Don’t let people talk you into buying a tiny car just because you live in the city. That’s what I’ve learnt from being a car reviewer and living about eight kilometres from the CBD.
Yes, car spaces are small, or almost non existent, but the people that live there are as full-sized as people elsewhere and they often carry around just as much gear. What you need is a big, little car and the Renault Kadjar is that – a small SUV which is actually bigger than most.
The Kadjar is also French, and that’s appealing to us city folk because even though there are millions of us living in one square metre we like to think of ourselves as different, as individuals, cosmopolitan, metropolitan.
So the Kadjar looks perfect then, right?
Well, it’s good yes… in some ways, but after reading this you might prefer its Japanese cousin, the Nissan Qashqai. Let me explain...
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?
The Intens is the highest grade of Kadjar you can buy and has a list price of $37,990. As a point of reference, the entry-grade Kadjar with an automatic transmission is $29,990. So, what are you getting for an extra $8K?
The Intens is the highest grade of Kadjar you can buy.
Well, the entry-level Kadjar comes with a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, cloth seats, dual-zone climate control, privacy glass and 17-inch alloy wheels. The Intens gets 19-inch alloys, leather seats (heated up front), a seven-speaker Bose sound system, leather steering wheel, panoramic sunroof, as well as LED headlights and fog lights.
The Intens also comes standard with auto parking, and even the most determined DIY parkers will appreciate that in the city.
The entry-level Kadjar comes with a 7.0-inch touchscreen.
The Intens also has more advanced safety equipment than the entry-grade, although the same tech also comes on the mid-spec Zen for $32,990.
You may already know this, but the Kadjar and the Nissan Qashqai are essentially the same car. Renault and Nissan have an alliance which lets them share technology and as well as entire models.
So, you might want to compare the Kadjar Intens to a Qashqai Ti which lists for $38,790. Other models to check are the Mitsubishi ASX and Toyota C-HR.
Is there anything interesting about its design?
People talk about French design being good. Well if you want to see just how good take a look at the Nissan Qashqai, because the Kadjar is fundamentally the same SUV with Renault’s design spin applied.
Yep, as I mentioned about 15 seconds ago, Renault and Nissan are part of an alliance that allows them to share the same cars, but each brand has room to ‘make it their own’ with styling that delivers a very different look, inside and out.
Now, the Qashqai is not an ugly car, but I think the Kadjar is more stylish and premium looking in the same way the larger Renault Koleos SUV is gorgeous compared to the relatively straight-laced Nissan X-Trail it’s based on.
I’m not completely sold on the rear of the car which looks a bit like its shirt is tucked into the back of its pants.
There’s no doubt the Kadjar is a Renault thanks to the giant diamond logo on the plunging grille. I like the way the front bumper rises up into the bonnet like it’s all one piece, but I’m not completely sold on the rear of the car which looks a bit like its shirt is tucked into the back of its pants, which makes no sense unless you look at the images.
Still, the tail-lights have a prestige feel and the Kadjar model name spelled out across the tailgate is a confident statement, also adopted recently by other brands such as Volkswagen (T-Cross) and Ford (Puma).
Telling the Intens apart from the other two grades is fairly easy, it has 19-inch wheels (the others have 17-inch rims), there’s the enormous glass roof, and it also has a chrome effect on the front and rear bumpers, side skirts, and around the fog lights. It’s a more premium look.
With its 19-inch wheels, its easy to tell the Intens apart from the other two grades.
That higher-end feel goes into the cabin as well with the Intens’ black leather upholstery and colourful ambient lighting. The touchscreen is tiny, though, and there isn’t a great deal inside that you don’t get in the entry-grade Kadjar’s cabin, which is also almost as stylish.
The Kadjar is classified as a small SUV, which means nothing really when it comes to wondering if it’s going to fit in your garage or in the tiny parking spaces we’re faced with in the city.
So, I’ve mapped it out for you. The Kadjar’s dimensions are, 4449mm long, 2058 mm across (including the wing mirrors), and 1612mm tall.
The appeal of a Renault is having a car that’s not like everybody else’s.
Another interesting thing – each B-pillar is adorned with a little French flag. I’m not sure if they're a sign of Gallic national pride or to remind everybody that meets the Kadjar that Renaults are French.
Either way, you don’t see this type of thing on other cars and for many buyers the appeal of a Renault is having a car that’s not like everybody else’s.
How practical is the space inside?
The Kadjar is a big-small SUV, in that it’s longer than many in the same segment at 4.4m with a wheelbase of more than 2.6m, which means more space inside for people and their stuff.
That said, don’t expect limousine legroom, but at 191cm (6'3") tall, I can sit behind my driving position with my knees only just touching the front seat back, which is pretty darn good for a small SUV.
The cabin size is pretty good for a small SUV.
Making life a bit more comfortable back there, too, are directional air vents, two USB charging ports and a 12V power outlet. There are another two USB ports and a 12V up front, too.
Cabin storage is okay. The door pockets in the back are big enough for a 500ml bottle, while there are larger ones in the front, along with two cupholders and another circular hole, which looks like it’s for coins, if anybody still uses those?
The back seat gets directional air vents, two USB charging ports and a 12V power outlet.
The centre console bin is pretty decent in size and so too is the boot which has a cargo capacity of 408 litres with all seats up and 1478 litres with the second row folded flat.
The boot has a cargo capacity of 408 litres with all seats up.
With the second row folded flat, you get 1478 litres.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?
While the Renault Kadjar and Nissan Qashqai are essentially the same car, they don’t share the same powertrain. The Kadjar has a smaller but more powerful engine – a 1.3-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder making 117kW/260Nm.
Shifting gears is a seven-speed dual-clutch auto. There’s no manual available, and all Kadjars are front-wheel drive.
The Kadjar gets a 1.3-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder making 117kW/260Nm.
Frankly, the Qashqai four cylinder with less grunt and CVT are a smoother combination. The dual-clutch auto and turbo lag means power delivery and acceleration are delayed, while low-speed gear shifts can be jerky.
What's it like to drive around town?
Renault’s Kadjar may be a better-looking version of Nissan’s Qashqai, but it doesn’t drive as well. This comes down to the engine and transmission Renault has gone with.
There’s turbo lag with that small four-cylinder and this delay is made more pronounced by a dual-clutch transmission that causes the vehicle to lurch during shifts.
This type of shemozzle is not uncommon, the Ford Puma and Nissan Juke behave in the same way with their similar powertrains.
Renault’s Kadjar may be a better-looking version of Nissan’s Qashqai, but it doesn’t drive as well.
There’s nothing wrong with them, it’s just that for a car that’s probably going to spend its life mainly in the city, the Kadjar won’t provide the smoothest driving experience.
The Qashqai has a CVT automatic and while these transmission aren’t as sporty feeling as a dual-clutch, they’re smooth and good for easy city driving.
The Kadjar does have a comfortable ride and good handling, so if you’re able to get used to the antics of the engine and transmission there’s more to like than not about the way this Renault drives.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?
The Kadjar hasn’t been given an ANCAP safety rating, but it did score the maximum five stars when tested by its European equivalent Euro NCAP in 2015.
But beware, the Kadjar isn’t equipped with much in the way of advanced safety equipment. Yes, there is AEB on all grades, while the mid-spec Zen and top-of-the-range Intens come with blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning. But that’s about it. No lane keeping assist, or rear cross traffic alert, or adaptive cruise.
The Kadjar hasn’t been given an ANCAP safety rating.
There are front and rear parking sensors, which are almost vital in the city, and a reversing camera.
It’s for this reason the score here is so low – charging $38K and not having anywhere near the level of safety tech on a new car that costs much less is disappointing.
For child seats there are three top tether anchor points across the second row and two ISOFIX points.
The Renault Kadjar Intens ticks a lot of the urban boxes. It’s small, which is good for navigating narrow city streets and parking in tight spaces, but it’s also spacious and practical. The Kadjar is fuel efficient for a four-cylinder petrol engine and it has that sophisticated French styling.
The Intens is expensive, though, and unless you absolutely have to have leather seats, a glass roof, and the Bose stereo I’d go for the mid-range Zen grade and save yourself $5K but still have all the same safety tech. That said the Intens has auto parking as standard which is a nice convenience for the city.
Safety could be better. The AEB system doesn’t have pedestrian and cyclist detection, rear cross traffic alert, or reverse emergency braking.
Finally, the dual-clutch automatic and 1.3-litre turbo-petrol engine while a fuel efficient combination, isn’t all that easy to live with and can make driving a less-than-smooth experience. The Nissan Qashqai’s combination of CVT auto and four-cylinder naturally aspirated engine is better suited to the urban jungle - something to think about there.
Now the scores, the Kadjar Intens gets the same mark for daily driving and its urban talents – it could be smoother to drive, but there’s still lots to like.
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