What does an automaker do when it needs a compact crossover stat? Well, it turns to one of its global partners to quickly fill the void.  And that’s the story behind this all-new Infiniti. Thanks to Nissan’s alliance with Daimler, the QX30 is born; a sexier, less expensive take on the Mercedes GLA.

Birthed in England with German lineage, the QX30 is one of those hot-selling, pint-sized SUVs offering intermediate versatility in a car-like package. And because the GLA is a spirited little runabout I was expecting much of the same here.  But the Benz I tested was a high-powered AMG model and this Infiniti can only be spec’d with the standard 2.0-liter turbo.  Nevertheless, the QX30’s fun-to-drive quotient is off the charts and it one ups the GLA with its sportier, more attractive wrapper.  Not to mention this Infiniti can save you thousands.  My tester is the range-topping and most aggressively engineered QX30 Sport – quizzically not available with all-wheel drive like the Luxury and Premium trims.  Boldly styled with unique front and rear fascias, a lower ride height, tauter suspension tuning, performance brakes and 19” wheels wrapped in summer-use rubber, the Sport is aimed squarely at the driving enthusiast.  It’s a gorgeous car with swoopy lines and a muscular stance replete with full LED lighting and just right proportions.  This is one of those rare instances where the derivative is more appealing than the original.

Get in and drive and you instantly recognize the QX30’s racy demeanor. A highly energetic turbo matched to a 7-speed direct-shift transmission with paddle shifters and sport mode evokes emotions sure to appeal to the car lover.  You feel the road, hear the engine and have precise control of the action.  With 208 horses and 258 pound-feet of torque, the QX30 could benefit from mechanical assistance getting the power to the pavement, but once the tires hook up there’s a rush of acceleration that far exceeds its actual numbers.  Its 0-to-60mph time is around 7 seconds but with power on tap readily throughout the gears, it feels exponentially quicker.

The Sport is a tremendously fun little drive, making the most of its modest power through the use of an athletically tuned chassis with quick steering, excellent body control, quick shifting gearbox and turbo punch. Plus, it comes with some of the best front seats in the biz, relieving fatigue on long trips while providing crossover style visibility.  The only bummer is that there’s no AMG equivalent.

Starting at $39,500 including destination, this QX30 Sport is upfitted with every option package including Nappa leather heated seats, a bevy of driver assistance tech including intelligent cruise control, exterior and interior LED lighting, navigation, panoramic moonroof and illuminated kick plates. Infiniti has yet to get on the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto bandwagon so that’s a problem for me, but this touchscreen and knob controlled unit is pretty good with its connected offerings and ease of use. It’s louder in here than expected so you need this Bose 10-speaker system to overpower the road noise.  One of my favorite features is the around view monitor, a real boon when parking in tight spots.  A discerning eye will notice a lot of Mercedes bits carried over here such as the seat adjusters, driver information display, switchgear and shifter.  It’s a handsome cabin and there’s ample room up front.  If you’re a frequent backseat user know that these 2 are upright and very snug.  It’s also a little tricky getting in and out.  But for hauling purposes, they spiltfold and drop flat for bigger space than in an Audi Q3.

Gas mileage is stellar at 27mpg in combined driving on premium and its as-tested price of $43,735 invites a savings of more than $5,000 over a comparable GLA. Fun, style and versatility all squeezed into an alluring package with a palatable price tag; the QX30 should do very well for the Infiniti brand.

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