Renault Captur: Europe's best-selling compact SUV lands in NZ
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The Renault Captur is one of Europe’s best-selling compact SUVs, but has failed to make serious headway in the New Zealand market.
Renault New Zealand is determined to change that, by “repositioning” the model to coincide with the introduction of a Phase 11 mid-life upgrade.
The Captur has a bolder new front, with angles leading to an oversized chrome Renault symbol in the centre of the grille. Below the grille at each corner are C-shaped daytime running lights, all of which helps give the model a wider and broader appearance.
The Captur has flared wheel arches, and plastic accents at the bottom of the four doors to help give the car a bolder appearance.
Although the exterior changes may have been relatively subtle, they have helped turn the high-rider into a good-looking small SUV.
Renault New Zealand is offering the Captur for $29,990, which indicates it is serious about making it a more common sight on our roads.
This is a model which struggled to compete at its previous sale price of a smidgeon under $36,000.
The model sits in one of the most competitive, and popular, segments of the new vehicle market. As small SUVs have become more popular, so the competition has increased, particularly from newer models such as the Hyundai Kona.
But the Captur can hold its own, especially on appearance. It looks great in the test car’s Flame Red, with the black door accents, and a diamond matt black roof.
So it is hardly surprising the Spanish-built, French-branded model sells well in Europe. It also comes with the backing of the world’s largest motor industry grouping, the Renault/Nissan/Mitsubishi alliance.
But here Renault has had more success with commercial vehicles than mainstream passenger models, although it is making inroads into the SUV market with the Koleos range.
The Captur is smaller than the more conventionally looking Koleos, and is the higher-riding version of the Clio hatchback.
It also holds its own in terms of practical, usable, space. With the rear seats up there is 377 litres of space, which is more than in the Nissan Juke. With the rear seats folded, 1255 litres of space becomes available.
The Captur also has sliding rear seats, which means more rear space can be created simply by sliding the rear seats forward or backwards.
There have also been improvements to the interior, with better-quality materials in the cabin, and a new leather-covered multi-function steering wheel, and gear lever.
The front-wheel-drive Captur feels secure on the road, with direct steering that you would expect from a European model.
It is powered by a 1.2 litre turbo engine which makes 88kW at 4900rpm, and 190 Nm at a low 2000rpm. The performance is not stunning but nor does the Captur feel slow when taking off at an intersection.
It winds up smoothly, using a six-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox. Dual-clutch gearboxes are not universally popular but this one works well with the engine to provide quick and appropriately smooth progression through the gears.
Along with the relatively low kerb weight of 1200kg, the engine and gearbox help deliver good fuel economy, with a claimed 5.4 litres/100km.
Our test drive failed to reach that figure but the figures we achieved were in the high fives, so the Captur delivers good economy, even when driven relatively aggressively.
Although the cabin looks and feels better than the previous model, it is by no means plush. But the seating is comfortable and, in what could be a bonus for parents with younger passengers prone to spilling drinks, the upholstery on the front seats can be simply unzipped and washed or cleaned.
The front seating is relatively flat rather than sumptuous, but there is plenty of space for both the front passenger and those in the rear seats of the Captur.
The car is not without European quirks, the most obvious being the cruise control buttons, which sit on the floor between the two front seats.
There are three separate — and different sized — cupholders on the unit between the front seats, including one that could accommodate a tiny espresso coffee.
Renault New Zealand general manager Henry Belt says Captur’s new pricing makes European sophistication available to a new group of SUV buyers.
“The SUV remains New Zealand’s favourite vehicle type,” he says. “It suits our lifestyles, which blend urban weekdays with active leisure at the weekends. It brings European style, convenience and practicality to Kiwis, who might not otherwise have been able to experience a French SUV.”
The Captur carries the raft of driver assist and safety features buyers have come to expect in their new vehicles: ABS antilock brakes with emergency brake assist, electronic brake force distribution, electronic stability control, rear parking sensors and reversing camera, along with dusk-sensing headlights and automatic rain-sensing wipers.
It has the Euro Ncap five-star safety rating and there are driver and passenger comfort features such as hands-free entry and engine start, and a navigation system.
Pros: Practical and safe European-style compact SUV
Cons: Functional but lacks the finesse of some newer competitors