First Drive: Renault Kadjar
It’s a late arrival, but Renault is joining the crossover set at the top of the class, says Alex Grant.Sector: Crossover Price: £17,995–£26,295 Fuel: 48.7–74.3mpg CO2: 99–130g/km
Renault openly admits it’s better known for clever superminis and MPVs than it is for crossovers, but that’s a reputation it’s out to change. After the Clio and Captur, the Kadjar is expected to become the brand’s biggest-selling model in the UK, and a vital new addition for luring user-choosers out of rival products.
Part of what will be a three-part crossover range, it builds on the already successful Captur and will be joined by an all-new Koleos in three years. Set to return to the UK, the latter is likely to become a more road-focused product, an alternative to a D-segment estate, like the latest X-Trail.
With crossovers accounting for a fifth of global car sales and almost a quarter of European volume, it’s a place where Renault can’t afford not to be. Especially in the UK, where it says 40% of buyers in this sector are coming from segments where it doesn’t offer anything.
The Kadjar certainly has the right ingredients to perform well. It looks a lot like a scaled up Captur, already a popular part of the UK model range, and the platform underneath is shared with the Nissan Qashqai, which is this segment’s benchmark product. Residual values are strong and Renault has plans in place to maintain them throughout its lifecycle.
There’s a lot of the Qashqai in the driving experience, with excellent ride quality on its 17-inch wheels and the stability of a lower hatchback while cornering. This modular platform is being shared across Renault and Nissan, and it’s claimed that the cost savings can be reinvested into materials and equipment. Soft to the touch, partially trimmed in leather on most UK cars and with an all-digital instrument cluster, the cabin lives up to those claims.
The excellent Renault-Nissan’s 1.5-litre dCi 110 diesel is likely to be the corporate engine of choice, and it matches the Qashqai’s segment-leading headline fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. As a unique selling point, the Kadjar also achieves these figures with Renault’s dual-clutch transmission. Turbocharged petrol and diesel engines, both with 128bhp complete the range, and the dCi 130 is offered with four-wheel drive for the handful of UK customers expected to need it.
There are differences in the technology offered, though. So Renault’s R-Link 2 infotainment system will be standard fitment on most UK cars, and the Grip Xtend system which gives additional traction for two-wheel drive cars will be available from next summer, but it does without Nissan’s active ride and cornering control systems or the Around View Monitor. Usefully, it shares the Qashqai’s luggage board system, which enables the boot to be divided into smaller sections using removable pieces of the load floor.
Trim levels follow the Captur’s, comprising Expression+, Dynamique Nav, Dynamique S Nav and Signature Nav. With only an £800 price walk between the two Dynamique versions, and the S gaining larger wheels, chrome and half-leather upholstery, it’s expected that sales will be 70% weighted towards the top end of the range.
The downside, from Dynamique S Nav upwards, is that the 19-inch wheels have a sizeable trade-off in ride quality and curb the fuel economy. With the larger wheels, the dCi 110 engine drops to 72.4mpg with CO2 emissions of 103g/km – though it is possible to swap down to 17-inch versions on the Dynamique S Nav, bringing it back under 100g/km.
Renault hasn’t set new benchmarks or reinvented the segment with the Kadjar, but it didn’t have to. Capitalising on the best components in the portfolio and building on the design of a proven product has made this one of the best crossovers on the market, and the next step in an evolving range.
A very strong newcomer to the crossover segment, the Kadjar should have no problem attracting user-choosers who – until now – would have had to look elsewhere.