PowerSteering: 2017 Infiniti QX30 Review

PowerSteering: 2017 Infiniti QX30 Review

By Christian Wardlaw, April 19, 2017
  • 2017 Infiniti QX30 AWD front quarter left photo

    Introduction

    Infiniti sells five different SUV models, ranging in size and price from the diminutive QX30 to the large-and-in-charge QX80. The 2017 Infiniti QX30 debuted this year and is the product of collaboration with Daimler AG.

    Actually, collaboration isn’t the right word. Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz donated the GLA-Class platform, architecture, drivetrains, and various interior bits and pieces, and then Infiniti added its own styling and materials. Adding another quirk to this recipe, the QX30 is built in England, not Germany or Japan.

    For this review, we evaluated a QX30 Premium with all-wheel drive (AWD) and every option package including the Café Teak Theme interior. The price came to $45,495, including the $995 destination charge.



  • 2017 Infiniti QX30 AWD rear quarter right photo

    What Owners Say

    Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the new Infiniti QX30, it’s helpful to understand who buys compact premium SUVs and what they like most and least about them.

    According to J.D. Power research, half of compact premium SUV buyers are men and half are women. Their median age is 54 years and their median annual household income is $153,413. More than half (58%) identify themselves as members of the Pre-Boomer (those born prior to 1946) or Baby Boomer (1946- 1964) generations, while 42% are Gen Y (1977-1994) or Gen Z (1995-2004). Nearly half of compact premium SUV buyers claim they are performance buyers (48%), followed by practical buyers (26%).

    Not surprisingly, then, buyers of this type of vehicle overwhelmingly like to drive something offering responsive handling and powerful acceleration (94%). In fact, this attribute is just as high in importance to compact premium SUV buyers as reliability, with 94% agreeing that this attribute is their first consideration when choosing a vehicle. Only quality of workmanship, with 95% agreeing that it is their first consideration, was claimed to be more important than reliability or handling and acceleration.

    Compact premium SUV buyers do not prefer to buy a vehicle from a domestic company, with 78% indicating that this is not a concern. Fuel economy is not important, either, with just 52% indicating that it is their first consideration when choosing a vehicle. Environmental friendliness is not high on the preference list, either, with just 60% indicating that they are willing to pay more for this vehicle trait.

    Buyers say their favorite things about compact premium SUVs are (in descending order) the exterior styling, driving dynamics, interior design, seats, and engine/transmission. Buyers indicate their least favorite things about compact premium SUVs are (in descending order) visibility and safety, climate system, infotainment system, storage and space, and fuel economy.

  • 2017 Infiniti QX30 AWD side profile right photo

    What Our Expert Says

    In the sections that follow, our expert provides his own assessment of how the new 2017 Infiniti QX30 performs in each of the 10 categories that comprise the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.SM

  • 2017 Infiniti QX30 AWD front photo

    Exterior

    If styling is critical to the success or failure of a compact premium SUV, then Infiniti should have no trouble finding buyers for the QX30. Aside from its stubby rear end, which throws proportions out of whack, this is an appealing little crossover and to my eyes is far better looking than the Mercedes-Benz on which it is based.

    My test vehicle had AWD, which is accompanied by a raised suspension, exaggerated trim on the fenders and rocker panels, simulated skid plates front and rear, roof rails, and a different wheel design that isn’t as appealing as what’s available for the front-drive versions. Infiniti also offers a Sport trim level with front-wheel drive, which comes with appropriately racy wheels and trim.

    It is worth noting that the original plan called for the front-drive version to be the Q30, serving as an upscale hatchback and entry point to Infiniti’s car lineup, while the AWD version with the raised suspension and different design details would be the QX30. At the last minute, the company elected to call all versions the QX30.

  • 2017 Infiniti QX30 AWD interior photo

    Interior

    If you are familiar with Mercedes-Benz vehicles, you’ll be able to immediately spot the QX30’s lineage. Essentially, most of the switchgear is lifted straight from the GLA-Class, along with the steering wheel. If you are not familiar with Mercedes-Benz vehicles you won’t notice anything unusual here aside from the power seat-adjustment controls, which are mounted on the door panels.

    Infiniti installs its own dashboard, instrumentation, infotainment system, and some switchgear. The test vehicle had the rich-looking Café Teak interior package, though I think I prefer the Wheat or Gallery White colors because they make the cabin feel larger than it is.

    The electronic transmission selector is stylish but irritating. Basically, it is a traditional PRDNL design without the P or the L. To put the QX30 in Park, the driver must press a button.

    Notably, the QX30’s build quality impressed. The vehicle was evaluated on the ravaged roads of the Boston area, and aside from an occasional buzz the Infiniti was screwed together with care.

  • 2017 Infiniti QX30 rear seat photo

    Seats

    Make no mistake: this is a small vehicle. While front comfort levels are decent, I found that with the driver’s seat adjusted to my preference it was tough to easily enter and exit the QX30 due to the spatial relationship between the seat, the middle roof pillar, and the steering wheel.

    Rear-seat space is unacceptably tight, a situation made worse by the hard plastic front seatback covers that Infiniti uses. The seat itself is comfortable enough, and there’s decent space for feet, but legroom is deficient.

    Infiniti includes Nappa premium leather in all QX30 models except for the base version of the vehicle, and it looks and feels appropriately upscale.

  • 2017 Infiniti QX30 infotainment and climate control system photo

    Climate Control System/Infotainment System

    Climate Control System

    Heated front seats proved unnecessary during a February heat wave that pushed temperatures in Boston into the low 70s, but the unseasonably warm weather did underscore the fact that you cannot get ventilated front seats for the QX30. A heated steering wheel is also missing from the equipment list.

    Climate controls are easy to understand and to use, though, and the dual-zone system proved effective at both heating and cooling the cabin.

    Infotainment System

    Thankfully, Infiniti separates the climate system and the primary stereo controls from the infotainment screen, helping to make it easier to operate the controls you’re most likely to use on a regular basis. Infiniti also simplifies the approach to stereo controls compared with the Mercedes GLA-Class, so chalk up two accolades for the QX30.

    To use the InTouch infotainment screen, use the touch-sensing display, voice-recognition system, or the controls located on the center console. I preferred the touch screen over the voice system because the latter requires use of specific menu prompts. On a positive note, the navigation system had no trouble locating local points of interest in the Boston area, including restaurants and hotels.

    With practice, the controls mounted on the center console are easy to use without looking away from the road. However, they are small and do not fall readily to hand, making them an awkwardly placed solution.

  • 2017 Infiniti QX30 AWD cargo area photo

    Storage and Space

    Though a quarter of compact premium SUV buyers identify themselves as practical buyers, complaints about storage and space produce the most dissatisfaction aside from disappointing fuel economy. In this regard, the Infiniti QX30 will not impress, especially when buyers realize that the key fob doesn’t even provide a trunk popper button.

    Just like the rear seat, the QX30’s cargo area is as cramped as an oversold Boeing 737. Infiniti claims it will hold 19.2 cu. ft. of cargo, but it sure doesn’t look that accommodating even if you packed it to the roof and glass, which few people ever would. Fold the seats down and the QX30 holds 34 cu. ft. of cargo, which is a comparatively puny number.

    Cabin storage space is also lacking. The glove box is merely adequate in terms of size, and the center console storage bin is undeniably small. There isn’t a tray or a slot in which to store a smartphone, either, which seems like a significant oversight in a vehicle that younger people might deem aspirational.

  • 2017 Infiniti QX30 AWD rear photo

    Visibility and Safety

    As a fully loaded vehicle, the Premium trim test vehicle came with a long list of upgrades that improve both visibility and safety.

    In addition to standard rain-sensing windshield wipers, optional equipment highlights include adaptive LED headlights with high-beam assist, a 360-degree surround-view monitoring system with moving-object detection, front and rear park-assist sensors, and a blind-spot monitoring system. Thanks to their inclusion, the QX30’s awful rear visibility was a non-issue except when rain obscured the camera.

    In terms of safety improvements, the test vehicle had adaptive cruise control with full-speed-range operation, forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking, and a lane-departure warning system. Infiniti InTouch Services also provides automatic collision notification and emergency calling, and owners can upgrade to Premier service with safe teen driver features like speed, curfew, and drive-zone alerts.

    Unfortunately, in order to get all of this handy driving-assistance, collision-avoidance, and safety technology, you must first purchase a QX30 in Premium or Sport trim, which means Infiniti reserves it for the most expensive versions of the vehicle.

    As of this writing, neither the federal government nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has performed crash-test assessments on the QX30.

  • 2017 Infiniti QX30 AWD engine photo

    Engine/Transmission/Fuel Economy

    Engine/Transmission

    Sourced from Mercedes-Benz, the QX30’s turbocharged, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine makes 208 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 258 lb.-ft. of torque from 1,200 rpm to 4,400 rpm. It is equipped with automatic start/stop technology, paired with a 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual gearbox, and the test vehicle had the optional AWD system.

    In the normal drive-mode setting, the engine displays unexpected levels of lethargy and delay, and if you’re in a hurry and accelerating from a stop, you can beat the automatic start/stop technology as it re-starts the engine.

    Choose the Sport drive mode setting and the QX30’s pulse quickens, turning the Infiniti into a responsive, energetic, and zippy little runabout. Unfortunately, Sport mode also invigorates the transmission, introducing occasionally unbecoming behavior.

    Drivers can take manual control of the transmission by using the paddle shifters mounted to the steering wheel, but they do not match revs on downshifts, making them less enjoyable to use.

    Fuel Economy

    According to the EPA, the QX30 AWD is expected to get 21 mpg city, 30 mpg highway, and 25 mpg in combined driving. I put several hundred miles on the test vehicle, most of them highway, and averaged 28.6 mpg.

  • 2017 Infiniti QX30 rear quarter left motion photo

    Driving Dynamics

    In the interest of full disclosure, the QX30 was evaluated along the Massachusetts coast rather than on my traditional Southern California test loop. This precluded mountain driving and canyon carving, and I was unable to sample the QX30 at speed on a twisty road.

    Based on the testing conditions, then, the QX30 exhibited a spry and responsive handling character along with a firm and choppy ride quality. With AWD, the QX30 is equipped with something called All Road Steering Gear, which felt too heavy at parking lot speeds and a bit artificial on center while cruising on the freeway.

    Initial brake pedal response did not feel entirely natural, either, but once engaged the brakes proved effective and easy to modulate.

  • 2017 Infiniti QX30 AWD front quarter right photo

    Final Impressions

    Given that compact premium SUV buyers are seeking powerful acceleration, responsive handling, dependability, and quality of workmanship, the turbocharged Infiniti QX30 has a shot at capturing interest in the segment.

    However, rear-seat room, cargo space, and practical cabin storage are three areas sorely lacking in utility. Plus, no matter how much you’re willing to spend on a QX30, it is unavailable with simple upgrades like ventilated front seats, hands-free liftgate, or other features that are available for common mainstream models let alone other luxury-brand vehicles.

    Finally, the value equation is a challenge. For the price of my QX30 Premium test vehicle you could buy a fully loaded Volkswagen Golf R, get more interior room, better performance, top safety ratings, and save thousands in the process. All you’d need to give up is the raised suspension…and the Infiniti badge, of course.

    Seems like an easy trade-off to me.

    Infiniti supplied the vehicle used for this 2017 QX30 review.

    For more information about our test driver and our methodology, please see our reviewer profile.


    Additional Research:


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