When is an Infiniti better than a Mercedes? When it is a Mercedes.
The 2017 Infiniti QX30, the product of a joint venture between the Japanese and German luxury car makers, is the Mercedes-Benz GLA250’s mechanical twin. They’re so closely related that I spent an hour at a garage as the attendants searched for the key they thought they lost, because the QX30 uses one from the Mercedes parts bin and they didn’t recognize it.
But aside from their long-hooded shapes, the two don’t really look much alike. Each carries a strong representation of its brand’s identity. In the case of the Infiniti, that means lots of brushstrokes, bent chrome and not a straight line to be seen. Even the couple-grand more expensive Benz would turn its head to check it out.
Although they’re pitched as crossovers, they really are compact hatchbacks on high heels — especially the top-of-the-line QX30 Sport I tested. It rides a little lower than the others and comes only with front-wheel-drive. All-wheel-drive models are available below it in a lineup that starts at $30,945 and runs to over 40 grand for a loaded Sport.
Adding to its international heritage, the QX30 is built in England, and its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, with 208 hp and an abundant 258 lb-ft of torque, is always ready to make a Brexit. A snappy seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission sharpens its sporty edge and lets you shift it yourself with paddles on the steering wheel, which is a rebranded version of the GLA’s.
But while the Mercedes excels in the use of hard plastics in its cabin, the Infiniti’s interior is trimmed with lots of puffed-up soft-touch material that continues the curvy design motif and generally looks and feels more luxurious. (The sibling rivalry may be improving the breed; the GLA is getting an update for 2018.) Both feature skintight rear seats, however, even by compact standards.
The QX30 can be equipped with adaptive cruise control and a self-steering parking-assist system, plus Infiniti’s 360-degree Around View Monitor camera system. A 10-speaker Bose audio system is more than the tiny concert hall needs, but it fills it with crystal clear sound if you’re careful with the volume.
On the move, the QX30 exhibits the same sort of speed, ride quality and handling as an Audi A3 — and that’s very high praise. It impressed me more than the last GLA that I drove, and it felt polished on both city streets and country roads, offering plenty of comfort with a splash of fun.
Overall, the QX30 delivers a true taste of what the larger, more expensive Infiniti models offer, which is what entry-level cars should do. If you’re looking for a luxurious little car, as many people are these days, it’s one of the better ones, and a little better than the Benz.
At least for now.
2017 Infiniti QX30 Sport
Base price: $30,395
As tested: $43,735
Type: 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
Power: 200 hp, 258 lb-ft torque
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
MPG: 24 city /33 hwy