BBC Autos

In Frankfurt, Q30 gives Infiniti a boost

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To gaze upon Infiniti's gleaming Q30 Concept hatchback, unveiled in Frankfurt on 10 September, one might not imagine just how trying these times are for Nissan's luxury brand, which is just a year off from its silver anniversary.

Since its 1989 launch, the marque has played second fiddle to Lexus – and third fiddle among Japanese luxury makes, accounting for Honda's Acura division – in terms of perceived luxury and sales. Infiniti has spent years convincing the world that it is serious about sport luxury, but a visit to a showroom yields an uneven impression about the brand’s convictions.

Momentum is picking up, however, under the watchful eye of brand president Johan de Nysschen, formerly of Audi, and some impressive new design blood. De Nysschen, responsible for the brand's shift to Q and QX model nomenclature, is continuing to stir things up by emphasising boldness in design and a willingness to explore new vehicle niches.

The Q30's reveal in Frankfurt was therefore a very big deal for Infiniti – an occasion marked by Sebastian Vettel, the Red Bull Racing Formula 1 driver and recently appointed Infiniti director of performance.

Just as Mercedes-Benz has done with the A-Class and Audi with the A3 (outside of the US, at least), Infiniti is looking to tap the mushrooming market for near-luxury hatchbacks. In the metal, the Q30's styling has a soft aggression to it. A gaping maw looks capable of swallowing motorcycles whole, but is deftly sculpted into the surrounding fascia. Rear windows appear pulled taut with an exaggerated version of the boomerang-in-motion theme applied to other Infiniti models. Hints of Mazda's so-called Kodo design philosophy, from the taillights to the decklid treatment, are blended into the rear and three-quarter profiles.

The interior is the most ingenious piece of the design, with severely sculpted seats, a lighting scheme befitting a boutique hotel's cocktail lounge and an elongated glass roof that transforms cabin into planetarium.

Though Infiniti is mum on production prospects for the Q30, it is an open secret that the brand is developing a compact global vehicle platform that can assimilate any number of body styles, including a swoopy hatch such as this. Given the  competition shaping up in the premium-hatchback segment, a Q30-like vehicle wouldn’t arrive a moment too soon.