Diesel right on Q50 for Infiniti

Infiniti Q50 takes the prestige brand into the compact sports saloon sector.

Infiniti Q50 takes the prestige brand into the compact sports saloon sector. - Credit: Infiniti

Infiniti's Q50 saloon has its sights set on the sector's big guns, says motoring editor Andy Russell.

There's a new kid on the block in the compact premium saloon sector and it's looking to make its name by taking on the big boys.

Infiniti – the luxury brand from Nissan – is now going up against the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class with its Q50. And Infiniti hopes to make decent inroads into the UK market with this entry model. Infiniti is big business in North America where the Q50 is held in high esteem, winning some top accolades.

First impressions are important and the Q50 doesn't disappoint with its strong swooping curves and contours and bold styling which give it a sporty look so it stands out from the crowd. And that is going to stand it in good stead against its illustrious rivals in a sector where nine out of 10 cars are German.

Launched as a high-performance, mean, green 3.5-litre V6 petrol/electric hybrid, there's also a 2.0-litre turbo petrol in the wings, but it's the 2.2-litre turbo diesel that is going to appeal to both private buyers and company car drivers.

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While the Infiniti Red Bull Formula One racing cars use Renault engines, the car-maker has turned to Mercedes-Benz for the 170PS diesel which the German brand uses in 220 CDI models.

My test car was fitted with the seven-speed automatic gearbox, which costs £1,550 extra, but is well suited to the Q50 which is more about comfortable, relaxing mile-munching than dynamic driving.

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It makes decent progress, pulling strongly in the mid range, and in everyday driving I saw 50mpg, rising to 60mpg on a run. Kick the gearbox down, switch to sport mode or use the flappy shift paddles on the steering wheel and, while the Q50 feels livelier, the engine is louder.

The supple suspension is also geared more for comfort and the diesel Q50 rides well over a variety of roads, capably cushioning passengers, but tyre roar is evident on rough surfaces. The handling is competent – it's not as rewarding as a BMW but you can push it into corners confidently and, while there is some body roll at speed, the Q50 grips well and holds the chosen line.

For a compact premium saloon, there is decent head and legroom front and back so four adults can travel in comfort. You might moan though if you end up perched on the raised cushion in the middle of the back seat which severely limits headroom and you straddle a high hump in the floor.

The Q50 has a spacious 500-litre boot with good access for large suitcases but it tapers towards the back so needs careful packing to make the most of the available space. Pull the handles in the boot and the rear seat backs drop down for longer loads and there is also a load-through flap to make it even more practical.

As you would expect of a premium marque, the cabin is well appointed with good fit and finish and a quality look and feel to the materials.

If you like technology and gadgets you'll love the Q50 which is bristling with electronic hardware, designed to make it easier and safer to drive. At first it all seems rather imposing and a little confusing with two separate high-definition colour touchscreens filling the centre of the fascia and a central controller between the front seats for various vehicle functions. Finding your way round it soon becomes second nature with intuitive menus and excellent connectivity via Infiniti's InTouch platform which offers apps like Facebook and Twitter.

The driving position has a good range of adjustment with the electric seat moving automatically to make getting in and out easier while the seat belts also retract electrically.

The Q50 is competitively priced against its rivals and well equipped, although a digital radio and satellite-navigation are options. Entry-level SE includes rear view camera, cruise control with speed limiter, automatic wipers, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and starting and 17in alloy wheels. Premium costs £2,400 more but adds leather seats, heated front seats and auto-dimming rear view mirror. Sport grade gets a more aggressive look and feel and extra technology such as direct adaptive steering featuring 'steer by wire' technology – a world first in a production car.

The Q50 is never going to sell in the same numbers as its German rivals so don't expect to see lots of them on the road but that's another attraction of the Q50. It has an air of exclusivity about it which should appeal to drivers who want to make a statement by being different.

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