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New kid on the block: the Infiniti Q30

By raccars Published

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Does the Infiniti Q30 have a Herculean task ahead, in bringing the brand into the mainstream?

Infiniti is a premium brand owned by Nissan. It is quite well known in other international markets, such as the Far East and the USA but has been going since 1989 without ever really finding its niche in the UK. The brand sold only 1,195 units here in 2015. Determined to rectify this situation, Infiniti is embarking upon an extensive UK marketing and new model offensive, which includes expanding its dealership network from the current rather meagre ten centres it has in the UK.

Infiniti Q30 spearheading new brand image

Leading this initiative is the new Q30. A corporate alliance between Renault-Nissan and Daimler has allowed Infiniti to base the Q30 on the platform used by the Mercedes-Benz A-Class. The same strategy worked for Skoda; the knowledge that VW engineering was underneath the badge which, at the time, lacked prestige, certainly boosted the previously floundering Czech manufacturer's image. And there is every reason to expect that Infiniti will benefit in a similar way from the commercial sheen that comes from a connection with the long-established premium German brand.

Niss-edes?

Whilst the Q30 is based upon a Mercedes, it also - as is to be expected - takes a number of components from Nissan and is being built at the firm's giant Sunderland facility on the same production line as the Nissans Note and Juke. Eagle eyes might be able to spot the Japanese and German origins of a number of familiar interior components while riding in the Q30. On the whole, however, the Q30's cabin is pretty swish, with some smart trim designs including a purple stitched black fabric option called 'City Black' and the rather brave 'Gallery White' which is, as the name suggests, white.

Despite its Japanese / German heritage, the Q30 is really a very British car, designed in Paddington, engineered in Cranfield at the Nissan Technical Centre and built in the North East. According to Infiniti, the development of the Q30 has cost the company £250 million and will result in 1,000 new jobs for British workers.

If you've seen the adverts you will have already noticed the Q30's unconventional stance. It rides higher than a standard hatchback but doesn't quite claim crossover or SUV status. In theory, its rivals include the Audi A3, the BMW 1 Series and the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, all of which undercut the Q30 slightly on price, which may impede its progress somewhat. But according to its manufacturer, there's more room inside the Q30 than in any of these competitors. In fact Infiniti plans to release a higher riding QX30 model in 2017 to compete as a genuine crossover, in the style of the Audi Q3, the BMW X1 and the Mercedes-Benz GLA.

The Q30's chances in a very competitive market certainly won't be hurt by a stellar Euro NCAP safety rating, which deemed it the safest car in its class and as being particularly impressive for child occupant protection and pedestrian protection. The engine range includes a rather lacklustre 1.6 litre petrol unit at entry level, which rather belies the premium status Infiniti is aiming for. However there's also a 1.5 litre diesel unit which is expected to make up the bulk of UK sales and find favour with company car buyers, and a Mercedes-Benz sourced 2.2 litre turbo diesel.

Fighting existing brand loyalties

Overall the Q30 is offering good looks, peerless safety, a comfortable and practical interior and engaging driving dynamics to tempt buyers away from its German rivals. However, Infiniti is going to find it very difficult to break buyers' brand loyalty with a car which is essentially a mash-up of a Nissan with a Mercedes and which, as such, falls short of creating its own distinct identity, despite campaigning that the Q30 challenges convention.

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