27.5.2019Renault Kadjar TCe 140 review
Renault's Kadjar has been updated with refreshed styling to bring it in line with the rest of the French firm's range, plus attention has been paid to the interior, equipment levels, and engine line-up. In a market crammed with practical family models, do the changes keep Renault in the running in terms of family-sized crossovers? NGC tests the Kadjar TCe 140 S-Edition to find out.
Review by Chris Lilly
Driven is one of those new engine options; a 1.3 litre petrol unit, in this case producing 140hp and 240 Nm of torque. It's expected to be a popular choice amongst buyers, as they move away from diesel but want respectable running costs from their petrol engine. Power goes through a six-speed manual gearbox to the front wheels, and performance figures come in at 10.4 seconds for the 0-62mph sprint and a top speed of 126mph. The engine is one of Renault's latest, cropping up in a variety of models, and shared with Mercedes Benz. It's a very good one, with a couple of states of tune available - there's a 160hp version available too - and does a good job of providing enough performance, whilst maintaining efficiency. Considering the Kadjar is a full-sized crossover, it would be easy to dismiss the 1.3 litre TCe petrol as being too lightweight for purpose, but it's plenty punchy enough, even when in full workhorse mode. Packed to the rafters with family and kit, the Kadjar still makes good progress up hills, and there are few situations when you feel as though you would need more oomph. It's set up to provide peak torque low down the rev-range, so there's a hint of diesel feel to it's pulling power. The gear shift isn't the most engaging around, but it does its job well enough. Combined, engine and gearbox provide an easy-to-drive approach to the Kadjar's set-up; an approach likely to be welcomed by those in the market for a family-size crossover.
There is a bias towards comfort when judging the Kadjar's ride and handling, setting the car up as middle of the road in terms of crossovers. There are some models that offer an engaging drive, and those that are considerably behind the hatchback on which crossovers are so often based. The Kadjar can't compete with the Megane when looking at driving dynamics, but it's far from a soggy ride either. There is a fair amount of lean when cornering hard, and the suspension will struggle a little on rough, tight country roads for example. But on the whole, it offers a comfortable ride and handling that will get you around corners with the minimum of fuss. Grip is good, though there's little feedback through the steering wheel to let you know precisely what's going on beneath the tyres. It's precise enough however, and driving the Kadjar will present no issues to buyers looking for a comfortable way to get around. It settles down well on the motorway, and it is here where the Kadjar shows its best side really. Sitting at a cruise on fast roads, the Renault is composed and refined for a car in this class. It's not going to tempt buyers in looking for a few driving thrills as a Mazda CX-5 does for example. Most buyers in the market aren't bothered about that anyway, and for them, the Kadjar is pitched very well.
There are changes to the styling, I assure you. Compare pre- and post-facelifted versions side-by-side and the differences are more striking, but Renault has definitely done a bit of fettling - predominantly to the front end - whilst keeping the look very definitely 'Kadjar'. A wider grille and increased use of chrome trim are the main changes up front, plus there's more body-coloured surfacing on the bumpers front and rear. Overall, it's a good design in a congested market, though not one that stands out from the crowd - either for being particularly good or bad. What it does well is provide plenty of space inside for both occupants and kit. Four adults can comfortably fit inside, with space for luggage in the boot too. A family trying to fit child seats in the back seats will have no issues, and the Kadjar will be able to deal with a week's worth of holiday clobber easily. The boot floor is flat, which makes loading easy, and there are a couple of shallow cubby-holes beneath to stow more kit. Rear seats have good levels of leg room for adults, but head room isn't as good as some rivals. Sit one six-footer behind another and the one in the rear will certainly be wishing they were up front. In most situations though, there are no issues. Those up front have no issues at all, and there are a number of storage bins in which to stash stuff.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
An area that has seen significant changes over the pre-facelift Kadjar is the cabin. There's a new, flush infotainment system fitted, and the heating controls have been dramatically tidied up and improved. Where previously it was a bit of a button-fest, the new Kadjar uses three dials only, with displays within the bezel. The combination makes the centre console look much classier and more premium, improving the ambience immediately. The driver gets a digital instrument display, though it's not close to the likes of Peugeot's i-Cockpit system in terms of functionality. It works well though, and the driver is able to get into a good seating position easily. An adjustable seat and steering wheel allow for a large range of seating combinations, and the gear stick sits relatively high, closer to hand. Materials used throughout are good. There is no feeling the Renault is going to challenge the premium sector, but equally, buyers won't be disappointed with the quality of the cabin, or perceived build quality.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
The Kadjar performs will in terms of running costs, more or less across the board. The real champion is the 1.5-litre dCi diesel, with a fuel economy figure in the mid-50s MPG. However, as mentioned above, the 1.3-litre TCe petrol engine does a good job in this regard. The official figures are 47.9 MPG and CO2 emissions of 126 g/km. In the real world, the Kadjar left my care with approaching 500 miles on the trip computer, and an average of 44.2 MPG displayed. This was after a couple of long drives, but there were few motorway stints, where the engine could just settle down and cruise. A mixture of country roads and some town work mixed things up. As such, although the average isn't likely to be indicative of everyday use, most drivers should expect an average in excess of 40 MPG to be repeatable. VED will cost £210 for the first year - included in the OTR - and then the £145 standard rate thereafter.
Renault offers a few bits of kit to help drivers make the most of their fuel efficiency. There's an Eco mode which reduces throttle response and improves the potential for greener driving. For those models with manual gearboxes, a gear shift indicator lets the driver know when to change up or down to keep the engine operating efficiently. Renault's eco2 driving coaching system is fitted too, which scores drivers and provides advice as to how to drive with greater efficiency. A score out of 100 gives a high-level figure, and then the score can be broken down over time too. A distance without using fuel is an interesting bit of information, with the Kadjar saying that during the 475 miles covered, 53 of them didn't use any of the petrol in the tank. The TCE petrol engine tested is fitted with a gasoline particulate filter (GPF) - a feature more commonly found on diesel engines (DPF). According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 34.
Renault has simplified the Kadjar's optional extras list as part of the changes, and boosted the standard levels of equipment fitted. Entry level Play trim includes elements such as 17-inch alloys, tinted rear windows, front fog lights, automatic lights and wipers, cruise control, automatic climate control, and rear parking sensors. The seven-inch colour touchscreen system is fitted too, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Step up to Iconic trim and TomTom Live navigation is added to the infotainment system, as is DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity. Front parking sensors are added to the rear ones, keyless entry, 19-inch alloys, and lane departure warning are included. S-Edition tested adds new upholstery with blue stitching, LED headlights, panoramic sunroof, and chrome detailing. Top of the range GT Line fits sportier styling trim, a 360-degree camera, leather interior, and puddle lights.
The Kadjar is not the most spacious large crossover, or the most engaging to drive. However, it has no real weak points in its armour, and does a good job of being a Jack-of-all-trades - an admirable trait for a family workhorse. It's a good pick for those wanting a good all-rounder; one that is comfortable, practical, keenly-priced, and well equipped.
Model tested: Renault Kadjar TCe 140 S-Edition
Body-style: Family crossover
Engine / CO2: 1.3 litre petrol / 126 g/km
Trim grades: Play, Iconic, S-Edition, GT Line
On-road price: From £20,595. Price as tested: £23,595
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 Stars