Car reviews - Renault - Captur - range
Good looking, great value, real street appeal, lovely road manners
Room for improvement
Dual-clutch transmission slow to get away, A-pillars can hurt visibility
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5 Feb 2015
By TIM ROBSON
THE Captur’s confident lines were penned in the same French studio where the concept of the same name was conceived for the 2013 Geneva show. Its five-door silhouette is simple yet striking, with black plastic overfenders and wide lower body strips giving it a purposeful stance. It’s impressively fuss-free, as well, with simple yet bold front and rear visages and a sloped roofline.
Renault offers a variety of factory-rendered external paint and trim contrast packs to accentuate the little Captur’s curves, with the top-spec Dynamique coming standard with a contrasting-colour roof that’s done at the factory.
It’s a similar story inside the Captur, too, with garnish packs of anodized alloy-look plastic adding a hint of colour and vibrancy to a dark yet nicely styled cabin. There’s plenty of hard plastic in sight, but it’s been formed and shaped into a good-looking cabin with soft-touch points in all the right places.
The half-leather steering wheel has both tilt and reach adjustment, and is pleasing underhand, while the instrument binnacle is slim yet easy to read.
Many functions are taken care of by the 7.0-inch HD colour screen on the centre console, and hooking into a phone is an easy four-touch operation. USB and 3.5mm line-in jacks are welcome, but they would be better placed lower on the centre console, where the cords wouldn’t get in the way of using the screen and the climate controls.
The seats are supportive and comfortable. The seat bases are so close to being too short it’s not funny, but our 250km test proved no problem for this 184cm pilot. We missed having a centre armrest, but it’s not a common fitment at this end of the market.
The pair of twee cup-holders, however, confused us neither would be able to hold a small coffee or a can of drink, let alone the grande frappe wonders that pass as coffee these days.
Another nice touch in the Captur zip-off seat covers are not only a quick and easy way to add a new touch of pizzazz to the cabin, but they can be chucked in the washing machine should small animals or humans, erm, make a mistake. It’s a $600 option on the Expression range, and included in the top-spec Dynamique.
The Captur’s sliding rear bench seat is a stroke of packaging genius. If your rear-seat occupants aren’t yet watching PG13 films, the bench can be run forward a good few centimetres to gain valuable luggage room in the boot area, where a simple yet clever false floor also adds more real estate.
We managed to fit three good-sized suitcases, two soft duffels and a couple of shopping bags in the space with the rear seats still in place.
Not only can kids travel in comfort in the back of the Captur, but adults are well catered for, too. With the rear seat set back, there’s up to 215mm of leg room in the rear, and head room is ample, too. The rear door openings are well sized, and the high hip point – 100mm higher than the Clio – makes access even easier.
The base Expression 90 is a five-speed manual-only proposition that costs $21,990 plus on-roads. It misses out on very little in the way of spec, despite the price auto lights and wipers, a rear-view camera that incorporates a parking sensor graphic, a fully-featured infotainment system with Bluetooth and navigation, and smart-card based keyless entry are all standard.
The 16-inch alloys are handsome, and overall it doesn’t look like a base-spec car at all.
The 1.0-litre turbo three-potter is gruff yet characterful, and manages to hold its own even up steep inclines with two blokes up front, providing you’re willing to row through the long-throw gearbox to keep the revs up to it.
Its handling tune has been lifted from a Europe-only Clio Estate, and is well suited to Australian roads, with commendable levels of roll control. It’s a fraction firm over long sections of corrugations, but it’s certainly not too severe.
Steering feel on the 1100kg Captur is light yet communicative, and the brakes – vented discs up front and, like Clio, finned drums in the rear – are firm, feelsome and well modulated. The clutch action is good, but the five-speed shifter sports a very long throw, which takes a little getting used to.
Stepping into the top-spec Dynamique isn’t as big a leap as you find in other model ranges. The larger 1.2-litre direct-injection turbo four is stronger, of course, but isn’t a quantum leap over the three-potter. It’s a surprisingly smooth, refined unit, too, undue noise not intruding into the cabin even under load.
The dual-clutch transmission is reasonably well tuned, too early versions driven overseas by GoAuto sported super-conservative, early-shifting software maps that detracted from the drive experience.
The Captur will default to a low-rpm shift if left to its own devices, and it can be sluggish off the line if not prodded a little, but it can be driven in manual mode to keep the little engine in its happy place above 4000rpm.
The Dynamique really only scores odds and sods like a better screen and stereo, larger 17-inch rims and a colour-coded roof over the Expression range. For our money, the 1.2-litre auto Expression, with its 16-inch rims, offers a more compliant ride, and the base infotainment is pretty darn good anyway.
We will remark upon the very thick A-pillars and sloping windscreen that can obstruct a driver’s view at certain angles, especially in the city, while the rear three-quarter view is also compromised thanks to the thicker C-pillars and sloping roofline. Extra glass portholes in both locations do help here, though.
The Captur scored five stars under Euro NCAP testing when it was launched in 2013, but a lack of rear curtain airbags saw ANCAP suggest it would only achieve a four-star result.
Subsequent changes at ANCAP to align itself more closely with Euro NCAP figures mean, however, that the Captur will be awarded a five-star rating locally. With high-strength steels used in the C-pillar, four front airbags and both traction and stability controls, the Captur compares well to its rivals.
Renault Australia claims to have listened to its customers, and is working hard to change the perception that its vehicles are expensive to run. The Captur’s five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty is complemented with a fixed-price service plan of $299 per service for the first three services. Renault recommends a one year or 15,000km service interval.
The Captur has its work cut out for it – it’s a terrific little SUV at first blush, and it deserves to do well, but it’s late to the ball, and the dance floor is crowded with quality competitors.
However, Aussie buyers are once again warming up to the French brand as it continues to shed its ‘quirky and expensive’ identity, and the Captur will prove to be an important plank in that bridge.
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