Lumping the EX35 in with other “small cars” is a bit of a stretch. We know the Mini Cooper is small because you have to fold yourself into a ball to get inside. And the Smart Fortwo is so small you can use it as a doorstop. The Infiniti EX35 is not exactly small, since it measures about 15 feet long and weighs 3,764 pounds. Yet, the vehicle has a few important upgrades for the 2011 model year and a couple of new colors. It is also just a blast to drive, especially if you use the manual shift. The fact that Infiniti offers several tech features as standard offerings makes the deal even sweeter, even if we ended up liking the sportier Volvo C30 a bit more.
Actually, the EX35 is not really in the same small category as the C30 either. It’s more of a crossover-hatchback hybrid that maybe falls in line better with something like the BMW X3 – and frankly looks very similar. Yet, inside, the EX35 drives like it is meant for careening down some lonely country lane and taking corners at fairly ludicrous speeds. (Ahem, not that we would know anything about that.)
Refined inside and out
It all starts with the interior. Like the Infiniti M37x, the EX35 has that cocooning cockpit feel. You slip in and the car just feels right. There are faux maple wood accents and a leather steering wheel and shift knob, something that you may not notice right away but might appreciate compared to the hard plastic used on so many other cars. The lighting inside, especially the “electroluminescent” gauges, have that extra luxury look that makes the car worth the higher price tag (our test car is priced at $46,605 but the base price is $35,150 – or much closer to the X3.)
The exterior styling is not as pronounced as the M37x we tested. It’s only slightly bulbous and has more of a hatchback look, more in line with the Nissan Rogue. That’s a style that many people find appealing – it is new and fresh. Indeed, during our test, several people walked up and said they loved the style. A few tried to pry the car keys away (not really) and a few just smiled in approval.
Pick a speed, any speed
We’re jumping right to the driving experience here, because that is the real draw with this sporty hatchback. Interestingly, even though we drove the 2010 EX35 around this time last year, we had more fun in the 2011 model. Maybe it is because Infiniti fine-tuned the engine. It now has a 7-speed transmission. From a standing position, the EX35 doesn’t exactly lurch forward, and we’re not going to say the upper gears pack as much power as, say, the BMW 5-Series. Truth be told, switching from a 5-speed to a 7-speed might be a technical improvement. The real reason the EX35 begs you to drive fast is due to the cockpit feel. Like the C30, you feel one with the car as you twist around a corner or beat the next soccer mom to a parking spot.