Unveiled at the Frankfurt auto show, the Q30 breaks new ground for Nissan's luxury division, and in more ways than one.

For example, it's the first compact car to wear Infiniti badges, and Infiniti's first hatchback car (not to be confused with crossover SUVs). It's also the first Infiniti of any description to be built in Europe, at an assembly facility in Sunderland, England.

Bold Beauty

Those milestones are noteworthy, but the most striking thing about the Q30 is what you see. The sculpted sheetmetal is very faithful to the Q30 concept car displayed at Frankfurt two years ago, and in fact several of the body panels went straight from the concept car to production body stampings.

Though Infiniti has long sought and planned for a compact entry, the stars and planets aligned when Nissan established its alliance with Daimler-Benz in 2010. When the Q30 concept was displayed, Infiniti already anticipated the manufacturing benefits that would flow from the alliance, verified by the production car's platform, which is shared with the Mercedes CLA- and GLA-class. That's also true of the engines.

The European version of the C30 will offer five engine options, all four-cylinders-two gasoline 1.6-liters, one turbo, one not; a gasoline 2.0-liter turbo; and two turbodiesels, 1.5 and 2.2 liters. Euro transmission choices are a 6-speed manual and 7-speed dual-clutch automatic.

However, the U.S. Q30 will have just one powertrain-the turbo 2.0-liter (208 horsepower at 5500 rpm, 258 pound-feet of torque from 1200 to 4000 rpm) sending thrust to the front wheels via the 7-speed automatic. 

How this will translate in terms of 0-to-60 mph remains to be seen; Q30 curb weights weren't available in the Frankfurt show specs. Output of the Q30's 2.0-liter turbo is similar to that of the Volkswagen Golf GTI, the current go-to choice among pocket rockets, but power-to-weight is likely to be a bit of a limiting factor, since the Q30 is substantially bigger than its Wolfsburg rival. The 106.3-inch wheelbase is 2.7 inches longer than the GTI's, and at 174.2 inches overall the Q30 is 4.4 longer than the VW.

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Youthful character 

This may add up at the scales, but it also adds up to a roomy interior. And in any case, the Q30 figures to be a player in the hot hatch game on looks alone. Although we should note that Infiniti insiders prefer to characterize the Q30 as an "active compact." What does that mean? It means that Infiniti foresees the Q30 appealing to those young urban professionals with active lifestyles that all carmakers court. Infiniti sees the Q30 as the perfect car for "premium customers seeking urban individuality."

The Q30 suspension is a typical front-drive compact setup, with struts at the front and a multilink arrangement at the rear. However, Infiniti makes a virtue of a more elevated ride height than the average compact (6.7 inches, 6.1 inches in Sport trim). The Sport version also features stiffer suspension tuning and 19-inch wheels, versus 18-inch wheels on other trims.

According to Infiniti, the Q30 will deliver "a holistic, intuitive driving experience." Whatever that means, it's likely to be more gratifying in the sport version.

The Q30's interior merits another novel description, an unorthodox design that Infiniti sums up as "dyssimetry."

There will be three trims: base, Premium, and Sport. The Q30 goes on sale in Europe later this fall, and will arrive in U.S. showrooms in mid-2016 as a 2017 model.


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