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Renault Captur 1.2 2014 review

In the old days they used to jack up cars to steal the wheels. These days car makers do it to turn them into 4WDs and sell more cars, although the modern day off-roader has very little to do with going off road. For a start, most of them don't have four-wheel drive and even if they did, the majority of drivers would be unlikely to get them dirty.

Nope. It's got more to do with the coveted high driving position that makes it easier to navigate traffic and the increased cabin height that makes them easier to get in and out of.

And, just like cars, SUVs are shrinking. Demand for the large, hard core 4WDs is dropping as people gravitate towards smaller, softer "crossover" style vehicles that bridge the gap between the traditional car and the 4WD.

The latest wave is imminent. Smaller or sub-compact crossovers are about to hit town like VW's Taigun, the Holden Trax and its Opel stablemate Mokka, as well as a couple of French offerings - the 2008 from Peugeot and Captur from arch rival Renault.

Renault, whose star is in the ascendant is pretty excited about Captur's prospects that arrives early next year and we got a taste of things to come this week in France. Captur (no E) we're told is a combination of MPV, SUV and family hatch. One thing's for sure - it's no shrinking violet.

The bloke that designed the smiley Mazdas has jumped ship and his stamp is starting to emerge, with bright candy colours and a bold, new face dominated by a beefed up Renault badge.

VALUE

It's early days yet and Renault is still finalising prices and equipment levels. Trying to nail down what we will and will not be in our cars is no easy task. We can confirm there will be three trim levels but that the car's defining feature - the two-tone paint job - is in fact not standard, at least overseas.

Nor are we sure at this stage whether we'll get the full suite of multimedia components, with a large tablet-style computer screen, voice control for many functions and full internet connectivity on the car we drove - with access to more than 50 apps from the dedicated R-Link store.

The system is so smart it is even able to read out tweets and emails if you ask it to. Unfortunately, the infrastructure to support most of these features is not yet in place in Australia.

Prices are expected to kick off from less than $20,000 and it will be covered by a five-year warranty with fixed price servicing for the first three years, or three 15,000km services - whichever comes first (at $299 per service). 

TECHNOLOGY

The five-seat Captur is available in front-wheel drive only. We're getting two engines and neither of them is a diesel. There's a turbocharged, 900cc three cylinder unit that produces 66kW of power and 135Nm of torque and a turbocharged, 1.2-litre four cylinder engine with the latest direct injection technology that produces 88kW and 190Nm.

Both incorporate a maintenance free timing chain avoiding the need to replace costly timing belts. The first will be available with a five speed manual, the latter with a 6-speed dual clutch auto that Renault refers to as EDC (Efficient Dual Clutch).

Both power plants outgun Peugeot's direct competitor the 2008 but will be no match for the 1.4-litre turbo from Cruze that will power Trax and Mokka. The dash from 0-100km/h takes 12.9 and 10.9 seconds respectively, with a top speed in the 1.2 of 192km/h.

Captur has a 45-litre tank and runs on premium unleaded, with fuel consumption rated at 4.9 for the 900cc engine and 5.4 litres/100km for the 1.2, with an ECO button that is said to improve fuel consumption by as much as 10 per cent.

DESIGN

Based on the Clio hatch and built in Spain, it's flashy and curvaceous, especially with contrasting roof and other coloured embellishments. It's 4.1 metres long and weighs up to 1180kg, and is about 100kg heavier than the hatch.

Our test car was finished in a bright metallic orange with a black roof that had a orange graphic splashed across the roof, and was fitted with 17 inch alloys and 205/55 series tyres.

The clever rear seat slides 160mm fore and aft depending on your needs, with 75mm more legroom in the back than the hatch and a small luggage compartment that hides a second, lidded storage area underneath.

Left hand drive models get a large pull-out bin in place of a glove box but unfortunately there's no room for the bin with the steering wheel on our side of the car.

There's nine colours and three roof combinations from which to chose: black, white or orange - along with other colour-coded accents. Coloured highlights are also fitted inside, with zip-off seat covers on the top drawer model that can be washed or replaced.

SAFETY

The jury is still out over this one. It gets a full five stars from the Euro crash test people, but like the Clio comes with only four airbags. There's no curtain airbag to protect rear seat passengers. It will be interesting to see what the Australian NCAP organisation has to say about this one.

In all other ways it features the full arsenal of electronic aids including electronic traction and stability control as well as rollover intervention - but no reversing camera on the entry model.

In its defence, Renault has been at the forefront of safety for many years and points out that these type of vehicles rarely carry rear seat passengers - so the extra airbags are not warranted. They have however spent some time making sure the car is more pedestrian friendly in the event of an accident.

DRIVING

Surprise, surprise - we only got to drive the more powerful 1.2-litre model. It goes okay but left us hankering for more (like the 1.6-litre turbo from the Clio RS for instance). It would fit, but meeting emissions standards could be tricky, explained Captur's program manager Chrstophe Pejout.

A more powerful 1.2-litre engine would be easier and more likely, Pejout explained. But the Frenchman was at pains to point out that no decision had been made yet, although he conceded the matter is under consideration.

The 1.2 is more than adequate for city and highway cruising, in situations where it is not stressed - but lacks any real punch, especially down low. Changing gears manually via the shifter elicits a sharper response but drives up fuel consumption (change paddles are not fitted). Although the Renault Captur is rated at 5.4 litres/100km but we finished the the first day with 11.0 and the second day of driving with 8.1 litres/100km.

Captur is certainly no sports car and is not intended to be, sitting higher than the hatch with plenty of bounce and body roll from the comfort-orientated suspension. Having said this it remains confident even when pushed to the limit, with high levels of grip and refused to step out of line on the mountain roads encountered.

Surprisingly, though fitted with rear drums, the brakes feel up to the job. With testing limited to French, Swedish and Spanish roads it will be interesting to see how it adapts to our blacktop.

VERDICT

The striking design is a drawcard, but it's almost too pretty in some respects and likely to appeal more to women. The split is almost 50/50 in Europe, but then they have a penchant for some mighty funny clothes too. A bit more punch would be nice and a Renault Sport edition would be particularly welcome. Over to you Renault.

Pricing guides

$14,990
Based on 39 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
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$9,999
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Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Dynamique 1.2L, PULP, 6 SP AUTOMATED MAN $12,990 – 17,990 2015 Renault Captur 2015 Dynamique Pricing and Specs
Expression 0.9L, PULP, 5 SP MAN $10,989 – 15,998 2015 Renault Captur 2015 Expression Pricing and Specs
Expression + 1.2L, PULP, 6 SP AUTOMATED MAN $11,000 – 16,170 2015 Renault Captur 2015 Expression + Pricing and Specs