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Motoring

Infiniti’s ‘active compact’ Q30 proves a sporty and versatile car

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 May, 2016, 11:54pm
UPDATED : Friday, 27 May, 2016, 11:54pm

Japanese luxury-car maker Infiniti’s vehicles sometimes appear a little over-designed and too sculpted. There’s a curve here, a bulge there, but the result is undoubtedly artful, especially in the Q30, which takes the company into a new segment in its expanding product range – active compact.

It’s a segment intended to combine the sportiness of a coupe with the empowered stance of a crossover, as Infiniti puts it. It has already proven itself to be a versatile vehicle. European car safety organisation Euro NCAP has given the Q30 the accolade “best in class” as a small family car, and a maximum five-star safety rating.

Infiniti, the Hong Kong-headquartered luxury division of Nissan, has three versions of the Q30, starting with a base 1.6-litre, 154-horsepower GT model for HK$329,800, a two-litre, 208-horsepower GT for HK$369,800 and the top-of-the-range two-litre, 208-horsepower Sport AWD costing HK$419, 800.

We drove the all-wheel-drive Sport-themed Q30, which looked impressive in “majestic white”.

Gracious touches in the exterior design include door handles set level with a gently undulating shoulder line that runs all the way from the tail lights, over the fender and down to the edges of the grille. Another unique design feature is the dynamic crescent-shaped chrome window sill in the C-pillar. It is certainly a distinctive and elegant-looking vehicle.

The cabin is smart and sophisticated, finished extensively in leather with neat and even double stitching. Sturdy racing-car seats, racing pedals and a flat-bottomed steering wheel with thumb grips give the interior and driving experience added spice.

Although well-organised and tidy, the dashboard and central console are nothing to shout about. There are noteworthy intuitive controls, however. The seat adjustment switches are on the doors, which is preferable to fiddling around blindly under the seat. They are L-shaped, so you simply manipulate the knob corresponding to the part of the seat you want to move.

An easily recognisable icon on the wheel switches on voice recognition software, which is handy for choosing numbers from a phone book or destinations in the satellite navigation while on the move. On my first attempt, however, it didn’t recognise the place I asked it to take me.

Although driverless cars have been the talk of the motoring world in recent years, Infiniti has been a pioneer in vital elements of driver assist technology. The Q30 Sport has a lane departure warning system, for example, which sends a buzz to the steering wheel if the car veers out of lane without the driver indicating. Intended more for fatigued than lazy drivers, the function undoubtedly helped earn the five-star safety rating.

There are three drive modes in the double-clutch Q30 Sport: economy, sport and manual, operated by a simple button next to the gear knob.

Engine response is satisfactory in economy and naturally even better revved up in sport and manual modes. Manual mode enables the paddle shifts behind the steering wheel for a more fun, engaging drive, playing with the torque and coaxing a roar from the exhaust. You could theoretically paddle up through seven gears, although you’re unlikely to get beyond fifth gear in Hong Kong.

As expected of a premium all-wheel-drive vehicle, traction is solid and the Q30 sticks firmly to the road navigating tight bends on country roads. (The two cheaper versions of the Q30 are front-wheel drive.)

Another thing you will notice about the Q30 is how quiet the ride is in the vehicle’s well-insulated cabin. The only noticeable sound – apart from the revving during gear changes – is the sound on rubber on the road.