoidance features.
The QX30 is a great new addition to Infiniti’s line-up, but despite its positioning, you’d be hard-pressed to call it a utility vehicle. It’s no more practical than a hatchback, but this might not be a problem for the new generation of premium buyers that Infiniti is targeting.
It’s a tough market that the QX30 is enetering, what with the likes of the Audi Q3, the BMW X1, and its German cousin, the Mercedes-Benz GLA, all vying for customer attention. But with its starting price of Dh150,000 and distinctive styling, it might just succeed in weaning a few buyers off these other players.