Renault Kadjar (2016) First Drive

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Renault has introduced its new Kadjar crossover SUV in South Africa. Can the dashing newcomer compete in an already crowded marketplace?

Building on the success of the Captur, which was launched last year, Renault now welcomes the bigger Kadjar crossover SUV to the South African market. With its attractive styling and feature-laden interior, the Kadjar is likely to compete significantly better than the ageing (previous-gen X-Trail based) Koleos SUV and is built on the same platform as the current Nissan Qashqai, which is a very good vehicle indeed. That said, the Kadjar has its work cut out and will go up against heavy-hitters in the crowded medium SUV segment, including the popular Toyota RAV4, Ford Kuga, Nissan Qashqai and the new Hyundai Tucson, amongst others. The launch of the Kadjar took place in Cape Town this week and we were there to drive it on tar and sand.

The Kadjar range

Kadjar dCi Dynamique is offered with four-wheel drive, which is quite handy on sand.

Three derivatives make up the Kadjar range with two trim levels (Expression and Dynamique) on offer. The range kicks off with the Expression model, featuring a 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine with 96 kW and 205 Nm of torque. Fuel consumption for this model is rated at 5.7 L / 100km. The same petrol engine is offered in Dynamique guise with fuel consumption rated at 5.8 L / 100km.

The range-topping Dynamique dCi 4x4 derivative is powered by a 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine that offers 96 kW and 320 Nm of torque. Fuel consumption for this derivative is rated at a respectable 5.4 L / 100 km. All Kadjar models are offered with a 6-speed manual transmission only and an Eco mode function is standard across all derivatives, reducing fuel consumption by up to 12%.

The Kadjar Dynamaique 4x4 derivative is further equipped with a three-mode, four-wheel drive system that includes 2WD (front-wheel drive for normal driving conditions), Auto (ensures optimal traction with automatic torque correction) and Lock (50/50 torque distribution between front and rear wheels up to 40 kph for sand, mud and snow conditions). The Kadjar also boasts a decent ground clearance of 200 mm, which should make it adequately capable on dirt roads.

The Kadjar is well equipped with safety features too and comes fitted with ABS, EBD, EBA, ESP, ASR, Hill Start Assist and a total of six airbags. ISOFIX mounts are also included and the Kadjar carries a 5-star EuroNCAP safety rating. A number of optional driver assistance features are available on Dynamique derivatives and these include Blind Spot Detection, Self-parking system and 360° Park Distance Control with a rear camera.

What’s cooking good looking?

From the outside, the Kadjar is attractive. Wearing Renault’s latest design language and incorporating a prominent grille and flared wheel arches, the Kadjar takes on a muscular stance with 17-inch alloy wheels fitted as standard on Dynamique models (19-inch wheels are optional) while the Expression derivative features 16-inch steel wheels with covers. The look is further enhanced with an integrated rear spoiler and front and rear skid plates while the C-shaped Daytime Running Lights and LED headlights (Dynamique only) round off the exterior styling.

Simple, elegant interior boasts a 7-inch TFT colour instrument cluster.

With a focus on comfort, the Kadjar’s interior is impressive with its simple, yet likeable cabin layout. The customisable 7-inch TFT colour instrument cluster is a nice touch and can be configured using the multifunction steering wheel (rake and reach adjustable). Taking care of your infotainment needs is a 7-inch touchscreen multimedia system (Dynamique only) in the centre console that offers a range of functions including a CD/radio, navigation, Bluetooth, air quality monitoring, tyre pressure monitor, voice recognition, eco driving and allows playback of pictures and videos. Two USB ports (Dynamique only) and an auxiliary port are included and cruise control with speed limiter is offered across the Kadjar range. Furthermore, electric and heated leather seats are available as an option on Dynamique derivatives.

Click here for all the specs of the new Renault Kadjar

How does the Kadjar drive?

Renault is confident that the Kadjar 4x4 can actually head off-road.

The launch of the new Kadjar began behind the wheel of the 1.2 Dynamique Turbo derivative. The vehicle displayed good on-road manners and delivered impressive levels of ride comfort out on the tar. Despite its small capacity, the 1.2-litre turbo engine performed admirably and never felt strained or under-powered. We also liked the smooth-shifting action of the transmission. Perceived build quality is good and as a result, very little road and wind noise makes its way into the cabin. This model felt solid and composed, and although its performance won’t blow your pants off, it offers more than enough grunt for both city driving and the occasional trip out of town. The high levels of interior comfort made the drive that much better too, something buyers in this segment will appreciate.

The launch route took us to the sand dunes of Atlantis on the outskirts of Cape Town, rather surprising as the typical Kadjar owner is unlikely to ever head into the rough. Upon arrival, we hopped into the range-topping 1.6 dCi Dynamique derivative to explore the vast, white dunes. With ‘Lock’ mode engaged, the Kadjar set off. It wasn’t long before the Kadjar buried itself in the sand, spinning sand high into the air. We were stuck, but team Renault came to the rescue with a hard-working spade (not standard) to dig the Kadjar free. 

Without low-range and a differential lock, the drivers of the Kadjar were treading a thin line between pleasure and disaster. But with that said, the Kadjar is not a hardcore 4x4 vehicle, it’s a soft-roader, and it copes well enough on gravel roads. Its performance on the tar is what matters most. It’s here where this 1.6 dCi Dynamique excels. With more torque at your disposal, this derivative felt distinctly livelier under acceleration and its ride comfort on tar was excellent with all the interior niceties you could possibly want from a car.

Parting thoughts

The Renault Kadjar is a product worth considering in the medium SUV segment. It’s attractive to look at and the interior is modern and solidly built. The Kadjar performs well on tar and is easy and comfortable to drive with sufficient power for your everyday commute. Although it may not be a true 4x4, it will perform adequately on the odd gravel adventure, but less so in the rough. With its competitive pricing structure, the Kadjar should sell well.

We will have the Renault Kadjar on test soon, so look out for our comprehensive evaluation in the near future. For now though, take a look at what you can expect to pay for the new Kadjar.

Renault Kadjar price in South Africa

96kW Turbo Expression - R359 900

96kW Turbo Dynamique - R384 900

96kW dCi Dynamique 4x4 - R449 900

The Renault Kadjar comes with a 5-year/90 000km service plan and a 5-year/150 000km warranty.