Infiniti launches new, built-in-Britain QX30 SUV

Neil Winton
Special to The Detroit News

Infiniti is hoping its new Q30 compact premium hatchback can kick-start sales in Europe, while its slightly bigger sibling, the QX30 SUV, can reignite its position in the U.S.

The 2017 Q30 and QX30 are both built at parent company Nissan’s factory in Sunderland, in northeast England. The QX30 is now being launched across the U.S.

Dave Sullivan, Detroit-based analyst at Auto Pacific, said he expects Infiniti to sell between 25,000 and 30,000 QX30s a year.

“For Infiniti, this is a critical launch,” he said. “The (bigger) QX50 and QX70 are both showing some serious age and aren’t really competitive in segments where they need to be.”

The vehicle will be offered in three versions – the QX30 with front-wheel drive, the QX30 Sport with a few more options, and the QX30 AWD with four-wheel drive. All versions are powered by a 208 horsepower, 2.0 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with a 7-speed automatic gearbox.

This engine is supplied by Mercedes-Benz as a result of a long-standing cooperation with Nissan. The QX30 also uses components from the Mercedes-Benz GLA.

Sullivan said the QX30 competes directly with the GLA, the BMW X1, and the Audi Q3. The Lexus NX, Lincoln MKC and the Range Rover Evoque also will appear on the radar. QX30 prices start at just under $30,000, the lowest in the group.

Infiniti has said it will make about 60,000 Q30s and QX30s a year, with Europe getting about half. The QX30 is a bit higher - just over an inch - than the Q30 and has thicker cladding on the wheel arches. It has a different front grille and roof rails are standard. Infiniti expects the SUV version to account for about 10 to 15 percent of Q30 sales in Europe.

Infiniti says both models have been engineered to be exceptionally quiet, and have an intuitive infotainment system. I’ve driven the Q30, and clearly Infiniti’s idea of intuitive is different from mine. A teach-in from the dealer would make sense. Infiniti describers the new small car as an “active compact” designed for younger customers, creating a new breed of premium buyers.

Sullivan reckons the car might well succeed.

“The crossover market is booming here in the U.S. and Infiniti needs modern crossers as soon as possible. When you look at Cadillac and their falling sales, it’s easy to see why. They only have one crossover. I’d argue the QX30 is more attractive than the GLA-Class and the price is right. A loaded (Hyundai) Tucson is about $35,000. You can get a better experience at the dealer and pay less with the QX30.

“The problem is getting people to notice this car in a sea of crossovers,” Sullivan said.

Neil Winton, European autos columnist for The Detroit News, is based in Sussex, England.