Asking us why we chose to add an Infiniti QX30 S to our Four Seasons fleet is a lot like asking someone why they got a tattoo when they were drunk. Although the details are fuzzy now, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Unlike the tattoo, however, we’ll never regret adding the Infiniti to our long-term test stable.
The QX30 was an intriguing and somewhat controversial vehicle when it first debuted, and it piqued our interest immediately. More of a big hatchback than a (sub)compact crossover, it’s also a close relative of the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class—a German-Japanese mashup that led to more than a few scratched heads. Although they share plenty of genetic traits, one thing was evident from the outset: The Infiniti won the beauty contest.
Indeed, the QX30’s exterior styling found plenty of fans from the day it rolled into our parking garage. Associate editor Conner Golden preached the Infiniti’s gospel early.
“Forget compact crossover, this thing is the size of a Focus, and it’s gratifying to drive a compact luxury hatchback,” he wrote in the first logbook entry. “We don’t get cars like this on our shores very often—or at least we didn’t used to—so it still feels intrinsically special. Infiniti has come a long way with its design language, and I think the QX30 is one of its best. I like the proportions and the star-spoke wheel design.”
Senior editor Nelson Ireson chimed in, “I love the look of this car. That’s all the more impressive because it’s a crossover—and I hate crossovers.”
Augmenting the QX30’s slick and sharp looks was its unusual Liquid Copper hue, which attracted attention wherever we went. “People stop and look at the car and admire the way the paint seems to change with natural sunlight,” wrote graphic designer Michael Cruz-Garcia. Golden added, “The Liquid Copper paint is one of the most interesting and polarizing hues I’ve seen. Some say pink, I say rose gold. I like it.”
The praise continued for the QX30’s interior layout. “Given the combination of Infiniti and Benz bits, it could have been a disaster,” wrote editor-in-chief Mike Floyd. “But they took the best of both and mixed it into a cohesive whole.” Cruz-Garcia expressed similar sentiments. “The mix of smooth finished metals with high-quality plastics adds a touch of luxury that reflects the interior of a Mercedes,” he wrote. “Sturdy and comfortable leather seats put you at ease when driving long distances.” Other staffers felt it was a good idea that Infiniti installed its own infotainment setup instead of the Mercedes COMAND system, and Infiniti’s standard AroundView 360-degree monitor was cited as a top-notch feature.
However, both Floyd and Cruz-Garcia took issue with the cabin’s overall space, one of the traditional selling points of a crossover. “Despite the pronouncements that this is some sort of crossover, it’s a hatchback, plain and simple,” Floyd said. “It’s smaller inside than your average compact sedan, and its swoopy lines are a major drawback for rear-seat passengers in the form of a claustrophobic feel.” Cruz-Garcia agreed: “The back seats can use a bit more room to accommodate three people comfortably. There really isn’t any room once a child seat is added in there.” In addition to the rear-seat passenger issues, cargo capacity is small for the segment at 19.2 cubic feet with the second-row seats up and just 34.0 with the 60/40 setup down.
Out on Los Angeles streets (the Infiniti also made forays into Arizona and Nevada during its stay) we found the QX30’s ride and handling satisfying, thanks in large part to its MacPherson front, multilink rear suspension setup and 19-inch tire and wheel package. “The more I drive the QX30, the more I like it,” Floyd said. “It’s nimble and drives like a car, which it basically is, with a well-balanced, on-center steering feel.”
Ireson, as usual, waxed poetic: “Wielded with impatient severity, the QX30 dances with nimble grace through the lethargic, texting hordes of L.A. traffic.” Online editor Ed Tahaney was of two minds about it, however: “The QX30 feels pretty good on the highway, but it’s a bit of a slug around town.”
Although we’re sure Infiniti would prefer we ignore the QX30’s German lineage, we couldn’t help but delve deeper into the differences (and similarities) between the two cars. That said, most of us saw the partnership as a good thing on balance.
“While driving it around, I’d think, ‘Wow! This is the best-driving Infiniti they make,’ before realizing that I’m enjoying the fruits of the Mercedes-Infiniti partnership,” Golden said. “I wasn’t the biggest fan of the GLA, but with the Infiniti badge, I think it works. It’s much more in line with the Japanese luxury brand than with Benz, and it fits Infiniti’s lineup perfectly.”
“Wielded with impatient severity, the QX30 dances with grace through the lethargic, texting hordes of L.A. traffic.”
In order to get a better feel for how closely related the two really are, we devoted an entire online piece to a comparison between the QX and the Benz. While the QX30 deploys the same 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 as the Mercedes, with the same 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, the biggest difference we noticed was with each car’s transmission tuning. Both use the same seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, but several staffers took issue with how Infiniti set up its version of the hardware—at least on the 2017 model we tested.
“The transmission makes low-speed driving, and especially traffic, miserable,” associate editor Billy Rehbock said. Floyd advised to “make sure you’re in Sport mode, as the gearbox is slow on pickup in regular Eco mode.” Cruz-Garcia echoed the team’s sentiments. “The transmission isn’t the smoothest in the first couple of gears,” he said.
Another complaint: The start/stop feature. “Man, I hate start/stop,” Floyd said. “I wish there were a way to shut it off permanently.” Even those who didn’t share the editor-in-chief’s degree of dislike saw a problem. “It always turns off right as I’m about to start moving, causing a slight delay while the engine turns back on,” noted recently departed (to a new career) senior editor Kirill Ougarov. Executive editor Mac Morrison condemned start/stop in general, noting, “I’ve given up trying to understand the logic of so many of these start/stop systems and when they choose to turn a car off. Sometimes they do it at every stop, sometimes they seem to forget to do it, and sometimes, even when I hit the switch to deactivate the function, I still find it kicking in every once in a while for no apparent rhyme or reason.”
Enough about what we liked and didn’t: How did the QX30 hold up during its stay? Although its temperature gauge would occasionally climb when we worked the car hard, drawing some notice among our editors, it never hit the red. (We noted similar behavior in other QX30s and GLAs we drove.) Our overall recorded average fuel economy was decent by small crossover standards—22.5 mpg—but that was far below the 27-mpg EPA combined number. (Even with our lead-foot tendencies, that’s quite a bit off.) The 14.8-gallon fuel tank made it hard to go more than 300 miles between fill-ups.
A slight misreading of the owner’s manual led us to South Bay Infiniti at 5,395 miles for our first (and, it turned out, only) service appointment. In fact, the QX30 is meant to cover 10,000 miles between oil changes (yes, even before the first one), or possibly longer—like many new cars, it can calculate oil change intervals based on how the car is driven. Rather than correct us, the dealership happily changed the oil, rotated the tires, topped off the fluids, and billed us $93.97. After that we kept our eye on the maintenance minder, which did not request service for the rest of the QX30’s stay. Lesson learned: Read the manual. Carefully.
Two days later, we got an alert from the Infiniti’s tire pressure monitoring system, and a trip to American Tire Depot found a nail in one of the rear paws. The flat repair was free, but rebalancing the tire cost us a cool $15. And that was it—our only unscheduled repair.
At the end of Four Seasons, the QX30 left our fleet well liked, if not loved. “It wouldn’t be a bad car to live with by any means,” Rehbock said. Others went as far as to call the compact Infiniti the marque’s best car. “All in all, it’s a car that sells itself, even if I’m not the target buyer,” Ireson said. To be sure, this Infiniti is far, far better than a drunken tattoo—unless of course that tattoo is of, say, a QX30.
Our 2017 Infiniti QX30 S
2.0L turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4/208 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 258 lb-ft @ 1,200-4,000 rpm
7-speed dual-clutch automatic
4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD crossover
24/33/27 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
L x W x H
174.2 x 82.0 x 58.1 in
GALLONS OF FUEL USED
OBSERVED FUEL ECON
TOTAL FUEL COST
1 x Oil change/tire rotation, $93.97
RECALLS AND TSBs
OUT OF POCKET
Tire plug and rebalance, $15.00
Liquid Copper paint, $500; Sport Leather package, $1,500 (heated Nappa leather seats, Nappa leather stitched dash insert, front passenger seat storage, black dinamica headliner and A-pillar, leatherette door, console, and dash trim); Sport Technology package, $1,200 (blind-spot warning, lane departure warning, forward emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beams); Sport LED package, $1,000 (LED headlights, active front lighting, enhanced interior ambient lighting)