Renault Kadjar 96 kW 1.2 Dynamique Automatic (2016) Review

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When Renault launched the Kadjar locally earlier this year, the range was curiously missing the option of an automatic gearbox. Now that both the petrol and diesel Kadjars are available with a 7-speed automatic dual clutch ‘box, we test drove the 96kW TCe Dynamique Auto to try and determine whether the addition of a self-shifter makes this French crossover any more desirable.

We like: Curvy good looks, sophisticated style inside and out, high level of features

We don’t like: Slightly lack-lustre performance, price premium, not much else

Alternatives

  • For something bigger: Consider the Honda CR-V 2.0 Comfort automatic. On paper, the CR-V's boot is 186 litres larger than the Kadjar’s and its 2.0-litre engine offers more power at 114 kW and 192 Nm of torque. The Honda CR-V 2.0 Comfort automatic is priced from R409 800.
     
  • For more tech: Volkswagen has just launched the new Tiguan, and it’s a virtual Starship Enterprise in the cabin. For a similar level of specification to the Kadjar 1.2 Dynamigue EDC, you can consider the 1.4 TSI Comfortline automatic. It offers 110 kW and 250 Nm of torque from its 1.4-litre turbopetrol engine. The downside? It's more expensive with a price from R457 680. The Kadjar represents good value against the Tiguan. 
     
  • For something similar, but cheaper: Consider the Nissan Qashqai 1.2 Acenta automatic. Built on the same chassis and sharing an engine, it’s basically the same car but is priced from R362 900. The Qashqai's 1.2-litre turbopetrol engine offers 85 kW and 165 Nm of torque.  


Compare the Kadjar against the Volkswagen Tiguan and Honda CR-V here.


How does it fair in terms of…

Eye-catching design

The Kadjar is certainly a looker. We think Renault have really excelled with the design here, in a segment where aesthetics are perhaps just as important a consideration as fuel economy or even practicality. The car looks even better on the optional 19-inch wheels, but if you venture into the dirt, it must be said that the accompanying low profile tyres do stiffen up the ride, and it wouldn’t be advisable on anything but the smoothest gravel roads.


The Kadjar's design is attractive and will appeal to style-conscious buyers.

Practicality

While you would never describe the Kadjar as cramped, it does offer less interior room than some rivals. The boot space is quoted as 370 litres, which is smaller than the 430 litres of its sibling, the Qashqai, and significantly smaller than cars such as the Honda CR-V, at 556 litres. However, Renault SA has decided to sell the Kadjar with a full-sized spare wheel, which they say robs the car of 100 litres of boot space.

In my experience, the Kadjar still offers the practicality of an SUV, especially when the rear seats are folded flat. I was able to help my family move a four-seat dining room table with ease.

Drivetrain performance and refinement

The star of the show here is, of course, the new automated dual clutch gearbox, taking over shifting duties from your left arm and clutch leg. Of course, in traffic, this makes life significantly easier and means you will be much less tired and frustrated after a spell in traffic, which many of us face on a daily basis in this modern motoring world.

The ‘box is smooth and unobtrusive and is particularly well-suited to the small capacity 1.2-litre engine. This is one of those marriages that just works and the Kadjar plods along happily with the driver largely oblivious to what’s happening under the bonnet.  However, I did find that the engine was slightly overwhelmed in this application; it does feel as though this is a little too much car for the motor, especially in the lower reaches of the rev range where the turbo hasn’t quite got up to speed yet. That being said, if I put my patient hat on and drove as calmly as possible, I did find the drive to be quiet and pleasant, and of course, more economical. If you think of the Kadjar as anything but a performance car, then it's a smooth and comfortable modern car with little to fault.

At only R10 000 more than the manual Dynamique variant, I would happily choose the auto every time over the manual, and I imagine that most buyers will too.

Techy things


The digital instrument cluster is classy touch in the Kadjar.

The first thing you’ll notice when climbing into the Kadjar is the fully digital instrument display, as well as a crisp touchscreen mounted front and centre of the dashboard. The instruments are presented in a functional, practical way and the quality of the display is particularly impressive.

The centre touchscreen is well designed too, both in terms of hardware and software. The screen is responsive and functions very much like a smartphone and you can swipe left and right easily between screens. The software is extensive. The functions range from the frivolous: driver profiles can be set up with customised colour palettes and displays, to the didactic: there is a constantly updated report card rating your driving in terms of fuel efficiency, with the aim of making you a more economical driver. This can become quite a fun challenge - to constantly better your score, which of course benefits your bank account in the long run.

Besides the colourful screens, the interior is a bit grey; a monotone design theme dominates the cabin. However, the quality of the materials is of a high grade and the fit and finish are difficult to fault.

Standard fitment includes Bluetooth, two USB ports, an auxiliary input, navigation, dual zone climate control and park distance control.


The Kadjar's interior is well-equipped with an easy-to-use touchscreen interface.

Renault Kadjar Price in South Africa

At a list price of R399 900, you can expect to pay a little more as dealers will likely have specced metallic paint (R2500) and potentially leather/electric/heated front seats for R12 000. Again, at R10 000 more than the manual Dynamique model, we think that the automatic Kadjar is the one to have. If you are interested in a Kadjar, it's definitely worth shopping around - we found at least one dealer in the Western Cape region offering R30 000 cash back on the Kadjar, which makes it a lot more appealing.

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

Verdict

The diesel Kadjar should be strongly considered when looking at the range. With significantly more torque and better fuel economy, it too is now offered with an automatic transmission and it might be the pick of the range. At a less than R15 000 premium, depending on how many km's you drive every month, the diesel has a real chance of saving you money over the course of ownership.

As a range, the Kadjar is well-specced, has excellent levels of connectivity, trumps in the style stakes and offers a smooth and comfortable drive. Based on the Qashqai, it just about justifies the price premium over its Japanese sibling, which remains the no-brainer in this segment. The Kadjar makes an appealing option for those who can’t see themselves in a Nissan.

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