Tiny crossovers are the hottest thing in cars right now, and any automaker that doesn’t have one is really behind the times.
Engine: 2.0L turbo 4-cylinder
Output: 208 hp, 258 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch auto
Fuel Economy (MPG): 24 city, 33 hwy
Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 9.7 city, 7.1 hwy
US Price: Sport model starts at $38,500
CAN Price: Sport model starts at $46,490
Instead of putting a huge amount of R&D dollars into making its own small crossover, Infiniti is piggybacking on a Mercedes platform and has come up with the QX30, which is essentially a rebadged and restyled GLA.
The tester here is the 2017 Infiniti QX30 Sport model, which is the topline model that comes packed with performance upgrades and all the features drivers want except for one obvious omission. More on that later.
I prefer the look of the Infiniti model over the GLA it’s based on — although they share underpinnings, the exterior designs make them look like two entirely different cars. The QX30 is much more stylish and a lot less generic, and it definitely looks more modern. The GLA has a beefier, boxier and more muscular look, but I like the swoopy lines of the Infiniti better. It all adds up to a small crossover that has all the right proportions and looks really sharp, which is really important for people shopping this segment that might prioritize form over function.
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The problem with that pretty design is that practicality takes a hit in terms of cargo capacity, room for passengers and sightlines. One of the biggest drawbacks of the QX30 is that it’s really hard to see out of. The blind spots are huge, the windows are tiny, and even the windshield is so swept back that it doesn’t give drivers a lot to work with. Larger and taller drivers will be quite cramped in the QX30.
Luckily this QX30 Sport, which is the fully loaded top of the line model, is equipped with a rear-view camera along with a top-down 360-degree view camera that makes parking and squeezing into tight places much easier. There are also sensors that help and the system is smart because if it detects something in front of the car as you’re slowing down to a crawl, it turns the camera on automatically, which is useful when you drive nose-in to a parking spot. The car’s compact size makes it easy to maneuver.
The Drive is Alive
Those compact dimensions also help give the QX30 Sport great driving dynamics. The car feels planted and tight, it’s easy to throw around, and it’s not at all boring.
Although the seven-speed dual clutch transmission gets confused sometimes at lower speeds and can shift abruptly now and then, it’s not a deal-breaker and feels slightly more refined than the one in the GLA. Infiniti also got rid of Mercedes’ annoying shifter that sits where the windshield wiper usually is. The small electronic shifter in the QX30 takes up a bit more room, but is much easier to use.
The QX30 is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that outputs 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. That’s plenty to get the crossover moving, but the engine isn’t the smoothest at low speeds and it displays some turbo lag. At highway speeds, however, the engine exhibits Ryan Gosling smoothness. You could be cruising at 100 mph (160 km/h) and not even notice because the engine is so smooth and quiet. Very little noise and vibration make it into the cabin during highway drives.
This Sport model gets no power upgrades over the regular QX30, but it does get better brakes and a suspension that’s tuned for better handling. That sportier suspension definitely makes the ride in the city more choppy, but it does mean that it’s better in the corners, which is an OK compromise. The crossover could benefit from sharper steering, however.
The weird thing is that this top of the line QX30 Sport isn’t available with all-wheel drive, which seems like a missed opportunity. Buyers have to level down to get all-wheel drive, so this QX30 Sport only drives the front wheels. This was likely a move to keep the price in check, especially because this Sport model has so many other features that I can imagine it getting pretty expensive if it had all-wheel-drive.
The Inside Story
If you’ve ever driven a Mercedes, some things inside here will look pretty familiar and that’s not a bad thing. Although if you’ve driven the GLA, you’ll know that the materials used don’t really give drivers the best luxury experience, and this interior is no different.
Some of the materials used are definitely on the cheap side and there are flimsy plastics used in some places, but looks-wise, it’s quite pretty. The asymmetrical layout of the dashboard is unique and the two tone seats look high end. One annoying issue is that because the doors don’t unlock when you put the car in park, pull the door handle, or turn the ignition off, so getting out is a two-step process that really frustrates passengers.
The dashboard could also be simplified and made a bit easier to use. Drivers can use a little rotary knob to control the infotainment system, which is a bit frustrating because it’s not very intuitive, but luckily, drivers have the option of using the touchscreen, too. A technology package also adds features like all the driver assistants and safety features that include things like a smooth adaptive cruise control system, lane keep assist, and automatic emergency braking. One issue, which all Mercedes models also suffer from, is that the control stalk for the adaptive cruise control is hidden behind the steering wheel, blocking it from plain sight, which could be a safety issue.
The Verdict: 2017 Infiniti QX30 Sport Review
Despite a few minor issues, the 2017 Infiniti QX30 Sport is a solid little car that feels much better than its Mercedes platform twin. I love how it looks inside and out and it also drives really well, but I wish this topline model had all-wheel-drive, which would really help it be a complete crossover package for some drivers. That said, the front-drive model is perfectly fine, and I’m happy to take all the tech upgrades and sportier driving dynamics over the option of having AWD.
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