6.5.2016Renault Kadjar 1.5 dCi review
As Renault normally lead the way in creating new family cars niches - Espace, Scenic etc - it is perhaps surprising that the innovative French firm was a little late to the crossover party. Nissan started the sector off with the phenomenally successful Qashqai, and now all the major manufacturers are producing a family-sized crossover. Renault's offering is the Kadjar which shares some of the Qashqai's components since the two companies are partners. However the Kadjar is newer than the Nissan and come along at a time when the market is more crowded than ever. Can the Renault hold its own then in an important sector?
Review by Chris Lilly
Fitted to the test car is Renault's widely used 1.5 dCi turbo diesel, producing 110hp and 260 Nm of torque - neither of which sound particularly useful for what is a fairly large car. However, the engine rarely felt underpowered and dealt with long motorway trips extremely well. The quoted 0-62mph time is 11.9 seconds which, although I'm sure is the fastest time to complete the sprint, seems to do the Kadjar a disservice. The Renault isn't quick don't get me wrong, but the power and torque on offer is usable and accessible without having to thrash the engine. Hard acceleration requires a drop of the cog rather than lazily relying on the diesel's natural torquey nature, and very urgent acceleration needs you do change down a couple of gears. It means that you will perhaps stir the gear stick a little more than in some of the Kadjar's rivals, but it's not to the extent that it becomes a chore. The gear change is reasonably slick too and helps rather than hinders the performance potential.
The Kadjar is a tall model but it is also importantly fairly wide. This gives the Renault a lower centre of gravity than it might otherwise have had which in turn improves the handling potential. Whether you are driving up the ramp of a multi-storey car park or driving vigorously along your favourite road, the Kadjar manages to handle all sorts of corners capably. There is the inevitable lean in body roll when you firts turn in to a corner, though this is controlled pretty well and the weight transfer progressive and controllable, indicating what the car is doing clearly. The Kadjar is never going to handle with the ability of a conventional family hatch but Renault's engineers have done a good job and the off-shoot of having a taller ride is that there is more travel available over rougher terrain. Despite the Kadjar's tall looks, the crossover isn't going to cut it off-road when compared to a conventional 4x4 - especially since it only comes with front-wheel drive in the interests of efficiency. However, those speed bumps on the school run are dispatched confidently and comfortably, while the whole set-up settles down nicely at motorway speeds, resisting the urge to bounce about whenever you come across a more undulating stretch of road. On the whole then, it offers a practical balance of handling that deals with what drivers will encounter everyday and is more engaging than you might first think, thanks in part to its nicely weighted steering.
Renault's current design language looks great in my opinion, though it is least successful on the Kadjar in my opinion. That said, the Renault is still a stylish family car, standing out from the crowd but not shouting loudly about it. The various creases, bulges, flaired wheel arches, and clever trim details prevent the Kadjar from having a slab-sided look that could have been so easy to see - especially considering the wheel are pushed out quite some way towards the corners, giving it a sportier look. Larger than the Renualt Captur, the Kadjar needs to deliver as a spacious and practical family car, especially since it's one of the largest cars Renault offers now that the Espace is no longer sold on UK shores. With that in mind, boot space is excellent and easy to access thanks to a nice wide bootlid and low sill. Load space is extremely practical too, and it's not just the rearmost section of the car that is spacious. Rear seat passengers and those up front alike have lots of space to stretch out limbs, with head, leg and shoulder space all excellent. A family of five would have no problem using the Kadjar as its everyday workhorse.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The Kadjar's interior doensn't quite live up to the expectations that its exterior curves and bold features promise. As mentioned above, the cabin is extremely spacious but it is also a little bland. The central console looks a little dated now with a touchscreen that seems too small for the space allocated for it. The technology behind the R-Link 2 navigation-infotainment system works well though with clear controls and easy to understand operation. The switchgear below feels decently well made - not class leading, but certainly not poor quality - but the whole affair would benefit from livening up a little, possibly in the shape of extending the highlights found on the transmission tunnel up onto the console itself. That said, the instrument binnacle is a nice piece of kit, with a large digital read-out capable of offering a range of different displays. The steering wheel is nicely sized too and looks good considering it is liberally scattered with buttons.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
The Renault Kadjar is one of the most efficient vehicles in its class, with no non-hybrid crossover of of comparable size able to match its economy figures save the Nissan Qashqai - which uses the same engine. The Kadjar emits 99 g/km CO2 and will return a quoted 74.3 MPG both of which ar class leading results. After covering more than 500 miles in the Kadjar, the Renault averaged 59.7 MPG but that did include a couple of cross-country non-motorway runs. With more careful and frugal driving that average was 63.8 MPG - a truer figure and one that is quite impressive considering the practical nature of the Kadjar. Renault's 4+ package is available on the Kadjar which combines a four year / 100,000 warranty (the first two years unlimited mileage) with four years of Renault Assistance brakedown cover.
Renualt has a number of eco-features fitted to a large proportion of its model range. Engine stop/start immediately decreases CO2 output, and the aforementioned choice of two rather than four wheel drive makes a big difference too. With only two wheels to drive, the transmission is smaller, lighter and more efficient - and very few will need to make the most of a full 4x4 set-up. There is one available higher up the range though. All the engines on offer are tuned more for economy than performance, and an Eco mode is available which makes some big efficiency savings - by as much as 10 per cent according to Renault. This makes the throttle less responsive to level out acceleration, while also tweaking the engine power modes and air conditioning. An eco driving system gives advice and scores as to how economically you are driving too, feeding back on acceleration, gear changes and anticipation (coasting and relaxed brake use), while also displaying a 'distance covered without fuel consumption' figure interestingly. The car traveled 57 miles without using any diesel during the 510 covered, so Renault's 10 per cent claim is a little conservative if anything. According to our calculations, the tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 35.
Tested was the Dynamique S Nav which comes with a healthy equipment list including plenty of safety kit and goodies to play with inside. Standard equipment across the range includes the likes of cruise control, Eco mode, electronic parking brake, air conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights and the 7-inch touchscreen Bluetooth DAB entertainment system. Dynamique S Nav models add climate control, automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, keyless entry and start, electric heated and folding wing mirrors, 'one touch' seat folding system, front and rear parking sensors, lane departure warning, R-Link 2 navigation system and 19-inch alloy wheels - though these will increase the CO2 rating to 103 g/km. The more efficient 17-inch wheels are a no-cost option to achieve the class leading 99 g/km CO2 figure.
On the whole then, Renualt offers an excellent large crossover. It's frugal, cheap to run, has loads of space, is fairly stylish, and is extremely practical. There are plenty of options available in the market, with even more confirmed as being on their way. Mazda's CX-5 is sportier, the Volkswagen Tiguan more upmarket, and Suzuki's Vitara better value. The Kadjar strikes an excellent balance though and deserves consideration by any who are looking to buy this type of car. It's class leading economy figures will push it into first place for many too, and those customers will be getting an excellent family workhorse, but not one that looks or drives like a tired old nag.
Model tested: Renault Kadjar Dynamique S Nav
Body-style: Large five-door crossover
Engine / CO2: 1.5 litre dCi 110hp turbo diesel / 99 g/km
Trim grades: Expression +, Dynamique Nav, Dynamique S Nav, Signature Nav and Signature S Nav
On-road price: From £18,495. Price as tested £23,615
Warranty: Four years / 100,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 stars