Renault Kadjar SUV (2019) review: blink and you'll miss it

Published:07 December 2018

Renault Kadjar
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

By Tom Goodlad

Senior reviewer on our sister website Parkers

By Tom Goodlad

Senior reviewer on our sister website Parkers

► Facelifted Renault Kadjar driven
► All-new engine line-up and tweaked trims for 2019
► Put to the test both on- and off-road 

Crossover buyers don’t tend to take their cars off-road, do they? Whether they do or not, it’s refreshing to be given the chance to test something with SUV styling on some genuinely rough roads with holes, rocks, ruts and hills – which is exactly what we’ve been doing in the facelifted Renault Kadjar.

Granted, some of the Sardinian tracks we drove on weren’t too challenging judging by some of the locals’ cars strewn across the landscape, but you get the idea. And with a dedicated small off-road course to tool around on, it’s nice to know your family SUV can get you out of one or two sticky situations if you really needed it to.

Back in the real world, the main news here is that Renault has updated its popular Kadjar crossover with a fresh look to fall into line with the rest of the range, tweaked the interior and thrown some extra kit and new engines at it. 

What are the changes outside?

Renault Kadjar

The first thing you’ll notice is an updated look. Subtle tweaks to the grille at the front, slightly redesigned headlamp units and new bumpers with more chrome and different foglights are present and correct, and it’s mimicked at the rear with new bumpers and full LED lamps. 

Elsewhere on the styling front, there are three new colours available including a rather fetching green, as well as a vivid blue on higher-spec S-Edition and GT Line models, as well as some new alloy wheels. The trim levels have been tweaked too – kicking off with the Kadjar Play, moving up to Iconic, S-Edition and GT Line, while the engines available are all-new, as well. 

What’s under the bonnet?

Here you’ll find a new 1.3-litre turbo petrol found in the Qashqai and Merc A-Class in a choice of 138 or 158bhp forms, both available with a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed EDC dual-clutch. If you prefer diesel power, there’s an efficient Blue dCi 115 or a Blue dCi 150.

The former comes with a choice of transmissions like the petrols, while the more powerful unit is available in 2WD or 4WD forms. 

Any big changes inside?

No. The changes inside aren’t quite as extensive as the rest of the car, but Renault says it’s listened to customers’ demands and made a few tweaks here and there. 

The touchscreen is now slightly bigger, brighter and easier to use thanks to a design that’s now flush with the centre console with some touch-sensitive controls to the side (what’s wrong with a good old volume knob?), as well as more upmarket-looking air-con controls, less of a mish-mash of pieces of trim, bigger door bins and illuminated window switches. Exciting. There are also some new seat trims and an extendable seat base to boost comfort. Job done. 

How does the 2019 Renault Kadjar drive?

Renault Kadjar

We drove the TCe 140 manual – which is expected to one of the big sellers in the Kadjar range (around 70% of buyers go for a petrol currently) – and it impressed. Its 138bhp is delivered smoothly and quietly and, thanks to a healthy 177lb/ft of torque, it’s more than capable of completing overtaking manoeuvres without too much careful planning.

You’ll need to make good use of the six-speed manual gearbox on twisting, turning roads, though. The gearbox is fine. And if that sounds vague and dull, that’s because there’s not much more to say about the car’s gearshift. It can feel a little loose and vague switching between ratios, and the gearlever itself feels a little cheap.

The action is smooth enough and you’d do well to miss a gear, but it’s not as positive as the shift you’ll find in a VW Tiguan or SEAT Ateca. Rev this TCe 140 right out and it can become a little vocal, but a practical five-seat SUV isn’t really the kind of car to be doing that in. What’s more valuable to Kadjar buyers is the fact that it’s easy to drive – a smooth performer that’s refined at speed and around town. 

It also rides well – even on larger 19-inch wheels of higher-spec models. Our off-road jaunt didn’t upset things too much, and over broken road surfaces and speed bumps it remained composed. The same can be said of its cornering ability, remaining remarkably in-shape with impressive grip and well-contained bodyroll. 

What’s the EDC auto like?

The EDC transmission is the same as you’ll find in outgoing Kadjar models, and it makes for a more relaxed ride. Paired with the petrol motor – it makes most sense around town or sitting on the motorway. It makes its way up through the gears smoothly and without hesitation, so there are few complaints here. 

However, if you want to make the most of a twisty road, flicking it into manual mode won’t prove especially rewarding. You’ll need to nudge the old-looking gearlever back and forth to move up and down the gears, and it can be a little delayed in doing so. 

Either way, despite the Kadjar’s impressive body control on a twisty section of tarmac, it makes sense to drive this car as intended, without making the kids in the back feel queasy, spoiling those nice new seats. 

Is it a good family car?

Renault Kadjar

The facelifted Kadjar is just as practical as the pre-facelift model. That means a generous amount of space front and back, the option of a large panoramic roof to entertain everyone and a generous load area with modular boot floor to adjust the boot height or divide the load space in two. Renault’s also made the door bins a bit bigger than before, while the rear seats can be folded by flicking a switch in the boot rather than walking around and doing it from the side door. Small changes that make enough of a difference every day to make the Kadjar stand out a little more. 

Verdict

The Kadjar isn’t the most exciting car out there, but the changes made for its mid-life update ensure it’s still a practical family offering among the vast swathes of crossover competition. 

There’s also the added bonus of genuine kerb appeal thanks to its sharp looks, a quality feel inside (those new Alcantara seats are genuinely very good indeed) and a range of new engines that are refined and very well-suited to the car. The petrol engines previously spoiled things for the Kadjar – now they’re the pick of the range. 

Renault Kadjar

Specs

Price when new: £20,595
On sale in the UK: January 2019
Engine: 1,349cc turbocharged petrol, 138bhp @ 5,000rpm, 177lb/ft @ 1,600rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance: 10.4secs 0-62mph, 126mph top speed, 47.9mpg, 134g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1,442kg, steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4449/1836/1607mm

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By Tom Goodlad

Senior reviewer on our sister website Parkers

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