Small cars, they’re my anathema.
I take corners at breakneck speeds, I gun it on the straightaways (also known as the country road by my house, with apologies to the deer who looked up in dazed confusion).
In a recent test of the 2017 Infiniti QX30, I had to laugh when the touchscreen display popped up and gave me a rating of 43 out of 100 on the “drive like a madman” chart. My acceleration and braking were both abysmal, which is what happens when you are in spirited driving mode.
The QX30 styling doesn’t help. This car is low to the ground, but even more importantly, it looks like it is low to the ground. Everything about it tells you to drive fast, from the hungry-wolf front fender through the swoop on the doors to the Z-shaped side panel near the hatch. I had at least three people comment about the styling at stoplights, which is odd for a car that fits somewhere closer to the small SUV category (I fit my bike in the back with the seats folded just fine).
One morning, I punched the turbo and felt like the car could almost compete with one of my all-time favorites, the Mercedes-Benz GLA45 AMG and least in terms of the feeling you get driving it and the looks people give (including the deer) if not the actual horsepower. (In case you’re curious, in that regard it’s no contest—the AMG has 375 horsepower and the QX30 has 208 horsepower.)
As it turns out, I’m also a sucker for gamification.
In the QX340, you have three choices for modes. You can stick with Eco mode, which is designed for saving fuel. Sports mode is the one you want if you are afraid to use the paddle shifters but want a bit more rev. And then there’s Manual mode, which requires that you do the shifting and allows you to squeeze out a bit more boost for those corners.
Dang if I didn’t end up using Eco mode more, mostly because I wanted to see if I could get a better score. I let the cockpit envelope me and the sense of driving a sleek hot hatch obscure the fact that I was now driving like Grandpa John on a tractor in a parade. I slowed down for every stop sign. I ratcheted up the acceleration and went through the gears like I was on a leisurely commute to work and not trying to deplete the ozone. It worked! The bar chart started to inch in the right direction, and by the time I was done testing for the week, I had scored 53 out of 100, which is not bad for someone who normally drives like he is being chased by the police.
Now, ignoring the fact that this vehicle is a long way from that AMG GLA45 I mentioned— particularly in terms of price ($49,900 for the AMG, $29,950 base for the QX30)—I will say that this is a fun and sporty car that competes with several other turbo models. I haven’t tested the new Ford Focus RS, although I’ve sat as a passenger in one on a track, but the QX30 is just as punchy as the 2016 Honda Civic R I tested a few weeks ago and about the same price.
I liked that the car coaxed you back to Earth, reminding you to avoid seeing every intersection as an opportunity to test the turbo or race the poor sap next to you. With the Eco mode, you can still enjoy the ride and save the planet. And, maybe even pay a bit less in fuel.