Make / Model Search

Future models - Renault

Renault Captur ‘evolves’ SUV breed

Captivating: Renault aims to capture SUV buyers with the high-riding and roomy Captur.

Intensive customer research source of Renault Captur’s family friendly practicality

13 May 2013


LURING light-car buyers seeking SUV characteristics such as a higher ride height and bolder road presence, while appeasing existing MPV owners with cabin space and flexibility, drove the development of Renault’s Captur crossover.

The Captur is an offshoot of the fourth-generation Clio hatch due in Australia in August.

Work on the crossover program began some months after the Clio’s development in 2009, following an extended period of what Captur program manager Christophe Pejout described as unprecedented amounts of consumer research for Renault.

Initially created mainly for Europe and South America, the early clay models had enough international appeal for a host of other markets – including Australia – to put their hand up for the Captur.

Mindful of not following in the footsteps of its failed predecessor – the Modus mini people mover – Renault hired designer Laurens van den Acker to oversee the styling.

Along with an elevated ride height (200mm of ground clearance means the occupants sit about 100mm higher than in the Clio), the ex-Mazda designer insisted on a cab-forward silhouette, to help improve pedestrian-impact safety as well as liberate as much interior space as possible.

Wider tracks, a longer wheelbase and bigger wheels – limited to 16-inch and 17-inch items at launch – help fill larger wheelarches, helping improve the Captur’s overall proportions compared with the meek-looking Modus.

Mr Pejout also revealed that in the early days of planning, there was much discussion about whether to use the front-wheel drive-only Clio as the platform donor, since other vehicles with the Renault-Nissan Alliance – such as the then-unreleased Nissan Juke – were about right dimensionally.

However, the Japanese vehicle’s optional all-wheel drive system added about 100kg-plus of weight to the architecture that wasn’t necessary in the Captur, which – as a Europe-focussed model – needed to be as light as possible for utmost efficiency.

Furthermore, to accommodate AWD, the floor would have to be raised, which in turn would either eat into interior space or force the designers to lift the roof height and/or lengthen the body, adding even more weight and upsetting the proportions.

“So, in the end, the decision was easy,” Mr Pejout said, adding that the Captur weighs about the same as the third-generation Clio.

A kerb weight range between 1100kg and 1180kg has allowed Renault to fit lighter, more efficient small-displacement turbocharged engines at launch.

Powertrains start with 989cc three-cylinder and 1.2 TCe four-cylinder petrols, through to to a 1.5-litre four-pot diesel not currently on the agenda for Australia, while a six-speed dual-clutch transmission is also available.

The latter is optimised for economy (see Captur first drive story), while most models include an Eco mode that restricts engine torque, alters gear change mapping, and limits climate control output.

Renault is especially proud of the diesel drivetrain’s Prius-bothering 3.6L/100km fuel consumption average, equating to just 95g/km of carbon dioxide emissions.

Also helping out are idle-stop (which should be standard on the 1.2 TCe by the time Australian sales commence), regenerative braking, F1-derived low-friction engine parts, careful attention to air flow management to cut drag (including adaptive air intakes and underbody air channelling) and low rolling resistance tyres.

The lower floor enabled by FWD also helps with a lower centre of gravity, aiding handling, safety and stability.

Nevertheless, a Captur still weighs about 100kg more than an equivalently specified Clio, due to heavier parts such as the bigger wheels, beefed up Clio suspension components and the use of Megane suspension parts.

A couple of people mover-style innovations that Renault says make the Captur a true crossover further contribute to the added mass.

“People still want a car that is very easy to live with,” Mr Pejout said.

Adding weight and complexity but also unrivalled class practicality is the Captur’s sliding rear seat, which not only brings mid-sized Laguna levels of legroom in its furthest position, but shames many vehicles in the segment above for cargo space.

Cargo volumes range from 377 litres to 455 litres with the split backrests upright, to 1235 litres with them folded.

A hefty shelf can provide a seat-to-tailgate flat floor in situ, a deeper floor when removed, or a 45-degree boot divider to help keep items such as shopping bags separated or wedged into place.

Renault considered engineering the rear seats to be removable, but claims feedback from Scenic owners suggested this function is rarely used since most people have nowhere to store them. Plus it adds more cost, weight and complexity to the car.

Speaking of cost, Mr Pejout says great design can mask hard trim, so while the Captur’s dashboard is progressive and eye-catching, there are no Audi-style soft plastics to be found.

“B-segment SUV customers are not prioritising slush moulded feel,” he said. “They also are expensive, heavy, and hard to recycle. They don’t expect an experience from the classes above.” Renault says 16 per cent of the plastics used in the manufacture of the Captur are recyclable – a leading result – with parts of the underbody, bumpers, suspension, insulation, carpeting, dashboard structure and climate control system enjoying a second (or more) outing.

Personalisation is a big part of the newcomer’s appeal for many of its buyers, with a host of exterior and interior trim choices.

These include a customisable colour and material for the roof, mirror housings, wheels, fog light surrounds, side protection strips, seat covers (with can be zipped off), steering wheel, and surrounds for the air cents, console, speakers and glovebox.

Body graphics, mood lighting and elasticised map pockets are also available, but Australians will miss out on the novel and effective slide-out drawer found in left-hand drive Capturs: it is incompatible with right-hand drive because of electrical and ventilation components on the firewall.

However R-Link media connectivity that brings Bluetooth audio streaming and sat-nav into a large touchscreen is likely to make it Down Under.

Still on personalisation, Mr Pejout said convincing Renault’s engineers to create the optional two-tone roof (in white, black or orange) proved to be one of the most difficult jobs, since it involves precise paint re-application.

A small groove along the rear pillar helps align the hues perfectly.

“It was one of the biggest challenges, because we wanted the Captur production car to look like the Captur concept mock-ups,” he revealed.

“It was a meeting of a design idea and industrial feasibility that many in Renault said was just not possible.” Now, the company must balance production with demand at the Spanish Valladolid factory that is the source for all global Capturs.

After the Modus failed in the marketplace, Renault and its supply chain was left badly exposed with excess stock.

Keen to never let this happen again, a more cautious approach was deemed prudent, but with slow ramp-up, there might be a massive back order issue if Captur sales soar.

“This is my next big challenge,” Mr Pejout said, hopefully.

The Road to Recovery podcast series

Read more

Click to share

Click below to follow us on
Facebook  Twitter  Instagram

Renault models

Catch up on all of the latest industry news with this week's edition of GoAutoNews
Click here