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French carmaker Renault has an undeservedly low profile in New Zealand, but DAVE MOORE reckons the new Captur could make some changes there.
I can't bring myself to call this pert, nicely proportioned Frenchman an SUV, though Renault calls it a crossover, which is I guess about right. In reality, it's a tall, sporty hatchback, and one that can look after the family, manage nature trail ways in a passable fashion and at the same time, look gob-smackingly gorgeous.
These aren't my words but those used by fellow shoppers in the mall carpark last week, who unashamedly pored over the car, asking what it was, and how much it was. Judging by the looks, questions and unsolicited positive comments from those at the market the Captur is a winner. Already it has leapt to number two on Renault's sales table in the UK, after two years on sale there, and I reckon it could do that here.
Powered by Renault's flexible and surprisingly punchy 88kW/190Nm 1.2-litre turbo four, which runs through a six-speed double-clutch automatic, the Captur is an example of why you shouldn't judge performance by engine size.
It vacuums up the road with great gusto, does so smoothly and efficiently and still manages to use so little fuel you find your self tapping the gauge as you would a recalcitrant barometer. Renault rates the Captur at 5.4L/100km combined and those with feather-like feet should be able to occasionally duck under 5L/100km. In theory, the Renault's 45L tank should deliver a range of 750km plus. If you have sympathy with the idea of being green, the Capture is rated at 125g/CO2/km, which means it's probably the cleanest light SUV out there.
Based on the Clio platform, the Captur is not an all-wheel-drive and cannot be optioned as one. But that's no big deal, as it does everything its segment requires it to do and, as I said, with a whole lot more style than any other vehicle in that segment, with the possible exception of the ever so slightly cramped Mazda CX-3.
There's an advantage to the lack of all-wheel-drive mechanicals. Without all the workings of such a system, the interior platform can be lower-slung, the whole structure that much lighter and lower and most importantly, the cabin and load area that much more capacious.
Weighing just 1215kg in a segment full of cars weighing two or three hundred kilogrammes more, the Captur immediately feels more nimble than the Nissan Juke, Holden Trax, Ford EcoSport, and SsangYong Tivoli. It slices through bends with pleasing accuracy and calm, and shrugs off bumps with typical French alacrity.
It's the latter talent that really separates the Captur from its Japanese and Korean counterparts. Such ride quality is only to be expected, as the Clio which donated its platform and underpinnings for the Captur's use already overpowers bumps and holes well, even without the taller car's extra suspension travel.
Combined with the long-legged 2000rpm/100kmh gearing, the Captur's gorgeous, all-absorbing gait makes it a great all-day cruiser, while a zero to 100kmh time of ten seconds aptly and fusslessly demonstrates that old adage I mentioned about never judging an engine purely by its capacity.
Even in New Zealand's standard $35,990 'Dynamique' form the Captur is pretty, riding on silver and black 17-inch alloy rims, while the test car also had an optional two-tone finish.
Standard with the Dynamique is a 7-inch touchscreen for the sound system, blue-tooth, media and satellite navigation, a rear view camera and sensors and my particular favourite: zip-off removable seat covers, which means the habits of grubby children - or adults - can be shrugged-off as quickly as a washing cycle.
Renault's interior space is particularly impressive, especially in the load areas. Yes, that's plural, for as well as a seats-down volume of 1235-litres and a seats-up figure of 377-litres, that number increases to 455-litres if you utilise the lidded underfloor stowage space.
The Frenchman's centre console which separates two very supportive front seats looks like a scaled up smartphone and is a cinch to set-up and use, while the minor controls are placed logically with functions that take no time to find and learn.
The rear seat is wide enough for three, but even better for two large, tall adults. The two six-footers I transported in the Captur both remarked on the space and comfort out back, and remarked that the air con was as effective for them as it was for me; not a rule in this segment by any means. Many small SUVs or crossovers tend to let themselves down with excessive road noise in the rear cabin. This isn't the case with the Captur, whose cruising refinement even on coarse chip surfaces is among the best.
The Captur is a surprisingly competent light SUV, displaying the same new found gains in build quality I praised in the latest Clio and Megane models. With the limelight likely to be taken by the arrival of the company's EVs in New Zealand this year as the Twizy quadricycle, Zoe hatch and Kangoo van plug themselves into the marketplace, Renault needs something perhaps more conventional to charm a few punters too.
The Captur fits that bill perfectly. It really IS that good.