Car reviews - Renault - Captur - Intens
Engaging to drive on twisty roads, heaps of equipment, strong aftercare package, lots of cabin storage, still looks great
Room for improvement
Sluggish and thirsty, uncomfortable seats, low-grade leather, asthmatic air-con, compromised boot and rear cabin space, busy low-speed ride, grabby brakes
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10 Nov 2017
Price and equipment
The Intens tested here tops out the facelifted Captur range at $30,990 driveaway. For those wanting to spend less is the $23,990 Zen manual, which can also be had with the bigger engine and automatic transmission from the Intens for $26,990 All these prices are permanently driveaway.
Standard equipment on the entry-level Zen includes a 7.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system with satellite navigation, Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio streaming, AM/FM and DAB+ digital radio, USB and auxiliary audio inputs, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, single zone climate control with air quality regulator, automatic headlights and wipers, cruise control with speed limiter, keyless entry with push-button start, electrically adjustable auto-folding door mirrors, two 12V power outlets, removable washable seat covers, leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear selector knob, white interior trim, and 16-inch alloy wheels with two-tone finish.
The top-spec Intens variant tested adds R-Link software for the touchscreen with enhanced sat-nav and upgraded Arkamys 3D audio system, automated parking with front and side sensors, blind-spot monitoring, LED headlights and front fog lights, multi driving modes via Renault’s extended grip control system, a panoramic glass roof, non-removable leather upholstery with map pocket nets on the front seats and a folding height-adjustable driver’s armrest with internal storage, a self-dimming interior mirror, LED interior lighting, illuminated vanity mirrors, 17-inch alloy wheels, chrome interior trim and rear privacy glass, LED 3D effect tail lights, front and rear faux skid plate bumper panels, and chrome trim on the grille and boot lid.
Our car had the Intens-only $500 Bose premium sound system installed and $600 worth of metallic Pearl White paint.
Other available hues include Atacama Orange, Cappuccino Brown and Ocean Blue, which can be had with a contrasting roof in Diamond Black or Ivory White.
As a no-cost option, Renault will brighten the cabin by trimming the interior air-vents, speaker surrounds and centre console in the exterior paint colour.
Prices have risen $490 for the Zen and $990 for the Intens compared with the pre-facelift Captur but overall, in addition to the classier exterior appearance that has brought the Captur into line with its larger Kadjar and Koleos SUV siblings, this update has brought a significant upgrade to standard equipment to go with the attractive permanent driveaway pricing proposition.
Although the Captur’s subtle exterior changes are greater than the sum of their parts in terms of freshening and modernising an already striking design, it is mostly business as usual inside, which is to say surprisingly plain apart from the sportscar-like instrument cluster.
For such a colourful car, it’s overwhelmingly black in the cabin and while clearly not the most premium in terms of material choice, there are enough padded touch-points and chrome-like bright work to know this is not a budget special. Fit and finish in our test vehicle was pretty spot-on, too.
The Captur’s innovative removable seat covers that reminded us of wetsuit fabric are now standard in the range-opening Zen, a welcome democratisation of this practical feature.
But we wished Renault had not gone to the trouble of kitting out the Intens with sweaty, unyielding and unconvincing low-grade black leather, which made the Captur’s seats even more uncomfortable, accentuated their complete lack of thigh support for taller occupants and exposed the weaknesses of this Renault’s asthmatically inadequate air-conditioning system.
Even on a mild 26-degree spring day in South East Queensland, journeys in the Captur were about as comfortable as being perched on a barstool in a sauna while wearing a disposable rain poncho.
To assess the levels of cabin noise we had to adjust the air-con fan speed to somewhere below gale force, discovering the Captur interior to be reasonably peaceful when on the move, even on usually noisy coarse chip country road bitumen. The main intrusion was drivetrain vibration under acceleration, accompanied by a slightly gravelly engine note at higher revs.
Compared with the newer and more sophisticated R-Link 2 touchscreen systems fitted to new-generation Renaults such as the Megane and Koleos, the Captur’s R-Link 1 system is more logical to use and simpler to navigate through while driving, without causing undue driver distraction.
Despite its age, there is a surprising depth of functionality and customisation on offer including, for example, the reversing camera display and operation.
Its use of TomTom sat-nav software also integrates some useful connected features such as weather and traffic reports for the current location, programmed route and destination. It also provides audible and visual alerts when approaching speed cameras.
Visibility is great courtesy of a high seating position and large, deep windows and quarterlights in the C-pillars that do more for over-the-shoulder vision than is initially obvious. The rear windscreen is also a decent size. All of this, along with the Captur’s small wheel-at-each-corner footprint, effective reversing camera with animated guidance lines and parking sensor proximity display make manoeuvring this car in tight spaces or diving into traffic gaps an absolute doddle.
It’s a French car, so the Captur’s glove compartment has between a quarter and a third of its width taken up by a mysterious plastic box. On the upside, the space does go deep into the dash and there is a useful pocket on the inside of the lid that helps make maximum use of the available capacity.
Also typically French was the near-uselessness of cupholders. Neither correctly sized nor deep enough to secure any drinks vessels we tried, Renault might as well have not bothered. We managed to get a takeaway coffee cup lodged reasonably well, but only because it was crushed against the driver’s seat, which also threatened to knock off the lid.
Door bins were our last resort. Although large – at least up front – they are not designed to secure bottles in an upright position. Renault clearly wants you to pull over at a picnic bench, whip out your white tablecloth and wicker picnic basket to settle down for some civilised refreshments rather than stay hydrated and caffeinated on the move. Nice thought.
Being an Intens, our test car had a fold-down central armrest on the driver’s seat with small in-built storage area under the plush-padded upper surface. It is located a little far back for the long of arm to find properly comfortable but we did use it on most journeys and decided it was a welcome feature at this end of the vehicle size spectrum.
A deep tray ahead of the gear selector is handy for phones and is located below USB and 12V ports, while a large lidded dash-top storage box was really handy.
A sunglasses holder is beside the driver’s head where a grab handle would usually be found.
For rear passengers there are small net type map pockets in the backrests, which flank a deep dished open storage area at the very rear of the centre console that contains another 12V power outlet. Door bins back there are pretty small. With the exception of drinks holding ability, Captur cabin storage is pretty good for its size and the rubberised base to most cubbies helps to reduce items sliding about or rattling.
Also, being an older platform Renault, there is a slot for the flat key card.
In addition to the infuriating R-Link 2 touchscreen, a backward step the company has taken with newer models is the bulky, bulging key card that is not wallet friendly, not particularly pocket friendly and has nowhere to go once you are inside the car.
Renault has tried to address practicality concerns in such a short car by installing a sliding rear bench that can liberate boot space at the expense of legroom and vice-versa. But it does not take much of its travel to make the rear seat pretty unusable. Wind it all the way forward and the base touches the backrests of the front seats, which, by the way, have their angle adjustment knobs unconventionally positioned on the inboard.
Further, moving the bench forward reveals a chasm that looks ideal for losing apples and other items that like to roll once released from wayward shopping bags.
Boot space expands from 377 litres with the bench slid back to 455L with it in the forward-most position, while 1235L is available with them folded flat. The rear seats fold in a 60:40 split, although the sliding mechanism moves the whole lot. The boot seems smaller than these figures suggest and we struggled to fit a weeks’ worth of groceries for two adults and a toddler into there. We assume the capacity figures includes the area below the boot’s false floor.
With the rear bench all the way back, there was almost enough room for two six-footers to sit in tandem, which was no surprise given the Captur’s diminutive dimensions. What we were not expecting was the lack of headroom in the back. But the central rear position was surprisingly not that bad, although the narrow space makes it unlikely that anyone but slim children would sit three abreast – and that’s after they’ve outgrown the legal requirement for booster seats that would inevitably clash with each other and the seatbelt buckles.
On the subject of transporting offspring, it was difficult to install child seats in the Captur. Isofix anchorages are buried between the seat-back and base with the inboard of the passenger side anchorages fouled by part of the seatbelt buckle.
Successful installation finally completed, there was effectively no space for an adult to sit in front of a rear-facing infant capsule anyway as the seat had to be positioned so far forward in order to clear it.
Attempting to overcome this space issue by positioning the child carrier in the central position uncovered a design flaw. The top tether point is located near where the tailgate meets the boot opening, meaning the straps have to be strung diagonally across the entire boot area, making it impossible to load large items such as a stroller.
Moral of the story: Family buyers can only realistically use the Captur with older kids, but not those who are too wide or too tall. Singles and couples who regularly carry passengers must either be short with short friends, or tall with no friends.
And ideally drive only in winter when you don’t need the air-con.
Engine and transmission
Renault has used essentially the same engine in the Captur as it successfully deploys in the larger, heavier Megane but de-tuned to develop 88kW of power at 4900rpm and 190Nm of torque at 2000rpm (down 9kw and 15Nm).
The biggest difference is the Captur uses a six-speed dual-clutch transmission compared with the Megane’s newer and superior seven-speed unit. Even considering this difference, we were left scratching our heads as to why our Captur felt borderline inadequate in performance terms.
But the six-speed dual-clutch transmission was a real letdown, its lackadaisical calibration combining with turbo lag to make getting the Captur off the line frustrating and robbing it of any point-and-squirt, nippy, zippy urban character this model epitomises and promises through its size, shape and styling.
It takes forever to kick down, every push of the accelerator pedal is followed by a delay as the electronics, engine and transmission decide what to do about it and all the usual dual-clutch foibles in terms of getting confused by low-speed hills and manoeuvring on anything but perfectly level surfaces.
Because peak power and torque are developed so low in the rev range, there is zero point in heading for the redline as the subsequent up-shift lands you in a bit of a dead spot. Short-shifting is the way to go.
For much of the fast section of our dynamic test we used the transmission’s manual gate – oriented the correct way with forward for downshifts and backward for upshifts – to keep it in third gear, which kept the engine on the boil above 3500rpm without it becoming intrusively loud or coarse as revs climbed higher.
We did experience some occasionally distracting turbo lag, even when driven like this.
At all other times the Captur engine felt like it was working overtime, which was borne out in our on-test fuel consumption average of 8.4 litres per 100 kilometres, way up on the official combined cycle figure of 5.6L/100km or even the urban cycle at 6.4L/100km, which is what we got after an hour or so on the motorway.
It could get expensive to run as it requires at least 95 RON Premium Unleaded.
There is an Eco mode, but we avoided it at all costs because it made an already sluggish and hesitant drivetrain even worse and the already struggling air-con almost useless.
Ride and handling
Being short, tall and light, the Captur is prone to transmit road imperfections into the cabin but beyond a lack of initial suppleness at urban speeds it generally coped remarkably well with surfaces that can seriously undo many larger and more expensive cars.
Round town it is a bit busy and slightly unsettled on broken bitumen, but things get much better as speeds rise. As a result, there is an underlying firmness to the ride that feels slightly more German than French and the very worst lumps or bumps tend to elicit a sharp-edged response from the car.
Probably the best thing about the Captur is its handling, whether zipping through clogged urban and suburban streets or, even more so, tearing along your favourite stretch of twisty road.
For the latter, it can carry some pretty good speed through corners – it has to or you lose hard-earned momentum – and is delightfully interactive with light, informative steering plus plenty of feedback through the chassis.
Urban firmness is rewarded out here with impressive body control and less roll than the Captur’s high seating position and tall-boy stance would suggest.
There is not heaps of grip from the Kumho Solus tyres, which are prone to a fair bit of screeching, and the Captur can be danced around to the heart’s content of a keen driver near its relatively low limits.
Helped by excellent forward visibility and faithful steering, it is predictable, confidence inspiring, and because the Captur moves around a fair bit when pushed moderately hard, it is all the more engaging when pressing on.
It is also commendably unperturbed by poor corner surfaces and remains true to the driver’s intended line, with a bit of kick-back through the steering requiring a slightly firmer grip about as bad as it gets.
Slower, sharper turns uncover early-onset push understeer and the Captur lacks traction in this environment too, making it a little difficult to execute hairpins gracefully without feeling as though progress is grinding to a halt.
The stability electronics also get so over-involved in this scenario that accessing the little Renault’s playfulness is all but impossible, while the wheezy drivetrain’s time taken to get back up to speed forces begrudging acceptance of slow progress through multiple tight turns.
Braking performance is pretty good, but there is an all-or-nothing pedal action. The first few centimetres of travel do almost nothing, before the car stands on its nose. This makes it difficult to drive the Captur smoothly, particularly round town.
Safety and servicing
Despite criticism, the Captur still has no side curtain airbag protection for rear passengers.
Crash-test watchdog noted in its results: “There is no side head protection for rear seat occupants. In the side pole test, driver head protection was good but chest and abdomen protection was marginal.”
Still, they gave the three-cylinder manual Captur a five-star safety rating based on data from tests by counterpart Euro NCAP in 2013. This does not apply to four-cylinder automatic variants such as the Intens tested here.
The model rated scored 88 per cent overall for adult occupant protection and 79 per cent for child occupant protection. It got 15.75 out of 16 in the frontal offset test, 7.93 out of eight in the side impact test and 5.27 out of eight in the pole test. Whiplash protection scored 2.83 out of four. Pedestrian protection was rated 61 per cent.
Frontal, side chest and side head-protecting airbags for the driver and front passenger are standard, as are a driver-set electronic speed limiter and advanced seat belt reminders for all seats.
Renault Australia provides a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty with roadside assistance for the duration and a three-year capped-price servicing plan costing $299 per interval, which are 12 months or up to 30,000km apart (the latter dependent on the car’s in-built condition monitoring that automatically determines when it is due some maintenance).
In case you hadn’t figured it out by now, we were disappointed with the Captur we drove. Perhaps there was something not quite right about its driveline calibration.
Considering it’s a city-focussed SUV, we found the Captur to be frustratingly more at home at higher speeds.
Anyway, if you still have your heart set on one, we suggest you spend less on the Zen variant that is generously specified and much of the extra kit Renault lavished on the Intens you can live without, especially the sub-par leather seats.
But something like a Toyota C-HR or Hyundai Kona would be an even better idea.
Despite its styling still looking good today, the Captur is a much older design than these two. And it shows.
Peugeot 2008 Active: $26,490 plus on-road costsFinally gets the petrol-automatic driveline combination it deserves. A bit conservative compared with the dashing Captur but there is still much to like about this re-thought French offering.
Citroen C4 Cactus Exclusive automatic: $29,690 plus on-road costsNo sooner had the long-awaited petrol automatic come to Australia to replace the dismal diesel did Citroen reveal a substantial facelift for the Cactus, which wears its Frenchness on its sleeve in ways the Renault does not. Spacious and rides well but has some glaring cabin design disasters that will grate in daily use.
Toyota C-HR 2WD: $28,990 plus on-road costsThe C-HR is surprisingly un-Toyota in terms of generous standard kit, lively dynamics, interior usability and out-there styling. And all the better for it.
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