If I tell you sushi will be served with sauerkraut, can you guess who’s coming to dinner?
If you answered “a brand-new Infiniti compact crossover called the QX30,” you will get the heated and ventilated leather seat at the head of the table.
Indeed, the dinner guest itself is fusion cuisine, prepared in the Japanese automaker’s design wok, and featuring a lot of ingredients supplied by a Stuttgart schnitzel sniffer named Mercedes-Benz.
In other words, the new Infiniti QX30 borrows heavily from its not-quite-so-new Teutonic counterpart, the Mercedes-Benz GLA crossover. In addition to employing the GLA’s structure, engine, transmission, all-wheel-drive system, and wiring architecture, it borrows the German car’s seat, window, and climate controls.
In the automobile business, this money-saving tactic is called a joint venture. In the process of saving R&D and manufacturing bucks, which could be passed along to the customer, this partnership with Mercedes has produced a very affable ride.
For openers, this is a good-looking crossover with some interesting design elements. I like the fact that its stance and styling give it a sleek personality, make it seem more like a sedan than a crossover — a situation that others might not buy into. This look was achieved by not jacking it up much beyond regular hatchback height, and by employing a sloping roof line and a sharply raked lift-gate window. I also found the body sculpting pleasing and not overdone, and applauded the aggressive grille and glossy black surrounds on the wheel openings. I could, however, do without the body cladding attached beneath the rocker panels.
The interior of the tester, a Sport model that started at $38,500 — $8,550 more than the base QX30 — proved equally attractive. The optional black-and-white leather seats added to the aesthetic festivities, as did the saddle-stitched leather insert on the dash.
As it turns out, the QX30 interior isn’t as roomy as it is handsome. It’s not the biggest compact, and the sloping roof and raked lift gate I like cut into the cargo space (a rather modest 19 cubic feet with the backseat up and 34 with it folded down). Rear seat is a little tight, but adequate for most folks.
Operating the front-drive tester proved pleasant enough. The cabin is a pretty quiet place, and the comfortable, supportive sport seats complement the car’s nice ride. The QX30’s suspension tuning is one of those delightful marriages of civility and athleticism. The latter was augmented by a set of 19-inch, run-flat, performance tires that took a nice bite in the corners.
Engine performance is a plus. It is powered by the same 2-liter turbo used in the Mercedes GLA, and employs the same seven-speed automatic gearbox. The turbo is rated at 208 horsepower. That’s not a huge number of horses, but the engine’s hefty torque rating and the fact the car only weighs 3,364 pounds means it’s a reasonably lively actor. Given the transmission’s shift mapping, which tends to keep the RPMs where the torque lurks during aggressive driving, the QX30 sometimes seems faster than it is (0 to 60 is achieved in a little under seven seconds).
Braking efficiency and feel get good marks in the QX30, as does the steering response.
The only negative note in my driving experience was the poor visibility through the back window.
The Sport model I drove was a very well-equipped car. But I was a bit surprised that a vehicle that starts at $38,500 didn’t include a power lift gate.