Infiniti hacks Mercedes: the 2019 QX30 crossover is more – and less – than the GLA

What changes will make the 2019 Infiniti QX30 different?

Expect little more than a new color choice or two for this stylish-outside, smallish-inside premium subcompact crossover. The QX30 bowed for model-year 2017 as Infiniti’s first rival to diminutive but upscale crossovers such as the BMW X1, Lexus NX, and Mercedes-Benz GLA. It is, in fact, a GLA beneath the skin. The QX30 is a product of the partnership between Mercedes and Infiniti’s parent company, Renault-Nissan.

Mercedes supplies the main body structure, engine, and transmission. Infiniti recalibrates the drivetrain and suspension and applies its own styling elements inside and out. The GLA costs more, offers more power, and handily outsells the QX30. But the differences are enough to give the QX30 a distinct identity — even if they may not create a compelling premium-compact-crossover value.

Why should I wait for the 2019?

You probably shouldn’t, given slim chance of any worthwhile change. The ’19 QX30 will essentially be a rerun of the 2018. Normally, this is where we’d advise that waiting for the ’19 means you’ll almost certainly pay more for a fundamentally unchanged vehicle. But for model-year 2018, Infiniti actually held the line on QX30 pricing, charging no increase over the 2017 model. Whether it would repeat that for the ’18 and ’19 editions we can’t predict. But it’s a comforting precedent.

Waiting for the 2019 QX30 would normally also mean you’d be buying a crossover with a little less life left in its styling and features. Infiniti’s plans for a QX30 update are difficult to forecast, however. Mercedes gave the 2018 GLA a minor facelift, spiffing up a crossover that hit its U.S. showrooms for model-year 2014 and is on track for a full redesign around model-year 2021. Will today’s QX30 get a midcycle update? Will introduction of an all-new model coincide with the GLA’s next redesign? Will Infiniti instead develop a homegrown entry in this expanding market segment? Good questions.

Should I buy a 2018 model instead?

Don’t hold off if Infiniti’s smallest crossover strikes your fancy. There’s little risk of missing out on big changes. And if Infiniti bends to the pressure of model-year price inflation, buying an ’18 helps you avoid paying more for basically the same vehicle. Expect the 2018 and 2019 QX30 lineup to be unaltered, with Base, Luxury, Premium, and Sport trims in ascending levels of price and equipment.

We do offer a caveat if you’re interested in a QX30 with more performance than today’s 208-horsepower version. That’s the same output as the base GLA250. But Mercedes offers a hot-rod GLA AMG GLA45 model with 375 horsepower. Hardly any chance Infiniti would ever get access to that particular engineering. But there’s little technical barrier to it tweaking the ’19 QX30 for more performance, perhaps fielding a version under the Red Sport banner it uses on hopped-up editions of some of other vehicles.

Will the styling be different?

Not beyond perhaps a new exterior hue or two. Indeed, Infiniti has shown some imagination with the QX30’s color pallet; we tested one in an eye-catching Liquid Copper, a sort of rose-gold metallic that polarized observers. Outside chance of a fresh wheel design, as well. But otherwise, the ’19 will continue with the same styling elements that help differentiate it from the GLA. The Japanese company applies some swoopier sheetmetal and Infiniti-brand cues, principally the grille and boomerang-shaped rear-roof pillars. It tweaks the interior with a different dashboard and seat and trim materials, and gilds the Sport model with black exterior trim, unique wheels, and its own front and rear lower fasciae.

Infiniti assembles the QX30 at its plant in England but can’t change the basic vehicle dimensions set down by Mercedes for the GLA. That leaves this little crossover feeling cramped. Front seaters have sufficient legroom, but the environment is otherwise is akin to that of a subcompact car, admittedly an upscale one. The strictures are a bummer for rear passengers, who are squeezed for knee and foot clearance. To get in and out, everyone must contort a little to negotiate the low roofline and tight doorways. And the cabin’s woefully short of small-items storage space. These are problems shared to some degree by most subcompact crossovers, regardless of price class. But the QX30 compounds it with the least cargo volume in its competitive set, its 19.2 cubic feet behind the rear seat and 34 cubic feet with it folded fall short of the GLA – and even of the average hatchback compact car.

Any mechanical changes?

Not unless Infiniti detects a market for more performance and introduces a power-enhanced QX30. Otherwise, all ’19 models will return with a Mercedes-designed turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, which will likely repeat at 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It’ll again mate with an Infiniti-massaged version of Mercedes’ seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with center-console and steer-wheel-paddle shifters. Expect every the ’19 QX30 Base and Sport models to again come only with front-wheel drive while the others repeat with a choice of front-drive or a basic all-wheel-drive (AWD) system intended for enhanced on-road traction.

The overall effect is less than stirring, although the Sport model, with its lowered suspension and 19-inch performance-tread tires, handles impressively.

The other models, which come with 18-inch all-season tires and a softer suspension, have competent road manners but don’t feel as eager to take on a twisty road as their Euro-engineered pedigree might suggest. Acceleration is sluggish off the line and throttle response around town can be frustratingly tardy until the transmission’s downshift and turbo’s boot sync up. Highway-speed passing is this powertrain’s forte.

Will fuel economy improve?

Given unchanged mechanicals, expect the 2019 QX30’s EPA ratings to repeat the model-year ’18 numbers. That means 24/33/27 mpg city/highway/combined with front-wheel drive and 21/30/25 with AWD.

The front-wheel-drive ratings are a match for those of the front-drive GLA250, although Infiniti’s transmission calibrations and other adjustments presumably contribute to the QX30’s AWD ratings falling behind those of the 23/31/26 mpg earned by the GLA250. In either case, fuel economy is slighter better than average for the competitive set. And like the Mercedes, the QX30 requires premium-octane gas.

Will it have new features?

Unlikely, although we’d urge Infiniti to be more generous with safety features. Parent-company Nissan is laudably liberal with driver assists throughout its lineup of homegrown Nissan and Infiniti vehicles. Notable among these is autonomous emergency braking as standard on even some of the least-expensive models. That feature, designed to automatically bring the vehicle to a stop to avoid a frontal collision, has been available only the most expensive QX30s – and then only as an extra-cost feature.

Specifically, Premium-model buyers had to spring for the $2,200 Technology Package to get autonomous emergency braking. The package also added adaptive cruise control to maintain a set distance from traffic ahead, automatic on-off highbeam headlamps, blind-spot detection, and lane-departure warning (but not automatic lane-maintaining steering). Included as well was an around-view video monitor and semi-autonomous self-parking into parallel and perpendicular spaces. The monitor and self-parking were standard on the 2018 Sport, but the safety systems were part of the $1,200 Sport Technology Package.

Even without adjustments to features or packages, the 2019 QX30 should return fairly comprehensively equipped. Expect all models to again come standard with power folding heated outside mirrors with puddle lamps, an automatic-dimming rearview mirror, and dual-zone automatic climate control. Power front seats should again be included on all but the Base model, with a panoramic moonroof part of the Sport- and Premium-grade standard features. All QX30 will return with LED daytime running lamps; steering-linked LED headlamps were a $1,000 option for ’18 on the Sport and Premium.

Look for leather upholstery with a handsome leatherette stitched dashboard insert to again be standard on Luxury and Premium grades and a $1,500 option for the Sport. Wood cabin trim has been an $500 option exclusive to the Premium model. All ’19 QX30s should reprise a 7-inch dashboard infotainment screen, with imbedded navigation an $1,850 option only for the Sport and Premium models. We’d count improved connectivity as another 2019 QX30 opportunity for Infiniti. For example, only navigation-equipped models get the Infiniti InTouch system that fully integrates your smartphone apps. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto or their equivalent is otherwise available, and that’s a shortfall these days.

How will 2019 prices be different?

It’s even money, so to speak, that Infiniti would forego a QX30 price increase for a second year in a row. Getting its new entry up and running in an untapped market segment for the brand probably had something to do with the model-year 2017-2018 price stasis. It may have worked; sales, while still near the bottom of the class, are rising. If Infiniti feels the demand can sustain momentum, it’ll likely raise prices for 2019.

That said, here are base prices for the 2018 QX30, including the automaker’s $995 destination fee. The Base model (front-drive only) started at $30,945. The Luxury model was priced from $33,595 with front-wheel drive and from $35,395 with AWD. The Premium started at $36,295 with front-drive and at $38,295 with AWD. Base price for the front-drive-only Sport was $39,495.

When will it come out?

Look for a release date for the 2019 Infiniti QX30 during the third quarter of 2018.

What are the top alternatives?

Audi Q3, BMW X1 and X2, Buick Encore, Jaguar E-Pace, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Range Rover Evoque, Volvo XC40

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About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]