Renault Captur (2015) First Drive

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The Captur, an exciting-looking B-segment crossover from Renault, was launched this week and I was in Johannesburg to drive it.

The Renault Captur is the French brand's compact crossover and on the back of massive sales in Europe, much is expected of this vehicle in South Africa. The Captur, like the Renault Clio upon which it is based, was designed by Dutch-born Laurens van den Acker. This man is responsible for the big bold Renault logo on the nose of the car and even from a non-car enthusiast's point of view, these designs are simply breathtaking.

The Captur is no different and is a serious head turner, especially in its bold Bi-Tone colour scheme. Sunset Orange is the official launch colour and can be ordered with either a black or white roof. I have a particular lust for a Pacific Blue with a Diamond Black roof which looks sensational. Wheel sizes range from 16-inch to 17-inch depending on which derivative you buy.

Engines: Two to choose from

There are two derivatives to choose from: Dynamique and Expression, but interestingly there's not much to separate them. At launch two engine options are offered. Firstly, there's the familiar 0.9-litre three-cylinder turbo which does duty in the Renault Sandero and Renault Clio. It has 66kW, and based on that spec item alone (I did not drive it), I'd be a little apprehensive of the performance. Power reaches the front wheels through a manual gearbox.

The other engine is a turbo'd 1.2-litre four-cylinder motor and this is coupled to a six-speed twin-clutch gearbox. This is a similar unit to the one found in the Renault Clio RenaultSport, but not identical. This 1.2-litre has 88kW and 190Nm which appears adequate at first glance. The claimed combined cycle fuel consumption is rated at 5.4L/100km and 4.9L/100km for the 1.2 and 0.9 respectively. At the launch, we only drove the automatic 1.2.

The twin-clutch gearbox had me instinctively feeling around the steering wheel for shift paddles, and there were none to be found. This isn't much of a problem as the Captur isn't meant to be a performance vehicle. Our launch route took us from the Cradle of Humankind to Sun City, via Hartebeespoort Dam and it was on these roads that I got to sample the Captur's abilities.

If you're expecting a responsive engine, you're going to be a little disappointed. There's a slight hesitation upon take off, but once you're moving the engine pulls reasonably well. The gearbox is quick to kick down too, making overtaking quite simple. Overall, it's not a bad engine combo, but it is lacking when you're in a hurry. Drive the Captur in a gentle manner and let the gearbox shift on its own accord, and things are adequate.

The engine may feel a little underpowered, but this is essentially the only mark against an otherwise good car, and even then it will only be a problem for some customers. The Captur offers the drive of a normal hatchback, boasts MPV-like practicality and space, while even throwing in good ground clearance of 170mm like an SUV. Renault was keen to show off its offroad credentials to us and the launch route included numerous dirt roads of varying qualities. Thanks to Renault's great safety and stability features, I felt confident when driving through gravel and sand. For a family vehicle based on a fashionable Clio, it's surprisingly good.

Another Renault party trick is offering an amazing amount of specification fitted as standard. For a vehicle costing under R300 000, it's outstanding to see this level of kit thrown in. Satellite navigation, Bluetooth, cruise control, USB port, touchscreen infotainment, auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers as well as the usual safety acronyms of ABS, EBD and airbags have been thrown in. On the safety side of things, the Renault Captur scored a five-star rating at the 2013 round of evaluations.

On the practicality side of things, the Renault Captur is a lot more versatile than the Clio which it is based upon. There's a decent amount of legroom for the rear passengers, and the rear bench can slide forwards and backwards. When these seats are folded flat and the bottom of the boot has been dropped, you're looking at 1 235 litres of space to play with. There's a space saver spare wheel located at the bottom of the boot as well.

Quick Summary

Aside from a slightly underpowered engine, the Renault Captur is a promising product and takes the fight to the Ford EcoSport and Nissan Juke, both of which have been a success in our market. With Renault reporting European sales of around 161 000 units sold in 2014 alone, the Renault Captur should do well here. It is priced well too and cones with Renault's good warranty. This is a 5-year/150 000km mechanical warranty; a 3-year/45 000km service plan and a 6-year anti-corrosion warranty. Services take place at 15 000km/1 year intervals.

Renault Captur Price in South Africa

- Renault Captur 66kW Expression R219 900 - Renault Captur 66kW Dynamique R239 900 - Renault Captur 88kW EDC Dynamique R279 900