Renault's Captur crossover will mainly suit British buyers in dCi 90 diesel form. Jonathan Crouch drives it
Ten Second Review
The Renault Captur sits in a crowded market of compact crossover vehicles such as the Nissan Juke and the Peugeot 2008 but brings with it some genuinely clever interior touches and no small dose of style. Some super-economical engines also feature, particularly the dCi 90 diesel unit featured here. Expect the Captur to attract the sort of buyer who likes the way the Nissan Juke drives but who would prefer prettier styling.
Modern Renault is not a company steeped in innovation. When it has tried something genuinely innovative, the result has usually proven to be a commercial disaster. Think Safrane, Avantime, Vel Satis, Clio V6 and so forth. Where Renault really does tend to strike gold is by taking existing vehicle genres, then refining them and adding style and ability. The company's Renaultsport hot hatches are one example of this. Their award-winning MPVs are another. In both cases, the French brand borrowed from other companies' pioneering ideas but packaged the products so well they became bywords for excellence in their segments.
It hopes to do the same with the Captur, a small crossover vehicle that's spun off the same chassis that underpins its own Clio range and its partner Nissan's big-selling Juke. Renault might be late to this particular party but with the track record it has, you wouldn't bet against it making a solid fist of things. Let's try this car in the dCi 90 diesel form most UK buyers will want.
The Captur's pedigree can't really be questioned. Its underpinnings and engine choices are well proven, none more so than the Energy dCi 90 1.5-litre engine in the variant we tried. In a comparable Nissan Juke, this same unit puts out another 20bhp, but most buyers won't really notice the lack of those extra braked horses, given perfectly adequate performance figures here of rest to 62mph in around 13s on the way to a top speed of 106mph.
Don't get any designs on off-roading though. The Captur's not really into all that. You only need to look at how snugly the wheels fit into the arches to figure that out. There's no 4WD option and there won't be for the platform this car rides upon hasn't been designed to take it. In compensation, I'd expected that the engineers behind this car might have added in the kind of 'grip control' system you'd find on something like a Peugeot 2008 so that you can maximise front wheel traction on slippery surfaces. But Renault hasn't bothered with that either, instead equipping it with something that'll probably be of much more use on poor surfaces: decent ground clearance. With 200mm of ride height (the Peugeot, in contrast, has only 165mm), you'd be able to get a surprisingly long way on muddy tracks in this car if you equipped it with a proper set of winter tyres.
Design and Build
Don't worry - the Captur's nothing like as divisive as its cousin, the Nissan Juke. In fact it's a very clean design with some very slick detailing. Renault calls it an 'urban crossover with an unpretentious look' and that's pretty much spot on. Its footprint is small at just 4.12m long and 1.77m wide, while the 200mm ground clearance gives it a nicely elevated driving position.
The interior is the big draw here - take the zip-off seat coverings that can be washed or changed for different designs and colours. The removable, multi-position boot floor is reversible, with carpeting on one side and rubberised plastic on the other. Other practical touches? There's a sliding rear bench seat, the boot can take from 377 to 455-litres (depending on rear sliding seat position), you get a removable 1.6-litre bin located between the front seats and also a large lidded stowage area is set in the top of the dashboard. I also liked the elastic straps on the backs of the front seats that are a whole lot more stylish than the usual map pockets.
At the wheel, there's a dashboard lifted almost entirely from the Clio, yet another of those apparently sculpted in the shape of an aircraft wing and designed, so Renault says, to be 'modern, welcoming and occupant-friendly'. Well it's certainly modern. There's a rather pointless but fashionable engine start/stop button and shiny, jazzy cabin finishes that grab your attention and refuse to let it go, especially if you're in a car that's benefitted from (or been afflicted by) the huge array of trim personalisation that's possible.
Market and Model
A diesel Captur will cost you around £1,400 more than a petrol one - which means prices for the dCi90 variant starting from around £14,000. One trend that Renault has certainly signed up to with this car is that of personalisation. MINI really got the ball rolling with this one and Fiat's 500 and Citroen's DS3 quickly jumped on board. In the same vein, and the Captur features some interesting ways to minimalise the chances of ever seeing a vehicle identical to yours on the roads.
It's possible to specify two-tone paintwork to provide a contrast between the roof and pillars and the rest of the body. Plus you can change the colour of the wheels, specify decor graphics for the bonnet, roof or tailgate, or choose from a range of themed decor packs to decorate the steering wheel and upholstery, co-ordinating them with the exterior graphics.
Aside from these personalisation options, there are the light or black interior trim colours and the choice of several interior decor colours: grey, ivory, chrome, orange, blue or green for the air vent, centre console and loudspeaker surrounds. Then there's a choice of four non-removable upholsteries for the first two equipment levels. The second of these offers an optional range of eight 'Zip Collection' zipped seat covers, something you get as stand on the top equipment level.
Cost of Ownership
To reduce running costs, the Captur benefits from efforts Renault has invested in weight reduction, aerodynamics and high efficiency tyres. Its weight is the same as that of Clio III, even though it has a larger footprint. Whenever the cooling requirement reduces, powered flaps behind the bumper automatically close off the air intakes, reducing drag. Meanwhile, ducting inside the engine compartment channels the flow of air, again improving aerodynamic performance. Last but not least, ultra-low rolling resistance tyres reduce fuel consumption by up to three per cent.
As a driver, you can do your part too if you keep an eye on the gearshift indicator light and also use the so-called 'Driving Style indicator' that's offered on models fitted with the R-Link multimedia system. It's based around a light in the instrument display that aims to provide real-time feedback on the way you're driving based on your speed, gearshifts and deceleration. Green, yellow or orange lights with varying levels of brightness help adapt your driving style. And you can even analyse it all via an 'eco2' function in the R-Link system that can produce efficiency 'Trip reports' on each journey, can compare the efficiency of journeys conducted on the same route and even offers so-called 'Eco-coaching' with personalised driving tips.
Get it all right and you'll be looking at 76.4mpg and 95g/km from the dCi 90 engine in the Captur variant we're looking at here.
The success of the Renault Captur might well be best summed up by a friend of mine who test drove a Nissan Juke, liked it and then showed a photo of it to his wife who nixed the idea on the spot because of the way the car looked. The Renault shares many of the Juke's attributes but it's wrapped in a shape that's a good deal less divisive and also features an interior that's a lot smarter. We liked the Clio IV a great deal and the Captur looks like a good idea waiting to happen.
I'd have liked to have seen an all-wheel drive version with a diesel engine but that doesn't seem to be in Renault's plans and even with drive just going to the front wheels, the Captur looks a fun and appealing thing with a wholesomely practical side too. Cheeky, versatile and cost-effective in dCi 90 diesel form, with smart engine tech and a stylish interior, the Captur looks to have put quite a few of its immediate rivals in a tight spot.