Infiniti is the luxury arm of Nissan in the same way as Lexus achieves that role for Toyota. Though Infiniti only started selling cars in Britain in 2009 it has sold them in North America since 1989.
With few UK dealers, the wrong engine mix for Europe and little awareness of the brand it has been a hard road but sales for the first three months of this year were up to more than 6,000 cars across Western Europe. And production of the Q30 in Sunderland has seen UK orders for the new model of more than 1,000.
Infinitis have a rather curvy and ornate style that is different without being weird. The looks stand out compared to an Audi or Jaguar£€™s rather generic XE and the neighbours liked it.
We have been driving a Q50 which is aimed to take on cars like the XE and BMW£€™s all conquering 3-Series. Prices start at £29,320 and the Premium specification test car was £33,270.
The car feels solid and well made and is powered by a four-cylinder 2.1-litre turbo diesel engine sourced from Mercedes-Benz. Infiniti modifies the engine from the C220 CDI with components including a new induction system, intercooler and engine management system to make its responses sportier.
Maximum power is 168bhp with torque of 295lb ft and CO2 emissions from 114g/km. You can choose from a six-speed Mercedes manual gearbox or the seven-speed automatic as fitted in the test car.
The cabin is upmarket while not matching the standards achieved by companies like Audi these days. There are rather too many scattered buttons and as with computers, multiple ways to access the same information including via dual LCD screens on the centre console between the front seats.
The rear seats drew praise though leg room isn£€™t great and a central passenger has to put up with the transmission tunnel. It£€™s easy to get a good driving position and the instruments are mainly clear though the speedometer is rather crowded.
The engine is quite noisy at tick over but was okay at motorway speeds. We haven£€™t tried the manual but the automatic delivers smooth changes in town traffic and away from the lights.
Accelerative performance between 30 and 70mph feels much like the Mercedes C220 CDI, which means sluggish compared to BMW£€™s 320d.
The Q50 also feels heavy compared to the BMW 3-Series and less agile when tackling bends. That said, the handling balance was good, even on wet roads. The electrically assisted power steering system is precise if lacking in feel for the road.
It loads up when going briskly and sometimes quick direction changes catch out the electric assistance making it heavier than expected. I would definitely avoid the all-electronic steer-by-wire system that£€™s standard on Sport models.
The Q50 has a wide turning circle and it took me several £€˜bites£€™ to get into one space I can normally swing straight into. Braking power was strong but they were too sharp on initial application. Straight line stability was fine.
Slow responses from the gearbox discourage a sporty driving style and perhaps helps explain the impressive fuel economy of 58.9mpg when cruising and 46.2mpg overall. The boot is a strange shape and didn£€™t easily fit any of the bags we used.
Standard kit on SE models includes keyless entry, dual-zone climate control, voice recognition, rear-view camera, parking sensors and tyre pressure monitoring. Premium models gain leather seats with the front chairs heated and automatic engine stop-start to reduce pollution and save fuel in stop-go traffic.
The Q50 comes also with Bluetooth smart phone connectivity but DAB radio isn’t standard and together with a factory satellite navigation system costs £1,920. Metallic paint is another £660.
Verdict You would have to want to stand out from the crowd.