When is a crossover not a hatchback? When is an Infiniti not a Mercedes? Welcome to the conundrum that is the brand-new Infiniti QX30. Parent company, Nissan, calls it a "premium active crossover" for a "new breed of driver." Obviously, that driver is one who wouldn't deign to be seen behind the wheel of a hatchback. And what of Mercedes? The QX30 has the same DNA as the GLA — the result of a joint venture between Mercedes and Nissan. Our QX30 was the Sport. Other models include base, Luxury and Premium.
Appearance: It resembles the GLA but is even more striking, especially in the way its roofline visually segues into pronounced curves that rise above the hood. Character lines also extend over the fenders to the door handles, while deep creases grace the door panels. "It's chiseled like a body builder," Lyra says, while Peter called it the "cure for the bland compact." The QX30's gloss-black grille is trimmed with double-arching chrome, and the slender headlights wrap into the fenders. The windows also are trimmed in chrome, and the rear pillar has a boomerang design that accentuates the lines of the wraparound rear hatch and spoiler. Our tester's Magnetic Red Metallic paint showed off all these elements well.
Performance: The QX30 gets the same 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with 208 horsepower and 258 pound-foot of torque as its German cousin, as well as its 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. That's a good thing, because this turbo-4 is one of the best we've driven — with surprising acceleration (the QX30 Sport weighs 3,364 pounds) and no discernible turbo lag. In the Sport model, the ride isn't tuned for comfort, so some might find it a bit stiff. But the result is confident cornering and not much body lean. The Sport model comes only in front-wheel drive; for AWD you'll have to choose the Luxury or Premium trims, which also have a slightly higher ride height. The available safety tech includes adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitor, lane-departure warning and forward emergency braking.
Interior: Here's where you really see the Mercedes influence, from the door-mounted seat controls to the digital driver display (we recognize that font) to even the key fob. Our QX30 was a preproduction model, so a few of the flaws we found in the driver-centric cabin — flimsy door-lock levers, a slight rattle — probably will be ironed out before the QX30 is showroom-ready. The Nappa leather front seats are attractive, with accent stitching, good bolstering and an overall performance look. In the rear, the seats aren't as comfortable and are best only for smaller adults. The infotainment screen is on the small size with a 7-inch display; the controls are on the lower console by the shifter. One major cabin drawback is a distinct lack of driver visibility, which makes the Around View especially useful.
Our 3 favorites
Style: Sports-car curves in a hatchback package.
Handling: It's responsive and controlled, making for a fun ride.
Turbo 4: It feels like more than 208 horsepower.
Wheels: 19-inch gun metal-colored aluminum alloy wheels add to the aggressive look.
Fun commute: This car was a joy to drive with precise steering, quick acceleration and nimble handling.
Cameras: 360-degree Around View made it easy to park or back out of a space.
The bottom line: Infiniti's new offering adds a much-needed fun, youthful and practical option to its luxury lineup.