2017 Infiniti QX30 first drive review

The very design of the 2017 Infiniti QX30 makes it clear that Nissan’s luxury marque—created for the United States market 25 years ago—wants to be an international player. It’s a hatchback that also blends elements of an SUV, you see, and Americans have never thought much of premium compacts without trunks. That’s why we get three-box designs like the Mercedes-Benz CLA, BMW 2-Series, and Audi A3. The rest of the world, however, thinks hatchbacks are pretty swell. So that’s what we’ll get, too.

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While Americans don't love hatchbacks, we lap up crossovers by the millions. To stack the sales odds in its favor, Infiniti changed the name of this hatchback. It was originally intended to be the Q30, but Infiniti decided to change it to QX30 before it ever went on sale. The X in the name is usually reserved for SUVs or crossovers, and in this case it makes customers think this hatchback is really a crossover, even without the available raised ride height of the QX30 AWD model.

Also in its favor, the Infiniti QX30 looks just about as good as a hatchback can look, with exterior styling that’s remarkably faithful to the dramatic 2013 concept on which it’s based. Voluptuous coachwork sweeps rearward from a sharp nose, over large wheel wells and along a low-cut greenhouse, until tapering past Infiniti’s signature reverse-crescent C-pillar to a truncated tail.

The QX30’s high Franco-Japanese style continues in the cabin, where the dashboard undulates asymmetrically around a touchscreen in a wavelike motion. Piano black trim surrounding well-organized controls has a pleasingly metallic glint, and the cabin is upholstered with plastics, leather and Alcantara of good quality.

Exterior design contributes to the QX30’s greatest interior strength—and its greatest weakness. On the plus side, thanks to the length of its roof, the rear seat feels roomier than in rival sedans. But all that external swoopiness limits headroom and hinders the view outward. Taller drivers may find that the A-pillar blocks vision in turns; and a short greenhouse, meanwhile, means that passengers—even those of average height—might feel that they must duck to see out.

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The cargo area isn’t that big, and the slope of the hatch does no favors for maximum capacity, but it’s acceptable for a fashion-conscious car. And unlike its direct competitors, the QX30 gains much more usable space when folding flat its split rear seat.

It’s a particular pleasure looking out over the QX30’s aggressively sculpted hood. Pop it open and you’ll find that it shares running gear with Mercedes' CLA250. Infiniti developed the QX30 in cooperation with Mercedes-Benz, and in the process gained access to the German company’s turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. It makes 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, and pairs with an automated seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. This will be the sole drivetrain configuration on initial offer in the U.S.

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