Why Infiniti is the best-kept secret - for now
IF YOU don't know much about Infiniti, don't worry.
This premium brand is still very much in its infancy in the UK and if previous launches of new makes such as Lexus and ill-fated Daewoo are anything to go by, becoming established will be a drawn-out process.
But all the signs are that Infiniti is about to take off. The addition of the Q30 is the key moment in Infiniti’s short life in the UK.
Suddenly, potential customers are arriving in higher numbers than ever before.
Until now Infiniti has been a very small player, turning out beautiful but expensive models which appeal to only those with big budgets.
The brand was only launched in the UK in 2009 and early models were petrol only.
The company sold a little over 1,000 cars in the UK last year which is incredibly small. In contrast, Lexus, hardly a big player and which was itself only launched in the UK in 1990, sold 10,000.
But the Q30 may well get things moving at Infiniti. The brand, part of the Nissan and Renault empire, hopes to double sales year on year for the next few years at least.
And the Q30 is very much at the heart of this plan. This British-built car starts at £20,000 and may well draw customers who would otherwise choose BMW, Audi or Mercedes-Benz.
It will appeal to people who want to be different, individuals, if you like, who may shun the German trio for being too successful.
So, what is the Q30? It is essentially a hatchback but you won’t catch Infiniti using that name. In America, its biggest market, hatchbacks are seen as cheap and not very desirable.
For that reason, Infiniti call this a premium active vehicle.
Designed in London and built in Sunderland alongside Nissan models, it costs £20,500 to £34,890 and is more of a crossover between hatchback and small SUV with the emphasis on the former.
It could be seen as a rival to the Mercedes-Benz GLA crossover, but the German model is more expensive starting at £27,000.
Infinitis tend to appeal to people who want a vehicle which is different to the Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW models, something a little more individual. Infinitis are always well equipped and usually have a sporty feel to them with a boutique hotel feel to the cabin.
The Q30 comes with a choice of four engines. Tested here is a 2.2 litre diesel. There are also 1.5 litre diesel and 1.6 and 2.0 litre petrol versions.
The test version 2.2 manages 134mph and 0 to 60mph in 8.5 seconds and it does it incredibly well. Even compared to modern silky smooth diesels, this model is impressive.
Infinitis tend to offer a lot of kit for the money and this model is no exception.
It has a premium stereo, speed-sensitive power steering, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, seven airbags, cruise control, collision warning, traction control, Bluetooth, keyless entry, drive mode selector and memory seats and more.
There are few complaints. The electronic handbrake - designed with America in mind - is fiddly and the warranty is on the short side compared to some less premium rivals.
But the seat adjustments are on the door rather than seat sides are good.
It rides well for a tall car, it’s spacious and well appointed and like all Infinitis it a cool and rather under-stated model.
Infiniti Q30 Premium Tech 2.2D
PRICE: £31,180. Range starts at £20,500
ENGINE: A 2,143cc four cylinder 16v unit generating 190ps via four wheel drive
PERFORMANCE: Top speed 134mph and 0 to 60mph in 8.5 seconds
COSTS: Town 47.1mpg; country 67.3mpg; combined 57.6mpg
WARRANTY: Three years, 60,000 miles