Renault, like its French rival Peugeot, didn't quite nail the first attempt at a compact SUV. The first Captur was a Clio with some ride height and a new body and didn't quite make the cut for Australian buyers. Partly because the original engine was borderline anaemic but secondly, it was really small.
When you're French, you have more work to do in the Australian market. I don't make the rules, which is a shame for a number of reasons but my colleagues seem to think it's better this way.
Anyway, I didn't mind the old Captur but was well aware of its shortcomings. This new one - on paper at least - looks far more promising.
More market-appropriate pricing, more space, a better interior and lots more tech, the second-generation Captur even rolls on a whole new platform, promising more space and better dynamics.
All Captur's come with full LED headlights. (Intens variant pictured)
Irritatingly, if you want the extra safety that's standard on the Zen and Intens, you have to spend another $1000 on the 'Peace of Mind' package, which also adds electric folding mirrors and takes you to $29,190, $1600 short of the Zen which has all this and more.
So think carefully about a Life with a package. I would put a modest sum of money on the idea that few people will buy the Life.
The Captur is available with either a 7.0 or 10.25-inch digital dash. (Intens variant pictured)
Step up to the Zen and for $30,790 you get the extra safety gear, walk-away auto-locking, a heated leather steering wheel, auto wipers, two-tone paint option, climate control, keyless entry and start (with the Renault key card) and wireless phone charging.
Then there's a big jump to the Intens, a whole five grand to $35,790. You get 18-inch wheels, a bigger 9.3-inch touchscreen in portrait mode, sat nav, BOSE sound system, 7.0-inch digital dashboard display, LED interior lighting, 360-degree cameras and leather seats.
The Intens wears 18-inch alloy wheels. (Intens variant pictured)
The 'Easy Life' package is available on the Intens and adds auto parking, side parking sensors, auto high beam, a bigger 10.25-inch digital dash and frameless rear vision mirror for $2000.
And you can get the 'Orange Signature' package for no bucks. Which adds orange stuff to the interior and deletes the leather, which isn't necessarily a terrible thing. Not because the leather is bad, I just prefer cloth.
The new Renault touchscreens are good and include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but I can only speak for the bigger 9.3-inch system which is similar to the Megane's.
The Intens scores a larger 9.3-inch touchscreen. (Intens variant pictured)
You get digital radio on top of AM/FM radio and six speakers (Life, Zen) or nine speakers (Intens).
These prices are more competitive than the older car. That seems fair because there's a lot more in it and prices are inexorably creeping northwards at the other brands.
Missing out of the range is the plug-in hybrid version, which is sad for a couple of reasons.
The first is that first-mover advantage could work in Renault's favour and secondly, its French rival Peugeot is pricing its new 2008 way higher than the Captur, so a PHEV could almost be cheaper - one imagines - than a top-spec, petrol-only 2008.
Perhaps Renault is going to wait and see what happens when Alliance partner Mitsubishi drops the Eclipse Cross PHEV, which I think will do quite well.
Is there anything interesting about its design? 8/10
I had to twice check this was the new Captur, but really, it's just the profile that is most like the older car. The new one is a bit bolder and less jacked-up Clio.
The Life and Zen look pretty much the same apart from the Zen's (optional) two-tone paint jobs but the Intens looks pretty classy with its bigger wheels and additional materials changes.
The new Captur looks less like a jacked-up Clio. (Intens variant pictured)
The new interior is a vast improvement over the old one. The plastics are way nicer and they have to be because hardly anyone has plastics as bad as that old car anymore.
The new one has more comfortable seats, too, and I really like the revised dash. It feels much more modern, is better-designed and the little paddle for the audio controls has finally been updated and is way easier to use. It also clears the steering wheel of buttons, which I quite like.
The new Captur has more comfortable seats compared to before. (Intens variant pictured)
How practical is the space inside? 8/10
You get a massive boot to start with - bigger even than the fabled 408 litres of the Honda HR-V. Renault starts you with 422 litres and then adds underfloor storage. When you push the seats forward and include the hidey-hole under the false floor, you end up with 536 litres.
With the rear seats in place, boot space is rated at 422 litres. (Intens variant pictured)
Of course, that sliding will affect rear legroom. When the rear seats are all the way back, this is a lot more comfortable than the old car, with more head and knee room, although it's no match for the Seltos or HR-V in that respect. Not far off, though.
The rear seats are able to slide forwards and backwards. (Intens variant pictured)
Fold the 60/40 split rear seats down and you have 1275 litres, a not-quite-flat floor and 1.57m long floor space, 11cm more than before.
Fold the rear seats flat and cargo capacity grows to 1275 litres. (Intens variant pictured)
The French approach to cupholders continues. There are just two in this car, but they are at least useful rather than the frustratingly small ones in the out-going model.
Rear seat passengers don't get cupholders or an armrest, but there are bottle holders in all four doors and - joy of joys - air vents in the back. Bit weird to have no armrest even in the top-spec Intens, though.
If you want blind spot monitoring and reverse cross-traffic alert on the entry-level, you have to step up to the Zen or pay $1000 for the Peace of Mind package.
Given the marginal rear visibility and the ordinary resolution on the reversing camera, the omission of RCTA is annoying. I know Kia and various other rivals offer the safety as extra, but this is an important feature.
The capped-price servicing runs for five years/150,000km. That suggests you can cover up to a massive 30,000km per year and only have to service it once, which is exactly what Renault reckons you can do. So yeah - service intervals are genuinely set at 12 months/30,000km.
The Captur is covered by Renualt's five year/unlimited kilometre warranty. (Intens variant pictured)
The first three and then fifth services each cost $399, while the fourth is almost double at $789, which is a solid jump.
So, over the five years you'll be paying a total of $2385 for an average of $596 per year. If you do a ton of kilometres, that will really work for you because most turbo-engined cars in this segment have much shorter service intervals, around 10,000km or 15,000km if you're lucky.
What's it like to drive? 7/10
Straight up, I will remind you of my fondness for French cars and the way they go about their business. Renault has been on strong form for some time now in the ride and handling department, even on tiny cars with rear torsion beam suspension.
Where the previous Captur was let down was a common French failing - weak engines that work fine in the European market but don't go down so well in Australia.
Even though I quite liked the old Captur, I got why nobody bought it (relatively speaking). This new one feels good from the second you park your bum in the driver's seat, with good, comfortable support, great vision forward (less so back, but that was the same in the old one) and the steering wheel even has a subtle flattened edge at the top if you have to set the wheel high.
The 1.3-litre turbo is a bit grumbly and gristly on start-up and never really loses a slightly odd, reedy harmonic coming through the firewall, but it's a strong performer for its size and works (mostly) well with the seven-speed dual-clutch.
Renault's old six-speeder was quite good and the seven works just fine except for a slight hesitation from step-off and is sometimes reluctant to kick down.
Despite being fun to drive, the Captur's ride is almost excellent. (Intens variant pictured)
I blame fuel-saving rather than ham-fisted calibration, because when you punch the weird flower button and switch to Sport mode, the Captur comes good.
With a more aggressive transmission and a slightly livelier throttle, the Captur is much happier in this mode and so was I. The steering is light and direct and there's no real pretence in the suspension for off-road use which is fine by me because it means it's great fun on the road.
It kind of feels like a GT-Line version rather than out of the box standard tune. I don't know if there's a softer version available, but if there is, I'm glad Renault Australia chose this one.
And despite being fun to drive, the ride is almost uniformly excellent. Like any car with torsion beams, it's unsettled by big potholes or those horrible rubber speed bumps, but so is an air-suspended German car.
It's also fairly quiet except when you've got your foot to the floor and even then it's barely an inconvenience rather than a genuine problem.
The second-generation Captur's arrival coincides with the brand's transfer to a new distributor and a fiercely competitive market still bruised and battered from a shocking 2020.
It certainly looks the part and is also priced the part. Without a doubt, the mid-spec Zen is the one to go for unless you want the extra electro-trickery available on the Intens, which is quite a lot more expensive.
Setting aside my fondness for French cars, this one looks and feels more competitive in the compact SUV market. If you cover a lot of ground every year - or want the option to do so - you should really take a second look at the servicing structure, too, because in the Captur 30,000km in a year means a single service rather than three in turbo-engined rivals. That might be a bit niche, but even over the life of a car where you average 15,000km per year, it will make a difference.
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