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It was a cold week in San Francisco when I took hold of the 2017 Infiniti QX30 Sport, so maybe that's why I noticed the seat warmer automatically backing down a level after it reached a certain temperature on my bum.
"Did I tell you to stop?" I asked aloud of the little crossover as I reached over and reset the seat warmer button back to full blast.
If there's one thing to hate about seat-warmers it's their tendency to make but not keep my buns of the hot-cross variety. Still, when I'm complaining about seat warmers, you can bet the car attached to them is pretty good.
First, a bit of history is in order: In 2010, Infiniti's parent company, Renault-Nissan, partnered with Daimler, the parent of Mercedes-Benz. The goal was to share platforms and power trains, hopefully saving some money in the process.
The QX30 is the result of this marriage. Featuring the DNA of the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class crossover, but with the parental upbringing of Infiniti, it shares the same engine, transmission and underpinnings, but it's all been tuned to be a bit sharper and sportier.
This is more than evident in my Sport trim test model. Despite it being available only in front-wheel drive, I found the compact crossover/hatchbach/whatever-you-want-to-call-it thing to be quite fun to drive. It's no slouch in the corners, with a quick-ratio electric power steering setup, not the crazy optional drive-by-wire technology seen in the Q50. With stiffer springs than other models, some may find the ride a bit harsh. It's a ride-feel I prefer, but it's something to look for on a test drive.
Powering the QX30 Sport is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, knocking out 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Drivability is enhanced with plenty of power in the low end, thanks to a nice-and-easy torque curve up until 4,000 revs or so. Getting the power to the pavement is a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Shifts are smooth, but they could be quicker. This is a sport model, after all.
While shifts could use a tiny bit of chutzpah, the brakes are rock stars. The front cross-drilled rotors have excellent bite, allowing for speedy corner approach or, more likely, quick stopping when surprised by traffic.
The QX30s comes with three driving modes: Sport, Eco or Manual. Sport holds gears longer and quickens throttle response, while Manual allows you to shift on your own with the paddle shifters, although the gearbox will upshift for you at 6000 rpm, (about 800 rpm away from the redline). The transmission will also downshift for you, so be wary when coming out of corners. You might think you're clicking the paddles into second gear, but the car may have already done it for you, resulting in an...awkward moment midcorner. Regardless, I was able to chirp the front tires off the line at the traffic control signal on the Bay Bridge, something that surprised the driver next to me, but brought me a certain amount of joy.
Don't get me wrong though. There are a few annoying bits in all this sporty goodness. The regular "doink around town" mode is Eco, which exhibits a little burp in acceleration. Around 1,000 rpm, the revs dip just a bit and then come back up. Additionally the upshifts happen quickly, all in the quest for better fuel economy. You have to live with that or wind the car up on every shift in Sport or use the paddle shifters. This car should have a Normal mode.
The interior has plenty of components lifted right out of Mercedes' parts bin, including the seat controls on the door, the key fob, the shifter and the smaller TFT information screen between the two gauges, wherein lies another annoyance. In order to cycle through radio presets using the multifunction steering wheel, the screen must be on the audio page. So to change a channel, you have to cycle through the various pages (navigation, settings and so on) to get to audio, and then use the steering-wheel buttons or take your hand off the wheel to use the larger 7-inch touchscreen in the center stack or the dial on the center console.
Infiniti's InTouch infotainment system with optional navigation is fairly intuitive, and I like the destination search option. Craving ice cream? Just input "ice cream" and the system finds the closest place to get your fix. Unfortunately Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not available.
The screen is one of the fastest to respond to inputs that I have tested as of late, which is a good thing, as using the control knob can sometimes be -- here's that word again -- annoying. For instance, in order to navigate between the tiles on the homescreen, you can only scroll from left to right, not up and down. To get from the first tile to the last means cycling through all of them. Again, it's easy enough to just touch the tile you want, but it's an easy fix and Infiniti should know better.
My tester came with the $1,500 Sport Leather Package, adding sumptuous cow hide to an already finely designed cabin. The eight-way power seats with four-way adjustable lumbar support are supremely comfortable, having taken their cue from Nissan's "Zero Gravity" seat design. I certainly didn't feel weightless, but the support offered is great and definitely diminishes fatigue on longer drives.
Infiniti offers its driver's aids as part of a $1,200 Sport Technology Package that includes blind-spot and lane departure warning, forward emergency braking and adaptive cruise control.
Unfortunately, you probably won't be using your QX30 to haul much gear around, as it has significantly less cargo space than competitors. With the rear seats up you get a paltry 19.2 cubic feet of space, expanding to 34 cubes with the 60/40 split rear seats folded. The BMW X1 has 27.1 cubic feet in the rear, expanding to 58.7, and while the Audi Q3 only offers 17 cubic feet of space, that expands to 48 cubes. Curiously, the Mercedes-Benz GLA has 14.9 cubic feet in the rear, expanding to 43.6, showing how exterior design can affect interior space.
The QX30 Sport gets an EPA fuel rating of 24 miles per gallon in the city, 33 on the highway and 27 combined. During my week, I averaged 23.2 during mostly city driving, with a few longer sprints on the highway.
Lest you think I am finished, here is a final element I found vexing in the QX30 Sport: The automatic door locks did not unlock automatically upon turning off the car. I went through the InTouch car settings and even went old-school and looked at the manual, but could find nothing to address the problem.
I really like the 2017 Infiniti QX30s, but the detail-focused gal in me has some reservations. On the plus side, it looks great, has a peppy turbocharged engine and is pretty enjoyable behind the wheel. Plus, it starts at $38,500, offering a semiaffordable entry to a luxury brand like Infiniti. Some folks may be put off by some of the quirks but on the whole the little crossover is a decent buy and should be a big seller for Infiniti.