For years, Infiniti has operated on the fringe of the luxury auto market as a sort of lackadaisical extension of Nissan. It fields a quality lineup that has its bright spots and not-so-bright spots (as does any other automaker), but as Nissan gets its hands in up to the elbow in racing, diesel, and EVs, Infiniti has remained side-lined and made do with the parts bin that Nissan makes available to it.
As a result, Infiniti has largely sat out of the biggest boom in the auto industry: crossover SUVs. Specifically, compact crossover SUVs. The QX50 is a venerable car, but it’s dated and aging as Acura throws a new RDX in the ring, and Lexus gives the RX a complete overhaul for 2016. Mercedes hasn’t been idle either, giving the GLC (née GLK) a full work over as well. But as those players continue to do well, it’s the subset of that segment that’s drawing in new, younger buyers to luxury brands and generating the sort of demographic that companies want to see. The BMW X1, Mercedes GLA, and Audi Q3 rule the roost here — the Lexus NX has also made a significant splash.
Infiniti is finally getting in the game, and doing so with the QX30. The QX30 is a slight (seriously slight) variation on the Q30 hatchback. To those unfamiliar, the two could pass for the same model; however, with the addition of that “X,” buyers get a small increase in height (0.75 inches, to be exact), and some plastic body cladding to indicate that the QX30 can handle a steeper and more rugged driveway than the standard Q30. A revised front fascia adds a touch more distance from its city-dwelling cousin, but the differences are again ever so slight.
Redundancy between the two models aside, this is exactly the vehicle that Infiniti needs.
The brand can no long bank on strong sales of sedans to pay the bills. Younger consumers have been demanding more practicality than the bulwark of American auto sales can offer, only smaller than your typical SUV. The result is a downsized crossover, or jacked-up hatchback — the segment blurs somewhere in the middle. The QX30 is the defining pinnacle, to date, of that strategy.
The QX30 is well-styled, with taught lines and restrained cues that reflect a premium vibe without being ostentatious. The plastic cladding is tastefully applied and, in the color displayed at the Los Angeles Auto Show, meshed well with the rest of the car. There’s nothing harsh about the QX30, it’s not trying to make a statement about being overly-rugged or masculine. The rear kink in the back window — an Infiniti signature — is noticeable, but works with the overall flow of the car. It’s a gentle, non-offensive vehicle that will likely satisfy the needs of a vast portion of the segment’s demographic.
Power — all 208 horses — comes from a similarly non-statement making turbocharged 2.0 liter inline-four, though notably it makes a commendable 258 pound-feet of twist. The engine is brand new, and if Infiniti can generate some ample fuel consumption figures from it, than the QX30 could be an unlikely benchmark setter in the segment. The Lexus NX hybrid offers 28 miles per gallon on the highway; if the QX30 can top that without the complexity of a hybrid system, and for much less, Lexus might find its new crossover in some uncomfortable cross-shopping situations.
The inside of the Infiniti is, like the outside, elegant in its restraint. There are no chintzy features added for the sake of adding features, no extraneous styling queues that don’t need to be there. It’s simple, straight-forward, and should appeal to the younger luxury buyer who buys a luxury car for their own comfort — not for the attention of others.
Though it’s not as statement-making as the NX, as ostentatious as the GLA, or unabashebdly utilitarian as the X1, the luxury hallmarks are all there. Buyers will get 18-inch rims, all-wheel drive, and bigger tires over the Q30. Sadly, America will only be receiving the seven-speed automatic transmission. But despite all that, the QX30 likely won’t compete too strenuously with the aforementioned utes — the QX30 is more equipped to compete with Volvo’s V60 Cross Country, or appeal to Subaru Crosstrek owners looking move upstream.
You’ll get your usual suite of safety tech, collision mitigation tools, and so on… but what really makes the QX30 distinct from the pack is its lack of distinction. It’s not trying to make a strong statement. It’s a good-looking, comfortable, and capable little crossover (or is that big hatchback?) that will do everything you need it to without making noise about it — and we can’t wait to get our hands on one.
More from Autos Cheat Sheet:
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- How Electric Vehicles Can Crack the Northeast Car Market
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