Infiniti Q30 Concept First Look

After showing an abstract teaser photo, Infiniti has released this image of the Q30 concept that debuts publicly at the upcoming Frankfurt Motor Show. The luxury brand describes the Q30 as “the next step in Infiniti’s foray into new premium segments,” by which it specifically means segments shopped by younger customers. The Infiniti Q30 will compete with cars such as the Audi A3, the BMW 1 Series, and the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class for the dollars of younger drivers. It will slot beneath the Q50 sedan (née G37) in the Infiniti range.

As we had been led to believe, the Infiniti Q30 draws its styling inspiration from the Etherea concept that bowed at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show. A narrow, pinched nose with squinting, upswept headlights leads into a swage line that rises and falls along the length of the body. A plummeting roofline and a rising beltline create a coupe-like silhouette, and the boomerang-esque kinked C-pillar comes directly from the Etherea concept. Infiniti says that the Q30’s wide, tall stance gives it the space of a compact crossover, yet its small windows and upright proportions are supposed to evoke images of coupes and hatchbacks. There are few design elements that couldn’t easily be translated to a series-production car: only the big, showy wheels and the conspicuous lack of door handles betray the Q30 as a concept. We seriously doubt the reverse-hinged rear doors from the Etherea concept will carry through to the Q30.

A production car based on the Infiniti Q30 concept is expected to be shown next year, so it will go on sale by early 2015. Infiniti announced at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show that its next entry-luxury model would ride on a Mercedes-Benz platform, and that means a production Q30 would share the MFA chassis employed by the Mercedes A-, B- and CLA-Class cars. (The CLA-Class is the only one of those that will be sold on U.S. soil.) Power, too, will come from Mercedes, likely in the form of a 2.0-liter turbo-four good for somewhere around 200 hp. The Mercedes CLA250 uses a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, so that’s a prime candidate for the Infiniti Q30 powertrain.

The decision to make the Infiniti Q30 a hatchback is interesting, given that two other new entries in the entry-luxury segment, the Audi A3 and Mercedes CLA-Class, will be offered only as sedans. It also remains to be seen how Infiniti and Mercedes will distinguish the Q30 and the CLA-Class — aside from the dramatically different styling — given that the two cars will share a platform and a powertrain. Most likely, Infiniti will play up the sensibility of the Q30’s hatchback design and the curb appeal of its swoopy sheetmetal, but otherwise the two mechanically similar cars are set to compete in the same market segment. Infiniti hints at how it will position the Q30 with the claim, “It is designed for younger customers seeking an alternative to traditional premium compact vehicles.”

Infiniti previously announced that it will build the Q30 in Sunderland, England, from 2015. Capacity for the Q30 at the factory, which already builds 500,000 Nissan products a year, will be limited to around 60,000 units annually. Look for a production version of the Infiniti Q30 to be shown around this time next year, in time for the premium hatchback to reach showrooms in early 2015.

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