The new Renault Captur is based on the Clio supermini platform, but offers an elevated ride height and quasi-SUV looks. It's aiming to take a slice out of the fast-growing compact-crossover car market, but is it talented enough beneath the funky garnish? Read on for the full CAR verdict.
What sort of first impression does the Renault Captur make?
Were this car to metamorphose into a dinner guest, you might well think twice about sitting next to it. There’s only so much of the chucklesome, balloon-animal-tying-whilst-yodelling-Captain-Pigeon behaviour inevitably attendant to the wearing of a deafening waistcoat and a revolving bow tie a man can take before reaching for the service revolver.
Clearly, the good burghers at Renault have taken a long, lingering (if somewhat late) look at the sales figures Citroën has extracted from its DS3 merely by dint of painting the roof a different colour, and decided to cop a copycat feel of the B-SUV market.
So Renault’s Captur ‘Ta-Daaah’s to centre stage as Timmy Mallett made metal; a machine trying so hard to entertain that it’s something of a surprise to discover that the horn does not replicate an Unterseeboot ‘dive’ klaxon, the engine does not backfire with the passing of each telegraph pole and the bloody doors do not, in fact, ceremoniously blow off to mark the start of every journey…
And that’s a perfectly good idea. Because –whilst Radio 2 keeps us company in the wait for the Ford EcoSport, Peugeot 2008 and (ulp) Fiat 500X – crossovers such as Dr Frankenstein’s first punt at a bulldog, the Nissan Juke, and the John Goodman of the Mini range (without the charm), the Countryman, currently dominate the segment. So, undeniably extrovert in isolation albeit, in this company the Captur merely adds another dollop of Marmite to the mix.
At 100mm taller and some 100kg heavier than the Clio on which it is based, the front-wheel-drive-only Captur is all about personalisation. A range of largely mouth- or, depending on your perspective, eye-watering colour schemes incorporate that all-important alternative paint-pot roof, funk to funky graphics including the biological first, ‘insect spine’, and a heavy-handedness with chrome.
What's the Renault Captur like inside?
On board, credit must be given for the lively exterior colour-match detailing, and zip-off seat covers which, presumably, must all go in the washing machine together to avoid uneven fade rates. A resounding raspberry, however, targets the shiny plastic on the lower half of the helm, which makes it uncomfortable to hold, marring an otherwise fine driving position some 10cm higher than the Clio’s.
Housed in A centre console aping the mouth of a surprised parlour maid in a saucy Victorian romp, Renault’s optional, £450 R-Link infotainment system features an integrated 7in touch-screen, backed up by voice control, which combines TomTom sat-nav with radio, telephone and Internet connectivity.
The R-Link Store already features some 50 apps, including, erm, a choice of virtual engine sounds to play through the speakers. Fast and intuitive at first fondle, the system will, however, require an ongoing subscription for some features.
Beneath this melded chintz of concept car and occasional clunk lies a remarkably spacious proposition with occasional practicality issues. The rear bench seat slides to offer either ample legroom or additional loadspace; the latter position, unfortunately, realising a hungry gap between the seat backs and a double-sided false floor boasting carpet or rubber finish and decent additional storage below.
A range of plastic divots and undersized cupholders behind the gear lever smacks of afterthought, and the wide-spaced Art Deco sunburst of elastic straps on the front seatbacks will restrain little save a rampant clematis. The vast, 11-litre glovebox which slides open like a filing cabinet draw is, however, excellent … and not fitted to right-hand-drive cars.
What are the Renault Captur's engine options?
Three engines, all turbocharged, are available; a 0.9-litre, three-cylinder, 89bhp and 1.2-litre, four-cylinder, 118bhp petrol units and a 1.5-litre, 89bhp turbodiesel. With the UK sales-monstering three-pot unavailable, I sampled both four-cylinder engines.
Renault’s torquey, stalwart, 1.5-litre turbodiesel needs no introduction. Mated to a five-speed manual it does exactly what it has always said on the tin, equating to 62mph in 12.6 seconds, just 106mph flat-out, a claimed 76.4mpg and 96g/km of CO2.
What's the Renault Captur like on the road?
Thus armed, the Captur makes for a largely pleasant drive hallmarked by both a surprising reluctance to understeer and a startling reluctance to settle. The stiff springing required to elicit a cornering alacrity almost unseemly in a small SUV has been wedded to damping that lacks sophistication.
The upshot is inconsistency, both in body control and ride quality, with a deal of Grade A crashing about accompanying poor road surfaces. Most families would surely sacrifice a chunk of that cornering prowess for a touch more waft in the cruise.
Browse Renault Captur for sale
How about the 1.2-litre petrol-powered Captur?
Unfathomably, given a minimal, 10kg weight difference, the new 1.2-litre turbo unit mated to a six-speed, twin-clutch, automatic gearbox proves an altogether more soothing proposition, almost as if the undercarriage ups its game, settling down a tad more in response to the oleaginous nature of the drivetrain. Further adjudication on crappy English roads is essential, but as things stand it is, inexplicably, the better drive…
Undoubtedly up there with the anchovy in the taste-polarising stakes, the Captur is as in your face as a drunk on a rush-hour tube train. It’s also gently personable, admirably spacious and adequately practical. It demands attention not only for the high-class-escort-agency levels of personalisation it offers, but also for blatantly competitive pricing – £12,495 to £18,895 –that makes it a Morecambe Bay holiday cheaper than the Juke and a Maldives honeymoon less expensive than the Countryman.