What stands out?

The Q30 compact hatchback is the price leader for Infiniti, the luxury car arm of Japanese carmaker Nissan. Unlike other luxury carmakers, the Infiniti Q30 comes loaded with almost everything: the only option is metallic paint.

What might bug me?

Infiniti hasn’t built its own small hatchback. Instead, the Q30 is a platform-sharing arrangement with established luxury car brand Mercedes-Benz, and is based on the Benz-badged A-Class hatchback and built in Britain, not Germany. What you buy, then, is four-fifths Infiniti, and one-fifth Mercedes.

Infiniti has dared to be different, replacing the clean lines of the A-Class with its own angular, big-hipped body. It’s different, and some would say polarising. Same goes for the interior, where the familiar conservative Benz switchgear and controls fight with a lairy Infiniti touch.

The gearbox is a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, which usually have lightning-quick changes. They’re a bit sluggish in the Q30’s application.

There’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility, limiting how well your smartphone integrates with the car.

Infiniti was criticised for not fitting the Q30 with a reversing camera as standard; needed given that the view out the small rear window is somewhat compromised. It makes do with reversing sensors on the GT and Sport, but the Sport Premium adds four cameras giving an all-around view of the car.

The Q30 is also very noisy inside on some road surfaces at higher speeds.

What body styles are there?

The three-model Q30 line-up is exclusively a five-door hatchback. All are front-wheel drive.

What features do all versions have?

Active cruise control with a speed limiter function, Bluetooth connectivity and two USB slots.
Tyre pressure sensors, which warn when a tyre has lost pressure.

Smart key entry, which allows you to unlock the vehicle while your key remains safe in a pocket or bag.

A stop-start system that can shut down the engine when stationary and refire it automatically when you accelerate, which saves fuel.

Electronic stability control, which can help the driver recover from slides. All new vehicles must have this feature.

Seven airbags: two directly in front of the driver and passenger; one outside each front occupant to protect the upper body; and a curtain airbag along each side to protect the heads of front and rear occupants. The driver also gets a knee airbag.

Economy, sport and manual gearshift modes, and electrically-adjustable front seats.
The Infiniti Q30 has a four-year, 120,000km warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

There are three turbocharged engines in the Q30 line-up: a 1.6-litre petrol, a 2.0-litre petrol, and a 2.1-litre diesel. The diesel, at 5.2L/100km, officially uses the least fuel but commands a $2000 premium over the 2.0-litre petrol, yet is doughy and sluggish in city traffic. The 2.0-litre petrol is the better pick.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

The cheapest car, the GT with the 1.6-litre engine, runs on “comfort” suspension, but the other models ride on a “sports” suspension and bigger alloy wheels.

The more premium-priced models, the Sport and the Sport Premium, also get fancy LED headlights with an automatic high-beam assist, a more forceful-looking exterior trim package, pretend leather and even swathes of the real stuff on seats, a flat-bottomed steering wheel instead of a round one, speed sign recognition that can read roadside signs and post them on the dashboard, and active noise cancelling with the more premium 10-speaker audio system that replaces the default six-speaker unit. It is standard only in the Sport Premium.

The Sport and Sport Premium also get the choice of either a 2.0-litre petrol engine or the $2000-more 2.1-litre diesel.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

The bigger 19-inch wheels on the Sport and Sport Premium tend to make the low-speed ride on the harder-riding sports suspension worse than the base GT riding on 18-inch wheels with a more forgiving tyre. The sunroof fitted standard on the most expensive two cars robs the Q30’s interior of headroom for taller drivers and passengers.

How comfortable is it?

It’s a small car, so interior room – particularly in the back seats – can be an issue with taller drivers and passengers. The wheel and tyre package isn’t quite suited to Australian roads. It makes the low-speed ride quite fussy – the car is always moving around as the road’s lumps and bumps feed into the seats – and the tyres roar like Mallee bulls on coarse bitumen surfaces, the kind you get on freeways and rural roads. The front seats are also quite flat and need more support.

What about safety?

The Infiniti Q30 has a top five-star crash test rating based on a 2015 test by EuroNCAP. However, a higher result via its automated emergency braking function that can prevent or minimise a low-speed crash was thrown out by Australia’s crash safety watchdog because the car’s whiplash protection was rated as “marginal” in the front seats and “poor” in the rear ones.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

The Mercedes-Benz A-Class was built for ease of city commuting, so outright driveability was never front of mind during its development, despite input from former Infiniti-liveried Formula One ace Sebastian Vettel. It’s not a driver’s car.

How is life in the rear seats?

Rear-seat space isn’t at a premium, with a rather upright bench and an ambitious seatbelt count that suggests you can fit three people across the bench. You’d fit two adults in there, but a long trip will still push the boundaries of friendship.

How is it for carrying stuff?

The Infiniti Q30’s boot is a rather small 430 litres. The rear seats split-fold 40/60, so you can lay, say, a couple of bedside tables in the space. There are cargo nets behind both front seats, and another net in the front passenger footwell to stash small things. The glovebox and lidded centre console have limited space.

Where is it made?

The Infiniti Q30 is assembled in Nissan’s Sunderland, UK, plant where the Nissan X-Trail is also made. We’re yet to see if Brexit has any fallout on Nissan’s Brit production.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

Lexus has the Toyota Corolla-based CT200h petrol-electric hybrid that cuts fuel use even further. BMW now has a front-drive version of the 1 Series that has a more understated premium feel, but also lacks the value of the Infiniti. The Volkswagen Golf also has a premium feel but again, it doesn’t quite stack up on the value side. You can buy a wagon version of the VW, though, if boot space is important.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

It’s easy. The lower-spec car looks like a lease plan special, the most expensive has a headroom-robbing sunroof, and the diesel engine just doesn’t cut it. The 2.0-litre petrol engine in a mid-spec Infiniti 2.0t Sport ticks the most boxes.

Are there plans to update this model soon?

The second-generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class was launched in 2012, so the Infiniti Q30 is built on a five-year-old platform. Expected life is another couple of years.