FOR many, Infiniti is a brand on the fringe but that's likely to change with its latest offering - the British-built Q30.
If ever a car was cosmopolitan then this is it.
Made in the UK at the Nissan factory in Sunderland the Q30 is based on a Mercedes-Benz A-Class, has engines made in France and Germany, wears the badge of a Japanese brand that is headquartered in Hong Kong and sells most of its cars in the United States.
That is some chemistry and the Q30 is a car that will alter perceptions of the brand in many a quarter - especially in Britain.
While Infiniti is the premium arm of Nissan - just as Lexus is with Toyota - its models to date have been on the large size with a limited choice of engines and although well appointed, prices have been pushing the Â£40,000 mark.
The Q30 changes all that. It's a compact five-door hatch, priced from Â£20,550 and comes with a choice of five engines, six different trim levels and can be had with seven-speed dual clutch transmissions and all-wheel-drive.
In all, there are 29 different versions in a line up which tops out at £31,930. In one fell swoop the Q30 takes Infiniti mainstream.
Technically, the Q30 is an A-Class in all but name with Infiniti fitting some of its own electronics for the onboard systems but it is styled to be very different with some sleek, sculpted body lines and nice use of chrome highlights, especially on the nose.
It is good looking, sleek and fresh-faced while inside it lives up to Infiniti's premium reputation with posh trim, quality stitching and the availability of leather and alcantara upholstery.
However, while most of Infiniti's other models come fully-loaded the Q30 has plenty of options such as sat nav which will add Â£1,400 to the price on all but one grade and a premium sound system for an extra Â£650.
Nevertheless, they won't put the Q30 out of range and even the most expensive version we tried tipped the scales at Â£35,060 - still highly competitive compared to German alternatives from Audi, BMW and even Mercedes itself.
The Q30 is currently available with 1.6-litre petrol engines turbo boosted to either 122 or 156ps and two diesels, a 2.2-litre developing 170ps and a 1.5-litre with 109ps on tap.
They are soon to be joined by a more performance-oriented 211ps 2.0-litre turbo petrol which will give the car a 7.2 seconds 0 to 60 time.
All but the smaller diesel, which is a Renault block, are sourced from Mercedes and all are up to scratch.
On the road the Q30 has no bad manners and handles competently delivering a smooth ride. Noise levels inside are well suppressed and it lives up to its standard of being a quality car.
Of the three engines we tried the 2.2-litre diesel was the liveliest but its sound was unmistakably diesel. The 122ps 1.6-litre turbo petrol did the job adequately but the most impressive was the 1.5-litre diesel which proved to be a refined all-rounder and the most economical.
We saw an average of 51.3 to the gallon from a manual version which was well ahead of the 39.2mpg we achieved in an all-wheel-drive 2.2 diesel with the DCT transmission and 34.8 from the petrol model.
Official figures are 68.9mpg for the 1.5 with emissions of 108g/km, 57.6 for the 2.2 with a CO2 figure of 127g/km and 47.1 for the 1.6 which is rated at 138g/km.
Multi-mode drive controls were fitted to each car and although livelier with sport mode engaged, the Q30 for anyone wanting a more dynamic drive is the top grade Sport version which has a lower ride height, a slightly stiffer suspension and more weighted steering.
The all-wheel-drive set up is available only on the higher powered engines and although it provides extra sure-footedness, all versions we tried were nicely grippy.
Comfort levels are high throughout the cabin and boot space is 430 litres which is a fair bit larger than most in this class of car, including the A-Class.
Much of the layout inside is similar to the Mercedes such as the electric seat adjusters on the door, the layout of the dash and even the shape of the gear lever on the DCT versions.
With the Nissan-Renault alliance - and hence Infiniti - now collaborating with Mercedes the Q30 is reaping the rewards nicely.
Moreover, Q30 customers will also buy into the ‘Infiniti experience' which includes one-to-one service at any of the 10 Infiniti centres in the UK as well as 24/7 assistance whatever the circumstances - and that's not normally expected when buying a car with such a price tag.
Some £250 million has gone into the Sunderland factory to produce the Q30 creating an extra 300 jobs and the quality of production is up with the best.
Eventually the Q30 will be exported across the globe and will be further proof that Brit-built cars are among the finest to be had - and from Infiniti's point of view it will establish the brand as a serious player with a car that makes luxury affordable.