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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Don Adair: Infiniti’s QX30 crossover has Mercedes-Benz roots

Automakers play in a complicated world. They must serve global markets with products responsive to the shifting sands of consumer demand and government regulation.

Even the best can find themselves lacking a viable product in a key market. Increasingly, they are addressing their vulnerabilities by forming strategic alliances.

Last week, we wrote about the Toyota/Mazda partnership that produced Toyota’s Yaris iA.

This week, it’s Infiniti’s turn. 

Having struggled to establish itself in Europe, Nissan’s luxury brand has thrown in with Mercedes-Benz to create a crossover with an EU bent.

The subcompact QX30 is planted on an architecture developed by M-B for its GLA-Class subcompact. Its powertrain is of Mercedes provenance, as is most of its cabin hardware.

Multiple personalities

From those basics, Infiniti has fashioned a rig with three personalities. A pair of front-wheel-drive trims — base ($29,950) and Sport ($38,500) — flank two all-wheel-drive trims (from $34,400)

The distinctions .are key. The AWD trims have 8.0 inches of ground clearance and are suitable for light-duty off-roading. The base QX30 has 6.8 inches of clearance and the Sport comes all the way down to 6.0 inches.

The base QX30 is decently equipped, keyless entry and ignition, eight-way manual front seats with four-way power lumbar, dual-zone climate control, LED running lights, auto-dimming mirrors, and premium vinyl upholstery. Tech highlights include a rearview camera, Infiniti InTouch infotainment system, Bluetooth connectivity, voice controls, and a six-speaker sound system with HD and satellite radio, two USB ports and an auxiliary audio jack. All-season run-flat tires are mounted to 18-inch alloy wheels.

The QX30 is not significantly smaller than such competitors as the Mazda CX3 or Buick Encore, but the  stylish roofline and no-cost optional moonroof set a low lid. Rear-seat passengers make do with scant headroom and ramrod-upright seatbacks.

Step-in height is lower than that of other crossovers, but the low roof requires that passengers stoop to enter. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it runs counter to crossover convention.

Close quarters, decent storage

The close-quartered cabin includes a fair amount of casual storage. Most controls are within easy reach — though the 7-inch touchscreen is a stretch — and Infiniti’s infotainment menus are easily grasped. The console-mounted rotary controller minimizes driver distraction.

Infiniti doesn’t play in the Apple CarPlay/Android Auto sandbox, so Bluetooth connectivity is the only smartphone play.
Most drivers will easily find a comfortable driving position, but the QX30s’ heavy pillars, slim rear window and tall shoulders limit visibility.
All trims are powered by a 208-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four. The FWD trims run the 0-60 sprint in 6.2 seconds, about a half-second quicker than their heavier AWD counterparts.

Crossover or hatchback?

Infiniti pitches the QX30 as a “premium active crossover” but its low stance, raked roofline and sport-tuned suspension gave our Sport tester the feel of a Euro-style hatchback. 

The Sport receives a handful of trim-specific cosmetic upgrades. The package also includes sport seats, a flat-bottom steering wheel, an automated parking system, parking sensors and a 360-degree camera system.

It runs 19-inch alloys and run-flat summer tires,

Ride quality is generally good, if firm. At highway speeds, the Sport is settled and calm but on our winding two-lanes, where the surfaces are imperfect, it could feel harsh and high-strung. 

Steering responses are direct and linear but the system doesn't communicate much road-surface information. 

The Sport is prone to understeer on entering a corner. And, despite registering an impressive 0.90 g on the skidpad, doesn’t relish being pushed. It handles confidently but isn’t overtly engaging.

The transmission has three modes — E (Economy), S (Sport) and M (Manual). E shifts sluggishly, while S and M are crisp and a bit high-strung. By the end of my test week, I found myself using S in most circumstances — especially upon freeway entry — and relying on E when cruising. 

Despite the global marketplace, few rigs come with more than one personality. Just be sure to pick the one that’s right for you.

Contact Don at

2018 Infiniti QX30 Sport
Vehicle base price: $29,950
Trim level base price: $38,500
As tested: $43,660 (includes destination)
Options included blind-spot warning; lane-departure warning; intelligent cruise control; automated emergency braking; high-beam assist; LED headlights; adaptive front lighting systems; Nappa leather sport seats; heated front seats; illuminated kickplates.
EPA rating: 27 combined/24 city/33 highway
Premium unleaded fuel required

Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.