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Renault Kadjar 2020 review: Zen

French and funky, Renault's Kadjar has the style to compete with its Korean and Japanese rivals

The Renault Kadjar is a small to mid-size SUV which seems to be a growing category.

These cars are smaller than a mid-size SUV (think Mazda CX-5 and Toyota RAV4) but larger than a small SUV (think Hyundai Kona and Toyota C-HR). So you’ll still have a higher clearance off the road, with a little more room to accommodate growing families

I test drove the Kadjar Zen which is in the middle of the range and costs $32,990, before on-road costs. None of the Kadjar range has AWD, so consider them suburban vehicles which also work well as second cars, if you’re done with a regular hatchback.

Here’s how the Kadjar Zen performed in real life with my family of four, for this week’s family review. 

How does it look?

There is a certain amount of French style in the exterior with a well designed shape, and it’s still funky enough to compete with its Korean and Japanese rivals with cool looking headlights and grille, while still keeping it’s European design credibility. It’s a great fusion of the two very different styles. 

  • The shape of the exterior has a French style to it. The shape of the exterior has a French style to it.
  • The Kadjar is on the larger side for what's generally considered a small SUV. The Kadjar is on the larger side for what's generally considered a small SUV.
  • The Zen comes standard with front and rear fog lights. The Zen comes standard with front and rear fog lights.
  • The Zen has cool looking headlights and grille. The Zen has cool looking headlights and grille.
  • Standard equipment on the Zen includes 17-inch two-tone alloy wheels. Standard equipment on the Zen includes 17-inch two-tone alloy wheels.
  • The Zen is a great fusion of two different styles. 

The Zen is a great fusion of two different styles.

Inside keeps up the good looks. There is a lot of plastic on the dash and doors but it doesn’t come off as cheap which is down to the styling.

Inside keeps up the good looks but is a lot of plastic on the dash and doors. Inside keeps up the good looks but is a lot of plastic on the dash and doors.

The seats are fabric and the quilted finish gives them a premium feel, while the faux leather trim keeps things practical. The steering wheel is also faux leather but actually feels great and it’s also a good shape with a slightly flat bottom.

The centre console is well designed, with glossy black to help lift the overall design. It feels good to sit in and drive on the road. 

How does it drive?

It’s a fairly easy car to drive, with an effortless on-road experience that is pleasantly uneventful.

It has a 1.3-litre turbo-petrol engine which was perfectly adequate on my week of pure suburban driving in between work, the school run and the grandparents.

The Zen has a 1.3-litre turbo-petrol engine. The Zen has a 1.3-litre turbo-petrol engine.

And though I didn’t manage to get out to any highways this week, I found it quick enough on the take off and quite agile as well. 

The steering turns easily and the handling was good on the roads I drove it on. It’s a great car to park, with its dimensions helping it squeeze into tighter spots, and the small turning circle made U-turns a regular event rather than three-point-turns which is the type that actually impacts your everyday driving. 

The steering turns easily and the handling is good. The steering turns easily and the handling is good.

It has a good reverse parking camera but it’s cut almost in half on a small-ish screen anyway, to share the view with a visual parking sensor - these don’t particularly make sense to me because there are forward and rear parking sensors that beep when you get too close to something anyway, and it just serves to make the reverse visual smaller. 

How spacious is it?

The Kadjar is surprisingly spacious for this size car and definitely leans more towards a mid-size SUV in the interior. The front has a good amount of leg and head space even for the taller members of my family and space between the passenger seat and driver’s seat is also ample.

My children, aged six and eight, had plenty of space in the back seat. At 161cm I had lots of room in the rear and there was enough space between my knees and the seat in front of me that it will fit taller adults and teenagers easily. I couldn’t get three car seats in the back, though this is typical of this category. 

There is plenty of space in the back seat, but three car seats don't fit. There is plenty of space in the back seat, but three car seats don't fit.

The boot is on the larger side for a small to mid-size SUV. At 408 litres it’s bigger than a Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross but smaller than a Nissan Qashqai.

  • The boot is on the larger side for a small to mid-size SUV at 408 litres. The boot is on the larger side for a small to mid-size SUV at 408 litres.
  • The CarsGuide pram fits well in the boot. The CarsGuide pram fits well in the boot.
  • If you do need some extra room on occasion you can flip down the back seats. If you do need some extra room on occasion you can flip down the back seats.

It fits the CarsGuide pram well and you’ll still have a little bit of room leftover for school bags or groceries. So while it’s not huge, it’s still decent and you can get away with it for a family of four.

How easy is it to use every day?

The Kadjar is a good height off the ground for small children to climb into, and an easy height to lift things in and out of the boot. 

There are two cupholders up the front and even a tiny spot for your espresso (very French). You’ll also find a large centre storage bin, a small spot for keys and a phone and bottle holders in each door.

There are two cupholders up the front and even a tiny spot for your espresso. There are two cupholders up the front and even a tiny spot for your espresso.

Rear passengers get two cupholders in the centre armrest and most impressively, rear air vents which are a rarity in this category and especially in this price range. They were very much appreciated on our week of driving through a hot Sydney summer. 

How safe is it?

The Kadjar has airbags for driver and front passenger and side curtain airbags that extend to the back row.

Advanced safety is limited, with the Zen model getting city-speed auto emergency braking, lane departure warnings and blind spot monitoring.

You’ll have to go up in the range to get a park assist feature and no model has rear cross traffic alert which I think is the most useful advanced safety feature. 

It comes with two ISOFIX points and three top tether points to fix kids’ car seats in safely. The Kadjar hasn’t been ANCAP tested yet but scored a maximum five Euro NCAP stars in 2015. 

What’s the tech like?

You can plug in for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and turn the 7.0-inch multimedia screen into a larger version of your phone. Use maps to navigate and Spotify to listen to music. The screen does feel a bit small, even in this sized car. 

There is a 7.0-inch multimedia screen. There is a 7.0-inch multimedia screen.

Annoyingly there is no volume knob to easily get the sound up and down. Instead you have to tap tap tap on the touchscreen to change the volume. It’s one of those things where a touchscreen experience is actually worse than an old school, tangible knob.

How much does it cost to own?

The Renault Kadjar Zen costs $32,990. Fuel consumption is a claimed 6.3L/100km and I did an average of 10.3L/100km. But note, I didn’t do any highway driving at all this week and city driving uses more fuel. 

It’s covered by Renault’s '555' ownership scheme, for five years of unlimited kilometre warranty, five years of roadside assist, and five years of capped price servicing.

The Renault Kadjar Zen costs $32,990. The Renault Kadjar Zen costs $32,990.

Servicing is recommended every 12 months or 30,000km, whichever comes first. 


The Wrap

The Renault Kadjar was fairly effortless to drive this week, especially as I was on a city/suburban route and didn’t do any big trips. It seems well suited to that kind of driving. It’s just big enough for my family of four with a good amount of interior space, and while I’ll always be a fan of cars with huge boots, this Kadjar boot is still adequate for a family.

It drives well and it looks good for this price. I gave it a family rating of 7.3 out of 10. My kids gave it a 7.0. They like the air vents in the back seat. 

Likes

Exterior design
Interior space
Ownership package

Dislikes

Lack of advanced safety
Small reversing camera screen
Needs audio volume knob

Scores

Nedahl:

3.7

The Kids:

3.5

$30,998 - $36,740

Based on 19 car listings in the last 6 months

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