► Optional 4x4-i system impressive
► Smooth delivery from 1.6 diesel
► Comfy drive, but cheap interior
In a truly admirable feat of ‘if you can’t beat ’em’ mentality, Boulogne appears to have ripped off the spectacularly popular, British-built Qashqai.
Alright, perhaps that’s a little unfair. Both Qashqai and Kadjar are part of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, which has been sharing bits and bobs for years, and this new compact SUV, though conceptually identical, is hardly a game of copy-and-paste.
Just look at it. We must be staring at one of the better-looking cars in the SUV market, even if it’s based on the very same Common Module Family (CMF) architecture as Nissan’s pile-’em-high best-seller.
Those voluptuous Renault lines appear to have come of age, the playful Clio growing gracefully in all directions to become the five-seater SUV you see before you. Silly name aside, we reckon it’s a bit of a stunner. Can it really hope to take scalps from the Original Crossover, though? Actually, it’s not unlikely.
What's the Kadjar like to drive then?
The 1.6 engine (also found in Megane and Scenic) is a particular highlight here. You can tell it’s built in France: it’s a smooth diesel with admirable shove, but it’s also seriously quiet when you’re sitting in the cabin. In fact, the interior of a Kadjar is an entirely serene place to find yourself. It’s eerily devoid of unwanted bumps, rumbles and rattles.
That’s testament to the CMF underpinnings, but it’s just a shame the gearbox has such a long throw between cogs, and some lateral play once you’ve found the desired ratio.
In fact, this is a car that isn’t going to please the keen driver in any of us. Show it a corner at anything higher than walking pace and the numb (yet accurate) steering and wallowing bodyroll are impossible to ignore. It isn’t uncomfortable though: those seats are a Renault design and frankly brilliant. Have them covered in leather, cloth or both; whichever way they’re upholstered, they’re beautifully bolstered.
Our version also had Renault’s part-time 4x4-i system installed, capable of sending up to 50% of the available torque to the rear wheels. That means silly levels of grip and soft-road capability. Very few of you will buy it, though, according to Renault’s sales projections.
And the interior?
To really get the Kadjar you’ll also need to look past the poor quality of plastics used in quite visible places around the cabin. Frustratingly this scratch-easy substance adorns many places occupants are going to touch. We dread to think how the surround for the door handles, air vents and the seven-inch screen for the R-Link 2 infotainment set-up are going to look after three years and 60,000 miles of clumsy, grubby fingered ‘family fun’.
Still, the multi-media system deserves some applause, if only for boasting a screen which you barely have to brush to operate. That should cut down on un-sightly fingerprints, at the very least. And it’s quick, too.
So, a resolutely decent fist of things from Renault. Lessons have been learnt from competitors both home and away, and the result is a likeable SUV that’s stylishly different yet fashionably familiar in all the important ways. Which makes it a worthy rival to our very own – and Renault-Nissan’s very own – Qashqai.