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Since its introduction to Europe in 2008, Infiniti has predominantly been known for large cars with powerful and thirsty engines.
The Japanese manufacturer and luxury arm of parent company Nissan has applied that to good effect in markets such as the US in years gone by (it first sold cars there in 1989), and, after setting up shop in our continent, stating its claim as an alternative performance and luxury carmaker and introducing diesel engines to its 4x4 models, it's time for the firm to get serious with an upper medium competitor that's clean and economical enough to properly take on established rivals in the business sector.
That's the role of the new Q50, the cleanest version of which has a 2.2-litre diesel engine, sourced from Mercedes and promising 114g/km and 64.2mpg. Those figures render it the most frugal and lowest-emitting model the company has ever produced, and drop it into the same BIK bracket as the cleanest Audi A4 2.0 TDI at 112g/km. It isn't quite low enough to best the fleet favourite BMW 320 Efficient Dynamics at 109g/km and ditto the Mercedes C220 CDI Blue Efficiency, but it's close.
A hybrid version is also available with the same 364hp 3.5-litre V6/electric drive powertrain found in the larger M35h executive model, promising 45.6mpg, 144g/km and the option of four-wheel drive.
Infiniti did not have the cleanest 114g/km manual variant available to drive, so BusinessCar tested the 2.2-litre diesel model with the seven-speed automatic gearbox, which ups emissions to 125g/km and reduces economy to 58.9mpg. As big a leap forward as the Q50 is in frugality terms, it falls short on the driving experience. The trick new steering (a "world first" steer-by-wire system, which can steer the car electronically, without the need for a mechanical connection between the steering wheel and the axles) is unusual - the weight and feedback changes mid-corner and it all feels very odd and artificial. Cars without the system (it's an £800 option) don't suffer the same problem but they're still a long way off the class-best BMW 3-series for drive and handling.
Refinement, however, is exceptional - it's extremely quiet at all times - and the rest of the cabin is well screwed together, although it still lacks the kind of plush finish you get with the German rivals. In its favour, the 500-litre boot is marginally bigger than that of most key competitors.
On the tech front, the lower of the two screens (the upper is a satnav) comprises a smartphone-style app icon with a variety of functions. It's one of the interior's redeeming features and is clean, modern and easy to use.
The Q50 demonstrates that Infiniti can now compete with the low-emissions crowd - something it couldn't do before - so it's a step in the right direction, but it's still off the pace in several other areas where established rivals are well ahead, particularly on the costs front.
Infiniti Q50 2.2 170 Premium auto
Model price range
Cost per mile
BIK 20/40% per month
The cleanest Infiniti yet but lacking in other areas.