The growing push towards smaller and more fuel efficient vehicles is leading the charge for changing consumer perceptions of what defines a luxury car--with size no longer the differentiator but rather technology, quality and design. Nowhere is this more the case than in Europe where Infiniti is reportedly planning a new front-wheel drive coupe with hatchback practicality to compete with the likes of the Audi A3 and BMW 1-Series.

Front-wheel drive cars, no matter how well-engineered, are always a compromise when it comes to being fast. They do enjoy some advantages in terms of packaging and efficiency, but sending power through the wheels doing the steering has obvious shortcomings. Despite the drawbacks, Infiniti believes there is a market for them.

While popular models like the G and M sedans will remain rear-wheel drive, Autocar is reporting that a new entry-level front-wheel drive Infiniti is in the works and could even spawn a family vehicles all based on the same platform. Styling for the car is expected to be derived from last year’s stunning Essence concept.

With Lexus revealing a new small car in form of the CT 200h and Mercedes-Benz successfully selling its A- and B-Class models overseas, there's a very strong chance Infiniti might launch something along the same lines.

It wouldn't be the first time Infiniti has sold a front-wheel drive vehicle. The I35 sedan was the last front-wheel drive model Infiniti sold before the brand switched its policy to offering only rear-wheel drive models in an effort to raise its status against rivals like BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Further down the track Infiniti will also launch a new all-electric car based on the same platform as the Nissan Leaf. Not much is known about the car but it will be a global model, which means it will be coming to North American showrooms. A concept version is said to have been already developed.

[Autocar]