Renault Kadjar Automatic (2016) First Drive

Renault Kadjardriv2

Renault has introduced an automatic transmission and a 1.5-litre turbodiesel engine to its Kadjar SUV range. We took it for a drive...

Who would’ve thought that one day the sedan would lose market share to something called a crossover/SUV? This higher, more spacious and similarly priced class of car, has thrown a spanner in the works because it offers more practicality and appeal. Think Nissan Qashqai and Hyundai Tucson for instance, for someone undergoing a life transition (a growing family perhaps), vehicles such as these simply make more sense.

Earlier this year, Renault introduced the new SUV to market, which includes striking good looks, a peculiar name and new technologies. Our first encounter with the Kadjar was a pleasant one as the vehicle ticks many boxes. Interior space is of a good standard, allowing for full grown adults to enjoy the front and rear seats. Build quality is good with premium finishes and only minimum touches of plastic are used on the dashboard. Even the plastic bits could be forgiven considering how well the connectivity features work in tandem with the touchscreen infotainment system, something that is imperative in today’s world.     

So far so good right?

The EDC transmission promises smooth progress as well as improved efficiency.

Not exactly. At the time of launch, the Renault Kadjar had one major let down - the lack of an automatic transmission. This was disappointing as both the 1.6-turbodiesel and 1.2-turbopetrol engines were impressive, but not having the option of an automatic gearbox changed the nature of the car. An SUV buyer is generally looking for comfort and space, coupled with a seamless driving experience, something that an automatic gearbox allows. This wasn’t the case with a manual Kadjar.

Buyers will be pleased to know that Renault has introduced an automatic EDC version of the Kadjar. “Efficient Dual Clutch” are three words that change the Kadjar completely, as it now can back up its good looks with an automated driving experience. The use of a dual-clutch system is wise as a conventional automatic gearbox can be hit or miss. Either it’s too slow or it’s not fuel efficient are but some of the complaints that come from driving an “old-school” automatic. This isn’t the case with the EDC, as the dual-clutch setup allows for quick gear changes and good economy. Claimed combined cycles of 5.5L/100km for the 1.2-turbopetrol and 4.6L/100km for the diesel are impressive.        

Unfortunately, the EDC gearbox is not available for all Kadjar derivatives. The 1.2-turbopetrol cracks the nod but the 1.6 dCI remains a manual only. Renault has bolstered the range with a 1.5-litre turbodiesel engine that is down on power compared to the 1.6 dCi which produces 96kW, whereas the former produces 81kW.  Thankfully, in the world of diesel engines, torque is the golden currency and the 1.5-litre unit still makes a happy 260 Nm of torque, which will give you enough shove to get you to work comfortably. Another interesting aspect about the EDC Kadjar, is that the gearboxes aren’t the same. The 1.2 features a seven-speed EDC, whereas the 1.5 dCi EDC features a six-speed EDC. According to Renault, each gearbox works best in conjunction with the engine it's mated to.

Less is more

The Kadjar is arguably one of the most stylish crossovers available in its segment in South Africa.

Interestingly, due to uninterrupted power delivery, the 1.2 EDC feels quite powerful as a result. The 96kW engine was good on its own, but in manual guise it’s very easy to drop outside the power band, causing a non-linear driving experience. With the EDC though, everything  is smoother and more pleasant. There are moments of turbo lag coming out of corners but not enough to disgruntle the driver.  Again, torque in the diesel works in the favour of the 1.5 dCi and both engines welcome the new gearbox, making the Kadjar even more of a competitor in this segment.  The ride quality has not changed in the Kadjar either, it even feels more comfortable in EDC guise as you can enjoy the ride more.

All that and a bag of gears?

It’s a fact that majority of consumers are emotional buyers. Most of us want something that evokes some sort of emotion in us. In the SUV segment, vehicle dynamics and power play a less prominent role and as a result, aesthetics and comfort are the crowd pullers in this game. Renault has hit the nail on the head with the Kadjar. The vehicle is simply stunning on the outside and likeable on the inside too. It’s not just a pretty face though, as the Kadjar can load the family and your luggage comfortably whilst keeping you connected and entertained. It also has a decent dose of features such as rear park distance control and Hill Start Assist with an electronic parking brake. With a 5-year/90 000 km service plan and 5-year/150 000 km mechanical warranty, you’re covered in that regard too.

Take a look at what you can expect to pay for the Renault Kadjar

Renault Kadjar - Price in South Africa

1.2 (96 kW) turbopetrol dCi 6-speed manual Expression - R364 900

1.2 (96 kW) turbopetrol dCi 6-speed manual Dynamique - R389 900

1.5 (81 kW) turbodiesel dCi 6-speed Manual - R394 900

1.2 (96 kW) turbopetrol EDC 7-speed Auto - R399 900

1.5 (81 kW) turbopetrol dCi EDC 6-speed Auto - R414 900

1.6 (91 kW) turbodiesel 6-speed manual Dynamique - R454 900

Browse for a used Renault Kadjar here

Read a review of the manual Kadjar here

Watch our review of the (manual) Kadjar below;