Renault has been making quite an impact of late. First, they released the new Clio with it’s vastly updated looks to compete with the Fiesta. And recently, they’ve released their own mass-market SUV – the Captur – designed to go up against other city SUVs. The new Clio was a massive success in the competitive supermini space when it was first released back in 2012. Is the Captur going to be a similar success?
Let’s start with the good bits first. The Captur is essentially a Clio, but with an elevated driving position. It’s designed to take the city driving experience of a Clio and combine it with some off-road elements. The way that the Captur pinches ideas from the SUV market is smart. There’s clearly a demand from consumers for a more commanding view of the road from a car’s cabin. So the Captur provides this option for those who don’t like the low driving position of the Clio. In a sense, the Captur is, therefore, a response to the Nissan Juke. It’s a car that doesn’t have a large engine, but is big on the traits that have made SUVs so popular. Like the Juke, the Captur has also gone for a funky exterior. And this probably reflects that fact that both cars are essentially mixed breeds. They’re both a cross between SUV and supermini, making them unusual.
The Captur does well in the hardware department. The car comes well equipped with a range of high-tech kit. The entry-level model comes with all the basics like USB input, Bluetooth, and CD/radio unit. But if you go for the next level up, Renault throw in a LCD touch screen with GPS and radio. The R-link system allows you to integrate your phone into the car’s own computer systems. And this allows drivers to take calls, have their messages read out and monitor traffic in real time.
You might expect that the handling on the Captur would not be as good as a supermini because of its height. But Renault has worked their magic on the car, giving it the feel of a supermini, despite its form factor. That’s down to a combination of Renault tyres and a stiff body. Both combine in corners to make the car feel nippy and easy to control.
Despite all the highlights of the car, it is let down in a number of areas. One area is in performance. While it’s true that Renault has done an excellent job refining the engine of the Captur, it lacks overall power. The base model engine is a mere 0.9 litres. And thanks to the extra weight of the car, overtaking in this model is all but impossible. There are 1.2 litre and 1.5-litre variants, but these don’t produce anything like the power you need. That’s especially true when you’ve got two kids and a dog in the back.
The car does a lot better in braking performance, thanks to Renault’s safety priorities. And so if you do end up having to slam on the brakes, you can do so with a degree of confidence.
One of the biggest draws of the Captur is that it offers more space than its supermini brethren. It’s a great option for families looking to run a practical car for less money than a full-sized SUV. But here again, the Captur runs into problems. Unfortunately, there isn’t a huge amount of space for passengers in the back. And this issue seems to defeat the purpose of the vehicle. When Nissan released the Juke, it was designed to take the best aspects of both SUVs and superminis. And it did this very successfully by providing passengers with plenty of room. The Captur, on the other hand, does not do this. Legroom in the back is tight for adults. And so if you want to transport anybody other than children in the back, you’ll want to consider a bigger car.
Then, finally, there is the problem of the cabin quality. The cabin is well decked out with electronics and gadgets. But it isn’t really what you’d call luxurious. To the casual eye, it looks as it Renault has cut a few corners when it comes to the quality of the interior. Plastic is ubiquitous. And the glove compartment opens with a precariously flimsy hinge mechanism. Most of the controls in the interior have a cheap, plastic feel. And the dashboard lacks any kind of design finesse.