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Geneva show: Renault breathes life into Captur RS

More is more: Customer clinics for the new Renault Captur SUV revealed an interest in a more exclusive and powerful version ripe for the RenaultSport treatment.

First hot Renault Sport SUV could be new Clio-based Captur

Renault logo6 Mar 2013

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

RENAULT is considering an answer to the Audi RS Q3 that was unveiled at the Geneva motor show overnight with a RenaultSport version of its new Captur SUV.

The French car-maker already has the running gear it needs to do the job with the Clio RS that will launch in Australia early next year – and the 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine with six-speed dual-clutch paddle-shift transmission should slot right into the Clio-derived underpinnings.

Renault senior vice-president of design, Laurens van den Acker said at the Geneva motor show that he would love to see an RS Captur and that customer clinics suggested there was demand.

“We tested some of these cars and people said ‘I want bigger wheels on it, I want leather in it and I want a bigger engine’, so the car seems to create that desire to move it up,” he said.

“I know RenaultSport is looking at opportunities. If you look at the Porsche Cayenne it is a serious sportscar the Captur (is) way removed from that but it is definitely credible.”

Mr Van den Acker said a high-performance SUV would be a new experience for Renault, as it was “normally used to quite the opposite”, but hoped it would happen.

Australia is in the world’s top three largest markets for RenaultSport models, and hooked on SUVs, so an RS-badged Captur could be a winning combination for this country.

“In Australia the image of the brand is made through the RenaultSport. I think it is the RS brand that gives us credibility,” said Mr Van den Acker.

“If you look at the cars in Australia I could not help but think that the (European) market is more design-oriented but the RenaultSport, the exoticness of being a European-French car, I think we have more an edge there (in Australia) than here (in Europe).”

Renault’s global alliance partner, Nissan, has started selling the sporty Juke Nismo in Europe and Japan, surely giving the French brand further impetus to follow the performance SUV route.

“Renault has a funny history,” said Mr Van den Acker. “They made a Clio V6, they put a rear engine in a Renault 5, they put a V10 Formula One engine in an Espace, they put a V10 in a Twingo so there is a sense of revolution still present.”

He joked that what he liked about Renault was that he could “do anything that I want as long as I come up with an intellectual reason to get away with it”.

Although Renault is branching out into a premium brand with Initiale Paris, a sportscar brand with Alpine and has the successful budget brand Dacia, Mr Van den Acker said the company would never separate the RenaultSport line from its mainstream brand.

“We would never give a unique brand to RenaultSport, it would always be derivatives of a Clio or a Megane or anything else,” he said.

Linking Renault’s credibility in Australia with its popular RS products and an automatic premium association with European cars, Mr Van den Acker said the company experienced a similar phenomenon in developing markets, helped by its success in Formula One.

“Countries like China and India make Renault automatically premium for two reasons one is because we are French, and the other is Formula One, so I think there is a natural link”“In Europe it is not the case in Europe Renault is the Volkswagen of France here we have the opposite, we have to lift our image (in Europe) if anything else because competition is so strong in Europe.”

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