WASHINGTON — I know you’re thinking I’ve lost it and that Infiniti is the luxury brand from Nissan, a Japanese company. But this small Ute is based on a Mercedes GLA crossover, even though after a week of driving, it’s a totally different vehicle.
The compact QX30 was a new model in 2017 and is available in FWD or optional AWD with prices starting around $30,000.
Infiniti could have changed a few things, thrown its badge on and been done, but that’s not what it did. Infiniti changed almost everything — just opening the car door gives that away. About all of the car is Infiniti from the flat-bottom steering wheel and handsome two-tone leather interior of my top-of-the-line premium trim level.
My tester was optioned with the Café Teak theme package that also includes real wood trim and brown Nappa leather worth the $1,750 if you want a premium look and feel. You will notice the switchgear is from Mercedes and that’s about all that stayed.
Space up front is good. Passengers in the back are a bit tighter for those taller than 5 feet 10 inches. Cargo space isn’t as abundant as some others in the class. The rear hatch is hard to reach to close for shorter people.
Infiniti also added its own 7-inch touch screen, which works well and is easier to use. The NAV package also adds front and rear parking sensors but at a cost of $1,850, which seems a bit pricey.
The exterior styling is also all Infiniti with more edgy styling, more curves and interesting shapes. The front end has the latest in Infiniti styling with a large grill and smaller, streamlined headlight units that house LED lights and seem to wrap around the front to the side of the car.
My tester had AWD so it sat higher than FWD versions of the QX30 and really had the crossover look when parked.
You also notice this isn’t a very large vehicle and there isn’t much wasted space. The 18-inch wheels appear to take up the space where there aren’t doors. The overhangs are very small for a crossover and add more sport to the look when parked.
The body has a lot of interesting design details with bulges and lines that flow toward the rear. Even the rear styling is far from plain with a rear spoiler, dual exhaust tips and aluminum-colored trim. It certainly stands out against the Graphite Shadow paint.
Driving the Infiniti QX30, you’ll experience a bit of a sporty personality. The car is easy to maneuver thanks to its smaller size. Picking a version with smaller wheels will pay off when it comes to bumps. The premium model I drove performed better then versions with larger wheels. The handling was more sedan-like than top-heavy SUV. On quicker corners however, the higher center of gravity seems to create some body lean.
For the most part, it’s a pleasant ride and the small size means easy to drive in the city. The Mercedes engine and transmission work well with the small crossover.
Infiniti fiddled with the tuning a bit and it feels pretty peppy around town with 208 hp. When it was loaded down with people and cargo however, I did want more power when passing on a two-lane road. The dual clutch transmission usually feels a bit strange from other manufacturers, but this unit really behaves like a normal automatic.
The Infiniti QX30 Premium gives you a lot of luxury for a price that’s less than the competition and even the car it’s based off. Infiniti has taken a nice car and remade its own version, offering a fun to drive crossover that has style and stands out.
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