The 2017 Infiniti QX30 takes its place as the new entry point for Nissan’s luxury brand, starting at $29,950. From there it steps up into the near $50,000 price range when optioned and trim grades climb.

In the middle of that range is the QX30 Sport, or QX30S which differs from the other compact crossover models in that it takes on a more compact hatch persona with a lowered performance suspension, allowing Infiniti to grab the driving enthusiast who doesn’t necessarily want a high riding SUV.

The QX30 is based on the same chassis platform architecture as the Mercedes-Benz CLA and GLA, also the entry level for that luxury brand. The joint-venture shares chassis bits, engines, transmissions and a host of interior fittings such that they really are one in the same with exception to styling.

For Infiniti this is a good thing, giving the QX30 a powertrain and interior execution much on par with that of Mercedes-Benz. Those in the three-pointed star’s fan base might consider the opposite side of the coin, that their brand is being watered down.

Either way, the QX30 brings a fresh dose of affordable luxury to Infiniti showrooms and in our recent drive we found it quite an interesting choice as it threads the needle carefully between compact five-door hatch and compact crossover utility well.

Styling is uniquely Infiniti with its animalistic facial features and artistically endowed shapes. Of note is the particularly complex gathering of lines at the rear three-quarter view that shouldn’t work but manage to look downright graceful.

Up front are LED headlamps on our fully outfitted tester along with LED fog lights and 19-inch wheels. Through them you can see handsome cross drilled brake rotors and powder coated calipers that read Infiniti.

While this lower to the ground version of the compact crossover has shed much of its SUV style and swagger, it retains wheel arch moldings that look like they just want so badly to be textured black plastic.

17-Infiniti-QX30S-14Inside is a cabin lined with high quality materials from metallic trims to piano black finishes. Our tester had the Sport Leather Package which brought a leather lined dash, soft trims on the doors and console, and a sueded headliner and pillars. Very nice.

Seats are right out of the Mercedes-Benz playbook with a firm grip on you, here with black leather and white accents. Comfortable they are and adjustable by way of Mercedes-Benz switchgear on the doors. You’ll find a lot of bits and pieces all around in here from the three-pointed star.

Driving the QX30S fortunately is more like a compact hot hatch than a small SUV. With its lowered suspension we found it agile and aggressive on the mountain back roads in Arizona where we test such cars.

Grip from its 235/45/19 summer tires is prodigious and its suspension tuning stiff as a board. This is good on smooth pavement but on rough patches it can send bumps and ruts crashing through the structure in a not so expensive feeling way.

17-Infiniti-QX30S-4Steering on the other hand is communicative and light, the brakes work exceptionally well despite their rather smallish size.

Power from its 2.0 liter turbocharged engine comes in at 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, a mild tune for an engine of this size. This nets a higher level of refinement than many and a smooth thrum of sound that’s always pleasing to the ears.

It delivers power to the front wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) that behaves like it was built for a race car when charging through the hills at speed. Shifting manually or in automatic mode it’s mostly in the game for fun and works very well.

In daily life however around town from stop light to stop light it’s rough and jerky, a personality accentuated by the engine’s auto-start-stop system. A gas saving feature you must remember to turn off every time you get in the car if you rather not deal, it makes the car shudder and shake like a tractor and makes taking off quickly from a stop sign in front of other traffic a white knuckle moment sometimes.

It’s all to save fuel and in that way the QX30S as tested is rated at 24 mpg city, 33 mpg highway and 27 mpg combined. In our week playing with it in town and on the highway we netted 25 mpg combined actual which is decent considering the AC was on at all times in Arizona’s heat.

As tested our QX30S with option packages and stand alones came to $43,375. Our take is that this vehicle makes a good value at closer to base pricing because when you get up in this strata you can begin looking at a lot of other things, the BMW 3-Series the least of them