Review: 2018 Infiniti QX30

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

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12 responses to “Review: 2018 Infiniti QX30”

  1. nanoop Avatar

    I’m not following new car appearances, how much time went from presenting the Mercy until the Infy came onto the stage?

    1. Kamil K Avatar

      GLA – on sale early-2014
      QX30 – mid-2016 as 2017

  2. Maymar Avatar

    While I’m way outside the target market for this, I find it hard to believe this is a better luxury car than a loaded Golf (which, granted, applies to a ton of stuff between $30-40k).

    1. Fred Avatar

      Well a Golf isn’t jacked up. So, let’s compare it to the All-Track, which is still just as nice if not better.

      1. Monkey10is Avatar

        Blame Europe for this.
        (10 years ago I would have held the European car market up as an example of ‘right-sizing’, packaging efficiency and so on; now it stands as an example of what NOT to do…)
        Most people in Europe only need a Golf (Focus/Astra/Megane/Punto etc.). Most roads in Europe are a comfortable fit for a Golf. Most people in Europe only have space to park a Golf. Probably most people could not really afford more than a Golf. So everyone would buy a Golf, right?
        But everyone wants an SUV. Everyone wants a premium badge. Everyone wants bling.
        So every Golf-class platform has a body stretched to give even bigger tires, taller sides and a shrunken glasshouse slapped on to make something with the overall proportions of an off-road vehicle. All that sheet metal would look bland so every part of it has creases, swoops and light catchers added. The forward engine and rear overhangs inherent in the FWD platform would only accentuate the short wheelbase, so each corner is pinched in, grilles and lights stretch further away from their functional points and the roofline drops away to give a ‘coupe style’. The branding cues established on much larger halo models are crammed onto the remaining surfaces whether there is space (or need) for them or not.
        In parallel to this the premium brands cannot afford to ignore a market that consists of “most people in Europe”. They stretch their brands downwards to compete in the Golf market — or at least the ‘pumped up Golf’ market. They compromise what they previously claimed were their core design principles (RWD, 4WD, ‘sportiness’, premium materials, utility) to fit within a footprint and meet a price point. They may never beat a Golf on sticker price, but with dealer-backed stronger residuals they can beat then on finance packages or lease deals — so they manage to ‘up sell’ to those who 10 years ago never would have beleived they could afford to buy in to a premium brand.
        Mercedes, Audi, BMW, Lexus, (even Land Rover). (Add Jeep, the Citroen ‘DS’ sub-brand, now Infiniti as well).
        It is hard to find any ‘full range’ premium brand that is not now competing in this sector in the European marketplace. It is impossible to find a CUV in this class that is not stupidly compromised by the mismatch between what it really is and what it is trying to be.
        But we buy them in their hundreds of thousands.
        (end rant)

        1. Maymar Avatar

          I think we have both continents to blame – North America suffers from the perception that you don’t buy hatchbacks unless you’re a poor person (which is bad, I guess?), or unless it’s lifted, covered in cladding, and has AWD (even better if it’s got fake leather and a premium badge).

        2. Sjalabais Avatar

          In Norway, if the Golf was a car brand, it would be #4. At the same time, that’s such an anonymous vehicle, I hardly notice them on the road. Pretty happy for variety otherwise, even though that must always include some variety that is not for me. My Honda Stream is essentially a Civic seven seater. Who knew there was a “need” for it?

  3. Alff Avatar

    Attention automakers: Your products are boring. That is all.

  4. dukeisduke Avatar

    The taillights with the black between them kinda remind me of the FD RX-7. Who thought this Mercedes-Benz/Infiniti hookup thing was a good idea? I’m not buying into it.

  5. Rover 1 Avatar
    Rover 1

    To their credit, Mercedes Benz did try to make a small spacious car with the W168 & W169 A-Classes which have an impressive amount of space inside but didn’t sell as well as BMW’s Mini which is cramped. So they decided rear seat space and practicality didn’t sell but that lowness and ‘sportiness’ did. If more space is wanted, there is the B-Class. Is that sold in the US?

    1. Kamil K Avatar

      There was electric version and I think has just been killed. I haven’t seen a single one. They might be in Canada.

      1. dukeisduke Avatar

        There is a B250e that I see on the road occasionally, on my way home from work. I had to look it up on MBUSA’s site, because I had no idea what it was.