KEEPING up appearances plays a major role in the premium segment. And just like Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced bouquet) from the English sitcom, looking the part for luxury car buyers is pivotal.
Therein lies the challenge for new premium brand Infiniti and the new Infiniti Q50.
The luxury offshoot of Nissan has been around for nearly 18 months Down Under, and so far it has sold about 400 cars.
Getting a foothold against the likes of Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW is tough work, especially among the image conscious.
Yet spend some time in the new Infiniti Q50 and there is no doubting it's a true player in this lucrative compact sedan segment.
It's currently available with a diesel and a hybrid drivetrain (a turbo petrol is also in the pipeline), starting with a promotional drive-away price of $55,900 between February and April.
Lexus-quiet on the road, this is what we've come to expect from Japanese luxury.
We couldn't say the same about the big M sedan when it was first launched more than one year ago.
Fit and finish befits the premium branding, with soft touch materials and leather spread throughout the cabin. It's certainly on par with the Germans - if not better.
Plastics are restricted to the areas which don't matter, like at the door bases and the glovebox (which incidentally is velvet lined inside).
The dash is dominated by two large touch screens embedded in a double wave effect.
Sitting on top is the sat nav, while on the bottom screen is all the apps and key information that controls the climate, stereo, comprehensive trip and performance meters.
From March buyers will be able to hook up software like Google and Facebook to make their cars mobile communication devices.
Double stitched leather seats offer supportive all round comfort.
Those in the back have reasonable space, with enough glass courtesy of the crescent-cut C-pillars and small head rests on the front pews to avoid claustrophobic feelings.
On the road
Infiniti has delivered a fun and dynamic saloon.
Cornering flat and feeling composed with both powerplants under its skin, the Q50 is more than adept when cruising and when challenged in the bends.
The hybrid drivetrain is the most powerful of the pairing with a rapid acceleration (just above five seconds for 0-100kmh), and when partnered with Direct Adaptive Steering (DAS) it can hammer into a corner with athletic acumen.
Drivers can choose between various modes, such as standard, economy and sport, with the latter making hefty changes to the steering feel. At slow speeds DAS sport mode is heavy and almost feels like there is no power steering at all, but for those who like to drive they'll relish its ability when things get twisty. That's when the Q50 feels ultra sticky.
With the DAS using electronic input rather than mechanical, the steering is extremely quick.
Using the electronic system you don't get the same feedback through the wheel when pushing hard, but we really liked the way it generated a feeling of great stability.
Top-spec models also have some cool safety gear, including a back-up collision warning for when you are reversing from a car park and have limited vision.
It has radar vision of about 15 metres either side of the vehicle that can warn or can stop the Q50 if a person, car or object is detected.
And then there is the forward collision function, which actually measures two car lengths in front. It provides audible warnings and can also bring the car to a halt if there is a frontal crash imminent.
What do you get?
GT standard kit includes alloys, Bluetooth connectivity for phone and audio streaming, sat nav, electric adjustable front seats, dual zone climate controlled air con, automatic wipers and lights, leather trim and keyless entry with push button start (and it can remember individual settings for up to four drivers).
In the S variants, they gain a base-pumping 14 speaker Bose stereo, additional electric driver seat adjustment, bigger alloys, Direct Adaptive Steering with lane control, sports tuned suspension (hybrid models) and sunroof.
Step up to S Premium and it gets a cool suite of safety gear such as radar cruise control, lane departure and blind spot warning, rear collision warning, around view monitor, predictive forward collision warning and emergency braking.
Servicing is capped and the pricing is reasonable, although the petrol requires dealership visits every six months.
Fuel consumption should be pretty frugal on both variants, although the hybrid and diesels we tested this week each returned about nine litres for every 100kmh with a combination of tough city and rural driving.
There is a pair of cup holders in the centre console and a spot in each door pocket for a bottle.
Three adults can fit across the back seat, although the transmission tunnel means centre leg room is impeded.
Hybrid models have reduced boot space due to the battery, and the seats don't fold 60-40 like they do in the diesel derivatives.
The Q50 is a striking sedan, and looks especially impressive with the largest 19-inch alloys.
It's unmistakable for its headlight "eyes" with LED running light eyebrows.
Infiniti buyers are taking a leap of faith. Depreciation remains an unknown and the brand is yet to gain widespread recognition.
The Q50 is a worthy entrant into the luxury realm. Plush cabin surrounds, a quiet ride and two dynamically capable powerplants ensure buyers won't be disappointed post-purchase.
Infiniti has also thrown a lot of kit at the sedan, and those searching for value will be hard pressed to find better in this genre.
Now it's just a matter of convincing those keeping up with the Joneses.
What matters most
What we liked: Impressive traction and grippy feeling with electronic steering system, refined interior finishes, quiet operation.
What we'd like to see: Greater brand recognition, more dealers (currently only three, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane).
Warranty and servicing: Backed by a four year 100,000km warranty with roadside assist. Petrol hybrid intervals are 10,000km or six months. Diesels are annually or 25,000km. Average price for hybrid is $512 each service for six years. Diesel is $818.40 over five years.
Model: Q50 Hybrid.
Details: Four-door mid-size rear wheel or all-wheel drive luxury sedan.
Engine: 3.5-litre V6 with 50kW electric motor generating combined maximum power of 268kW @ 7500rpm and peak torque of 546Nm, petrol 350Nm achieved @ 5000rpm.
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic.
Consumption: 6.8 litres/100km (rear-wheel drive, combined average); 7.2L/100km.
CO2: 159 gram/km; 169g/km.
Performance: 0-100kmh in 5.1 seconds; 5.4 seconds.
Bottom line plus on-roads: S $67,900; S Premium AWD $73,900.
Model: Q50 Diesel.
Details: Four-door mid-size rear-wheel drive luxury sedan.
Engine: 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel generating maximum power of 125kW @ 3200-4200rpm and 400Nm @ 1600-2800rpm.
Transmission: Seven-speed dual clutch automatic.
Consumption: 5.2 litres/100km (combined average).
Performance: 0-100kmh in 8.5 seconds.
Bottom line plus on-roads: GT $51,900 (promotional drive-away price until April of $55,900); S $57,900; S Premium $61,900.