Infiniti Q50Despite its tiny UK dealer network Infiniti, the premium brand of Nissan, is growing in the UK and 2015 will be a very significant year for it.

Last year their UK sales increased by a headline grabbing 93% but in reality we are only talking about a small number of customers. Infiniti recorded just 746 new car sales for the year and the bulk of those were for the Q50 C/D-segment executive four door saloon priced from £27,950 for the main selling 2.2-litre turbodiesel versions. Other models are priced from £31,755 for the latest addition to the range -the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol models and up to £41,640 for the 3.5-litre petrol Hybrid all wheel drive flagship version. 

Currently the diesel models account for 85% of Q50 UK sales, 64% of those being the automatic version. The Hybrid models account for just 12% of sales with an equal split between 2WD and 4WD versions. It is expected that the new 2.0T petrol models will sell more than the hybrid versions. 

This year is very important as the brand needs to quickly add more sales and service outlets in readiness for Infiniti production to begin in the UK at Nissan’s Sunderland plant. This is where the Infiniti Q30 C-segment family hatchback range and the QX30 compact SUV models will be built alongside the existing Nissan Juke, Qashqai, LEAF and Note ranges. Infiniti say that over the next five years they will increase their model range by 60% and more than double the number of its powertrain options. 

Reflecting its relatively low number of new car sales currently Infiniti has only 10 UK sales/service Centres and two sales outlets. These are situated in Glasgow, Newcastle, Leeds, Hull, Stockport, Birmingham, Norwich, Reading, London west and east locations, St Albans and Maidstone. Their plan is to have a UK network of 20 to 25 sites. 

The Q30 and QX30 models together with the Q50 will form an expanded mainstream range for Infiniti which already includes the niche selling Q60 coupe and cabriolet, the Q70 large saloon, QX50 mid-sized SUV and the QX70 large 4x4. 

The Infiniti brand was launched in 1989 and these premium class vehicles sell in over 50 countries. Production is currently taking place in Japan and in its largest market – the USA. Production has now started in China and the UK is next. An Infiniti Design Centre has recently opened in the UK. Infiniti for motorsport fans is best known for its F1 involvement Red Bull Racing. 

That sums up Infiniti so far so what of the latest addition to the Q50 range? This is the 2.0-litre, four cylinder, direct injection turbocharged 211hp petrol model with drive to the rear wheels through a seven-speed automatic gearbox. The addition of this new turbocharged petrol model should improve its appeal to retail customers who cover less mileage but want sports performance, but not in a more commonplace Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar or Lexus model. 

The new Infiniti lightweight 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine delivers 350Nm (236lb ft) of torque from just 1,250rpm which is more impressive and responsive than most turbodiesels and certainly quieter and smoother than the 2.2-litre Infiniti diesel option. Mated with a smooth changing seven-speed automatic gearbox the delivers its drive to the rear wheels and its relatively swift with a top speed of 152mph and the zero to 62mph acceleration time is impressive at 7.2-seconds. The powertrain offers a nice blend of refinement and flexibility at low speeds and good response once underway on open roads. It cruises at maximum legal speeds very quietly. 

Officially the Combined Cycle fuel consumption is 43.5mpg but my test driving never got near that and the overall average was a poor 29.7mpg even with its Stop Start function. By no means did I really push this model very hard during the week long session and I covered all types of roads from in-town to open motorways. With CO2 emissions of 151g/km VED road tax is currently rated at £180 and company car Benefit-in-Kind tax from April will be 25%. In short I liked the engine, but I didn’t like the fuel economy. 

The Q50 looks a sporty four door executive class saloon, somewhere between a BMW 3-Series and 5-Series, or Mercedes C and E-Class as an example in terms of size. It certainly has kerb-appeal with is curvaceous, coupe profile sleek body styling with bulbous wheelarches and 19-inch alloy wheels giving it a purposeful stance. The large wheels shod with run-flat tyres did no favours for the ride comfort or chassis control. The Q50 constantly felt fidgety on anything other than smooth road surfaces. The rear end in particular kept side shuffling following tram-lined road surfaces. The car has various suspension settings as does the steering but I never felt totally happy with its overall balance. That said the front end provided plenty of cornering grip and the direct adaptive steering (electric drive-by-wire) I liked although more enthusiastic drivers might prefer a direct electronic system. Despite its firm suspension there was some cornering body roll and if pushed along on country roads my passengers felt the ride comfort was too unsettling. 

Infiniti Q50Infiniti Q50Infiniti Q50Infiniti Q50Unlike the 2.2-litre turbodiesel the 2.0T petrol isn’t available with the base SE specification, it has Premium and Sport levels and my test model was the latter priced at £34,125 but with various visibility, safety, multimedia packs, metallic paint and electric glass sunroof the price climbed to a heady £41,545. 

Inside the Q50 looks classy with its twin front cockpit design. There are sports design front seats which are electrically adjustable as is the multifunction steering wheel. The space in the driver’s side footwell was limited with far more space available on the front passenger’s side, a characteristic that this model was primarily designed as a left hand drive model. The Q50 Sport has leather upholstery and lots of other premium items of specification abound. There is a twin touchscreen system, drive mode sector, rear and side view camera, lane departure control, 60/40 split folding rear seats and a ski-hatch opening. Cruise control, air con, Bluetooth and much more are all to be found. Generally the controls are well laid out with only the start/stop button hidden out of site behind the steering wheel and auto gearchange paddles. 

The Q50 is a long car at 4,790mm so it was surprising to see just how small the rear seat legroom was. As I have said before it competes in a C-segment but is actually a D-segment car in overall length. With its coupe styling rear seat headroom is not plentiful for six-footers either. Where has all this body length been utilized? Well there is plenty of room up-front and loads of space in the boot, all 500-litres of it, but rear seat passengers will be short-changed. It is interesting to note that the Q50 has been developed to provide a longer wheelbase version for some export markets but not as yet the UK. 

Overall this Q50 is probably the best Infiniti model yet, but the 2.0T will not be the most popular because of its petrol engine. However for some drivers who relish pace and exclusivity it will be a more viable purchase than the more commonplace German premium brands. 

MILESTONES: Infiniti Q50 2.0T Sport automatic 4-door saloon. Price: £34,125 (£41,545 as tested with options). Engine/transmission: 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder, direct injection turbocharged petrol engine, 211hp, 350Nm of torque from 1,250rpm,standard fit 7-speed automatic transmission, rear wheel drive. Performance: 152mph, 0-62mph 7.2-seconds, 43.5mpg Combined Cycle (29/7mpg on test), CO2 151g/km, VED road tax £180, BIK company car tax 25% from April. Insurance group: 34E. Warranty: 3-years/60,000-miles. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,790mm, W 1,820mm, H 1,430mm, boot space 500-litres. For: Best Infiniti model yet, smooth, quiet and very responsive petrol engine, high specification, classy build quality, appealing and distinctive curvaceous styling, a welcome alternative to commonplace premium brand Audi, BMW, Mercedes executive saloon models. Against: Costly to buy if options are added, given the overall length of the car the rear seat legroom is inadequate, fidgety and unsettled ride, inconvenient ownership proposition for some potential buyers due to the low number of sales and service centres.   Miles Better News Agency

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