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Renault Captur 2015 review: road test

EXPERT RATING
7
Paul Gover road tests and reviews the 2015 Renault Captur Expression with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

Too little and too late. That's the story of the Renault Captur, the most charismatic of the new-age baby SUVs.

It's a very good looker with a refined feel that would have done well a year ago, when the Subaru XV was the only youthful city-car opponent for small SUVs such as the Nissan Dualis and Hyundai ix35.

But the delay from its original launch date and a lacklustre 900cc starter engine - as well as pricing from $22,990 - has given open space for the classy Mazda CX-3 and well-priced Honda HR-V, which are now huge hits with buyers.

Mazda delivered 814 copies of its CX-3 in March and Honda did 1081 with the HR-V, while Renault managed just 91 Captur sales. The re-named Nissan Qashqai is the class favourite, ahead of the Hyundai ix35, but the newcomers are splitting the decisions and it's only a question of time - for me - before the CX-3 takes class leadership. But what about the Captur?

It's closely tied to the baby Clio, both mechanically and visually, and it shares lots of parts right down to the well-shaped handles used to close the rear hatch.

It's a car I drove and liked - a lot - at a European preview, and I'm still a fan of the shape and the comfort of the seats and the headlamps and the way it drives. It's not huge inside, but one of the trendy new double-decker boots with a lift-out false floor means reasonable load space and the back seats are set a little higher than the fronts to improve the view.

Equipment is what I expect for the size and price, including that essential rear-view camera, and the infotainment screen is well sized and easy to use. A space-saver spare would normally earn a cross, but weight and space are a premium in all the small SUVs.

The starter motor only has 66 kiloWatts and, even in a car weighing only 1135 kilograms, it's not enough

If that was the end of the story it could be 'happily ever after', but it's not. The base price for the Captur is $22,990 and that means a wheezy three-cylinder petrol engine and a five-speed manual gearbox. Australia is an automatic landscape, which means you have to pay at least $25,990, although the up-sell brings the benefit of an 88 kW four-cylinder engine.

The starter motor only has 66 kiloWatts and, even in a car weighing only 1135 kilograms, it's not enough. It takes all of 13 seconds to accelerate to 100km/h, which might be fine on crowded European roads but means the Captur really struggles against the Australian traffic and even pulling safely onto an 80km/h byway is a challenge.

It's not that I'm against small-capacity three-cylinder engines, as I've driven one in the classy new Peugeot 308 and really liked it. A six-speed manual might improve things in the Captur, but there is no plan. Still, the shift is light and the fuel economy and range is good.

It's impossible to write about the Captur without talking about safety, since it would have been only a four-star ANCAP car in 2014 because - like the Clio - there are no rear curtain airbags. Rule changes mean it's a controversial five-star performer in 2015, based on test results and not just a tick for the back bags.

I have seen the actual NCAP side-impact crash car in Paris, complete with a baby capsule and booster in the back seat, and I'm convinced the child protection is fine without the airbags thanks to good design and high-strength steel in the body. And Renault has lots of numbers to show the risk in a side impact for a rear-seated child is tiny. Bottom line? I'm happy to put my five-year old in the back of the Captur.

Verdict

I'm less happy about recommending the Captur after driving the CX-3 and HR-V. It looks good and the country-road ride and compliance is great, there is enough space in the boot and it's fine for a modern family with one or two youngsters. But I cannot get past the engine and the five-speeder and the price. No Tick.

Pricing Guides

$14,560
Based on 38 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$11,990
Highest Price
$17,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Dynamique 1.2L, PULP, 6 SP AUTOMATED $11,990 – 16,880 2015 Renault Captur 2015 Dynamique Pricing and Specs
Expression 0.9L, PULP, 5 SP MAN $11,990 – 17,990 2015 Renault Captur 2015 Expression Pricing and Specs
Expression + 1.2L, PULP, 6 SP AUTOMATED $12,760 – 16,940 2015 Renault Captur 2015 Expression + Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7