2015 Renault Captur Expression Review

$17,850 $21,230 Dealer
  • Fuel Economy
    4.9L
  • Engine Power
    66kW
  • CO2 Emissions
    113g
  • ANCAP Rating
    5Stars

No doubt a fun and funky little jigger, the entry-level Renault Captur can't quite match its Clio base car for praise...

The fourth-generation Renault Clio has been a bit of CarAdvice favourite since launching locally in late 2013. Unfortunately – particularly given a repeatedly pushed out wait – its high-riding sibling, the Clio-based Renault Captur, hasn’t quite been able to match its hatchback twin for praise.

Finally rolling into showrooms in February, the Renault Captur adds yet another jacked-up city car to the ever-growing sub-compact SUV segment.

With a three-model line-up ranging from $22,990 to $27,990, our test car here is the base Expression TCe 90.

Exclusively pairing a 66kW/135Nm turbocharged 0.9-litre three-cylinder engine with a five-speed manual transmission, the first rung on the Captur ladder comes in $3000 less than its automatic twin.

Opt for the dearer Expression TCe 120 auto and, while you’ll need to stretch to $25,990, you will get a larger 88kW/190Nm turbocharged 1.2-litre four-cylinder.

No matter your choice – even if you lash out on the flagship Dynamique – with the Captur, you’re guaranteed five doors, five seats, front-wheel drive and an engine that requires premium unleaded fuel. And while the Expression manual’s price is sharpish, it effectively sits mid-pack against its key rivals.

Undercutting the entry-level CVT-equipped Honda HR-V VTi ($24,990) and manual Peugeot 2008 Active ($23,990), Holden Trax LS ($23,990) and Nissan Juke ST ($23,490), the funky Frenchy gets outbid by the new Mazda CX-3 Neo ($19,990 for the manual and $21,990 for the auto).

The Holden, Honda and Mazda all offer bigger and more powerful engines too – 103kW/175Nm, 105kW/172Nm and 109kW/192Nm respectively – that can all be run on regular unleaded rather than matching the Renault's penchant for premium unleaded.

Even in base form, the Captur’s standard equipment list isn’t light on.

Fog lights, LED daytime running lights, automatic headlights and wipers, cruise and climate control, a reversing camera and rear parking sensors are all there along with an in-dash 7.0-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation and Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming.

A proximity-sensing key, push-button start, engine stop-start technology, hill hold assist and speed limiter are also noteworthy, as are 16-inch alloy wheels and a reach and rake adjustable steering wheel.

For those willing to drop a bit more coin in the name of individuality, the Renault Captur is available in nine hues, including our test car’s Riviera Blue metallic (an $800 option), however, there are up to 24 alternative exterior colour options linked to various costs. Further, owners can select from a plethora of exterior decals ($500), interior and exterior trims ($250) and even different coloured (Orange, Black or Ivory) 17-inch alloy wheels ($750).

Sporting gloss black front grille accents, wing mirrors and pillars, and a gloss black roof and rear spoiler, our test car also has chrome highlights on the front grille, around the fog and daytime running lights and on the lower door strips.

Step up into the Captur’s slightly higher driver’s seat (it’s 100mm up on that in the Clio) and the theme continues with gloss black on the steering wheel, air vent surrounds and central touchscreen/climate control hub.

Chrome splashes are again used on the air vents, door handles, steering wheel, gear knob and climate control rotary dials, while a brushed silver-type plastic trim frames the centre stack and the four-speaker stereo’s front speakers.

Feeling even more ‘toy-like’ than the Clio – including our long-term Clio RS200 – you could use words such as ‘youthful’ and ‘funky’ to describe the Captur’s interior but really it’s just a little basic and utilitarian and easily shy of the mark of something like the Mazda CX-3 and Peugeot 2008.

There are cheaper and more low-rent elements including harder, scratchier dash- and door-top materials, plasticy indicator and wiper stalks, and flimsy door handles. And while the climate control rotary dial in charge of fan speed is nicely weighted with a sound ‘click’ to its rotation, the larger temperature dial feels unsatisfyingly slack.

The Captur’s manual handbrake lever feels noticeably old school by modern standards – though some will no doubt like it while others will not – but happily, the presence of the manual transmission’s gear stick also means the elimination of the automatic shifter’s poor quality plastic shift button.

Annoyingly, the steering wheel’s gloss black plastic highlights are located right where you want your hands to be, making the experience of holding the wheel feel far less premium than if the lovely-to-touch leather rim was allowed to continue uninterrupted.

Storage is addressed with a decent glove box, a dash top-mounted hidey-hole, a petite cut-out at the bottom of the centre stack, small and shallow door pockets and again fairly ‘quaint’ cup holders.

A removable plastic tray sits inside the transmission tunnel unit’s rear most cup holder, however, apart from being a wobbly afterthought, it also makes it all but impossible to avoid smashing your knuckles into every time you go to adjust the seat recline angle (an issue for both driver and passenger).

A little narrow but with decently padded bases, the front seats have stubby ‘wings’ and minimal bolsters that both struggle to support against much lateral movement.

Jump into the back and you’re greeted by flat and basic but largely comfortable 60:40 split-fold rear seats. A high rear floor means knees are up a little, accentuating a lack of under-thigh support, however, there’s adequate rear headroom and excellent rear legroom.

There’s no fold-down centre armrest, no cup holders and no rear air vents back there, nor – despite still achieving a five-star ANCAP safety rating – rear curtain airbags.

Awkwardly sized and positioned rear door pockets are present, as are “modern net back” map pockets comprising five bass string-like elastic straps, which, apart from being questionable at holding items in place, will no doubt be ‘played’ by the majority of back seat travellers (kids or adults).

Accessing the Captur’s 377-litre boot is easy enough thanks to a light-to-open (though heavy-to-close) tailgate that also comes up high enough not to take the head off six-footers.

Providing more seats-up cargo space than the bigger CX-3 (264L), Juke (354L) and Trax (356L) – and 77L more than the 59mm shorter Clio – the 4122mm-long Captur can slide its rear seats forward up to 160mm to boost capacity to 455L.

Volume can be further increased by pulling boot-mounted releases that drop down the second-row backrests to provide a maximum of 1235L – only bettered in its competitor group by the 2008’s 1400L maximum.

The Renault only has one cargo hook tucked into its boot but its final party trick is a split-level boot floor (and reversible false floor panel) that means even more load height and boot depth adjustability and flexibility. Very clever.

Speaking of clever, while many manual cars with engine start buttons demand drivers depress the clutch to fire up the engine, the Captur is smart enough to know when you’re in neutral and allows you to start the car without stepping on the far left pedal.

Rolling on 60-profile Michelin tyres the Renault Captur Expression rides over reasonable quality roads with adequate comfort and compliance, with some roll and bobbling associated with tighter bends and speed humps respectively.

Encounter poorer surfaces, however, and potholes, ruts and sharper imperfections can result in things becoming unsettled and a touch jittery. Larger undulations too can see ‘comfort’ swapped for a little ‘float’.

Road noise at highway speeds is not bad, with wind noise making more of an impression. At a mere 1134kg, the Captur can get moved around in even slight crosswinds, but it still makes for a comfortable enough cruiser.

Find an entertaining stretch of road and positive lateral grip from the Michelins combines with a capable chassis to prove that Renault hasn’t ignored handling dynamics with its baby crossover.

Steering, while super light and lean on feedback, follows suit with high levels of accuracy if not sharpness – a fine setup for negotiating tight streets and parking spots.

Making nailing smooth, slick shifts a little tricky, drivers have to juggle a very light clutch – all but devoid of feel – and a bit of a ‘sticky’ gearbox that doesn’t like to be rushed, requiring clear and gentle passes into and out of neutral. On more than one occasion the ‘box also wasn’t keen to go into reverse.

On the topic of gear changes, with the thrummy sub-1.0-litre three-pot under the bonnet, you’ll be doing a few of them…

With ‘all’ 66kW available at 5250rpm and 2500rpm needed to reach peak torque of 135Nm, engine response anywhere below 2000rpm is about as slow, if not slightly worse, than the delay in the response of the Captur’s touchscreen – trying to change radio stations or select different menu screens is not a lightening fast process.

The throttle is doughy and, with a 13.0-second 0-100km/h time to its name, if you actually need to be somewhere, your minimum shift point will need to be somewhere around 3000-3500rpm. Between 4000-5000rpm there’s more zip (comparatively), but engine revolutions towards 6000rpm are all but fruitless, yielding little reward or additional pace.

The only thing a heavy right foot is sure to do is increase fuel consumption beyond the Captur’s 4.9 litres per 100km combined claim. Proving the point, on test we averaged 7.6L/100km (despite taking in both urban and highway legs and leaving stop-start activated).

The Renault Captur is a mostly comfortable, reasonably capable, easy to park inner-city lifestyle-mobile. It’s flexible, well specced and vision out is far better than in the Mazda 2-based CX-3. It is a genuinely good thing. Trouble is, in this segment, most of its rivals are as good if not better, with some offering more tempting pricing, higher quality fit and finish or improved practicality.

After sales is a strong point for the Renault, however, with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty and five years roadside assistance being standard, and three years capped-price servicing covering you for the first 45,000km (with services fixed at $299 each).

The Captur succumbs to standard Renault idiosyncrasies though, such as the cruise control button down near the handbrake, but further, in our time with the car, we also had other issues. A driver’s power window button ceased operating for half a drive; the Bluetooth audio streaming was patchy and unreliable; an albeit gentle ‘thump, thump’ noise was discovered to be coming from a somewhat loose passenger seat headrest; and trim creaks and rattles popped up sporadically.

The Renault Captur is still a fun and characterful drive, but over a lifetime of ownership, we suspect its short list of little annoyances would add up, potentially souring the long-term experience.

Click on the Photos tab for more 2015 Renault Captur images by Tom Fraser.