Other markets will get two versions of a 1.6-liter gas-powered four and 1.5- or 2.2-liter diesel fours; those buyers will also have the option of a six-speed manual transmission with the less powerful 1.6 and the 1.5 diesel. The larger diesel is the most likely candidate for an expanded American QX30 lineup, but Infiniti isn’t discussing that possibility, and we weren’t given the chance to try it out during a worldwide, multi-wave launch in Lisbon, Portugal.
We will, however, get all-wheel drive, but it will only come in the QX30 AWD, a model with a raised ride height and off-road-oriented front and rear valence panels. The QX30 was originally intended to be a separate crossover model, but it is now just part of the larger QX30 lineup.
Like the CLA250 and the related GLA250, the QX30 is quick enough. But the Infiniti seems to exhibit less of the indecision we’ve observed in the Mercedes-Benz. It responds quickly to throttle inputs, the gearbox doesn’t hesitate in search of the right gear, and acceleration is relatively seamless. Another complaint about the CLA250 is the jarring action of its engine start-stop system; it’s clearly perceptible in the QX30, but not as intrusive as in many other cars we’ve driven.
According to Infiniti, its engineers devoted untold energy to the development of steering characteristics with the goal of consistent feel at any speed. In our short time with the QX30 they seem to have hit their target. Steering is not, however, quite as quick and engaging as it could be.
The vehicles we tested were QX30S models with a ride height that’s 0.6 of an inch lower than the standard QX30 and 19-inch wheels instead of the usual 18s. Initial impressions of its handling are that it’s crisp, assured, and predictable. Oddly, however, our testers came with all-wheel drive, which will only be offered in the QX30 AWD on our shores. Nonetheless, American-bound cars with front-wheel drive shouldn’t behave much differently.
We don’t yet have full equipment information and pricing on Infiniti’s new entry-level compact, but the 2016 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 has a base MSRP of $32,050 and it stands to reason that the Infiniti QX30 will have a price in that general neighborhood. The showroom launch is scheduled for the second quarter of 2016.
So, can Infiniti’s premium hatchback succeed in an American market where others have failed? It’s entirely possible. The Infiniti brand doesn’t quite have the cachet of Lexus, but its QX30 isn’t just emulating the Germans. Underneath, it is German.