A new SUV battlefield is about to open in Australia as Renault confirms local sales of its swish new Captur crossover.
The Captur is smaller than the current compact contenders - including the Honda CR-V, Hyundai ix35, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4 - and the French brand believes it will also be a hit with younger shoppers.
It is aiming for a sub-$20,000 starting price. Its most-likely rival is the Subaru XV, although Nissan is also coming soon with its funky Juke. The Captur is not a totally-done-deal yet, but everything points to sales early next year as the car is previewed in production form at the Geneva motor show.
"The first half of 2014 is when it's looking likely for Australia," the managing director of Renault Australia, Justin Hocevar, reveals to Carsguide.
"Our business plan for Australia is looking very positive. We've still got a few hurdles to clear, but I don't think any are insurmountable. I had some very positive meetings last week in Paris."
The Captur has been converted almost directly from an edgy concept car designed by its new styling chief, one-time Mazda man Laurens van den Acker. Its name has also been brought along for showrooms.
Renault believes it's a city-focussed crossover and it definitely hits the same keys as the successful Range Rover Evoque, although the French brand is being more practical with a sliding rear bench seat, a multi-position boot floor, an 11-litre drawer-style glovebox and a range of infotainment systems including the R-Link approach to connectivity.
It even weights the same as the latest Clio 3 to boost its efficiency. "As the brand's first urban crossover, Captur combined all the advantages of the MPV, SUV and family hatchback," says van den Acker.
The Captur is based on the latest Clio compact so it's only 4.1 metres long and 1.7 metres wide, but it rolls on either 16 or 17-inch alloys and has jacked up suspension for the getaway look. Renault describes the cabin space as "generous".
Keyless entry and hill-start assist are standard across the range, but Renault Australia is yet to confirm equipment including zip-off seat covers, a rear camera or the R-Link system.
The mechanical focus at Geneva is on the EDC dual-clutch gearbox and turbo petrol 90 engine which gives 4.9 litres/100km, but there are two petrol and two diesel engines for the Captur. Hocevar is confident the Captur will open a new SUB category, based on its size and price.
"There's not a lot there in that size, especially in Australia. It's a light-class crossover, smaller than a Nissan Dualis and more like a Nissan Juke or Opel Mokka," he says.
"We haven't touched on the price yet. But, based on what's in the market, it's highly likely that the entry model will be in the very high teens or early $20,000s."
This reporter is on Twitter @paulwardgover