‘Do you want it? Maybe. Do you need it? Well…’
When the iPad Mini first went on sale, I decided I needed one. At least I thought I did. What actually happened was I wanted one, but didn’t really need it at all. I ended up with an expensive rectangle that couldn’t manage much beyond what my phone could handle better and/or more conveniently.
Infiniti might have to bank on a similar “Apple effect” for the Q30, its compact crossover. What we have here, effectively, is a pumped-up hatchback that lacks the engine to match its outwardly attractive package and doesn’t do a whole lot that a slightly smaller alternative couldn’t provide.
Let’s start with the good. The cabin is a pleasant place to be inside, with cream leather seats and plenty more animal hide enveloping the dash, doors and steering wheel. Our test car is a Q30 Premium with the technology package, which means plenty of toys. And the crease-filled styling and metallic paint job (in a shade apparently named “liquid copper”) lend a distinctive look.
Boot capacity is good at 430 litres, which puts it above most contemporaries, and while rear-passenger room looks poky from the driver’s vantage point, once in the back, it’s perfectly acceptable. The Bose sound system is decent and the air conditioning is impressively icy, even from start-up.
Having negotiated the teeny-tiny gear selector, the downsides begin when you pull away – despite boasting a 2.0L turbo engine, it’s somewhat sluggish from standstill. In eco mode, its seven-speed gearbox seems to be changing up every few seconds at the detriment of actual useful acceleration, until you hit about 50kph, when it wields a bit more pep. Sport mode at least makes you feel like it’s alive, even if all it really means is driving everywhere in fourth gear. The third setting is manual, but it doesn’t feel like the right fit for paddle changers – not least because it corners inanely for a smallish car.
Infiniti isn’t the only Japanese manufacturer to treat cruise control as almost an afterthought, but the Q30’s lever is infuriatingly hidden behind the steering wheel, almost at knee level. Is Tokyo traffic so jammed-up that nobody ever gets up to cruising speeds? In another nod to urban living, the small doors are great for avoiding dinging nearby cars in tight mall parking spots, though not all that handy for personal access.
The chief sticking point, however, is money. Our test model retails at Dh141,000, which is only a smidgen less than the starting price of the Mercedes A-Class, on which the Q30’s chassis is based. If you fancy a bit more nip, a new Golf GTI can be as much as Dh20,000 cheaper. And when you consider that this is basically a posh Nissan, that’s a tough cause to argue. Do you want it? Maybe. Do you need it? Well…
‘I’m generally very practical when it comes to what I like and need in a car’
At first glance, the Q30 looks like my type of car – compact and sporty, with style and pizzazz, without being too “look at me”.
I have rarely owned a car that has all the bells and whistles – I have always thought the less technology the better, because I’m not good with that stuff generally, but after three days in the driver’s seat of this crossover, I’m happy to say I’ve changed my mind, at least on a few points.
A friend told me recently that she was reluctant to drive a car in the UAE without blind-spot alert. At the time, I thought: “Whatever” – but the alerts on this car, in the form of flashing lights on the interior near the side mirrors, made driving much easier and less stressful. They’re now on my car-function must-have list when I eventually ditch my leasing arrangement and fork out for my own car.
The automatic headlight activation mode is quite handy, too, although I must admit I often stand not too far from the car whenever I park it anywhere until I know the lights have turned off. Usually, I’m that annoying driver who points out to other motorists that they have left their headlights on, only to be told “they go off automatically”.
I’m partial to the rear-view camera, which makes squeezing into tight parking spaces much easier thanks to its visual cues and audible alerts, and I rate the eco-drive function and voice-recognition hands-free phone system, too.
I’m generally very practical when it comes to what I like and need in a car – I have always been less about the speed of my ride or how sexy it looks, more about comfort, safety and practicality.
That being said, I’m not sold on the time it takes to move through the gears. At times it feels like getting off the mark is laborious, but I’ll give Infiniti the benefit of the doubt here, this could be down to me having the air conditioning blasting the entire time.
The cabin is roomy, in the front and the back, and the moulded leather seats are super-comfortable, but I find the process of adjusting the seat a little perplexing at first. The dials aren’t where I expect them to be, and it takes a few moments to find them, to my left near the door handle, where I would expect to find the mirror adjustments.
The size of the back windscreen is too small for my liking in terms of rear vision, and the auto-dimming rear-view mirror is difficult to adjust to – as is the location of the cruise-control button, which is not easy to navigate. The latter sits behind the steering wheel on the left-hand side, which is a bit of a silly idea.
I don’t have much cause to use the boot in the few days I have the car, but it’s deceptively roomy.
As good as this car is in some elements and as frustrating in others, the deal-breaker for me is its Dh141,000 pricetag. I have never, and probably would never, spend that much on a car, so I won’t be rushing out to order a Q30 any time soon.
Source: art & life