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It’s been delayed more times than Sydney’s Western Suburbs train line, but 21 months after its international launch in France the Renault Captur has finally arrived in Australia.
The hold ups have been both frustrating and fortunate for Renault Australia.
An Australian Design Rule (ADR) quibble relating to the Captur’s child seat anchor points threw a spanner in the works last year, while an insatiable global demand for the Clio-based baby SUV – particularly in Europe, where it’s far and away the best-selling vehicle in its class – pushed out our launch further still.
Arriving in 2015 does have its benefits, however. Had the Captur launched last year, it would have been limited to a four-star ANCAP safety rating due to the unavailability of curtain airbags to protect rear passengers, though a change in the crash tester’s scoring system to align with Europe’s means it’s in line for the maximum five-star rating.
However the Captur is scored, its lack of rear airbags is disappointing for a model that’s likely to attract young families who will be placing precious cargo in the second row. It’s also a safety feature that all of its key rivals include standard.
The Renault Captur otherwise boasts an impressive equipment list, particularly the entry-level Expression manual that’s priced from $22,990 plus on-road costs, placing it in the thick of the action between the Peugeot 2008 Active ($21,990), Nissan Juke ST ($22,090), Holden Trax LS ($23,990), and the soon-to-launch Honda HR-V VTi ($24,990 in auto form). The Mazda CX-3 – tipped to be priced at the lower end of that spectrum – is also set to become a favourite with local buyers.
The three-tier Captur range also includes a pair of automatic variants: the $25,990 Expression and the $27,990 Dynamique.
Standard across the Captur range are alloy wheels, automatic headlights and wipers, LED daytime running lights, rear parking sensors, reverse-view camera, one-touch door unlocking and ‘walk-away’ locking, push-button start, cruise control, climate control, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with satellite navigation and Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming.
The step up from Expression to Dynamique brings larger alloys, standard two-tone body paint, foglights with cornering functions, and nifty removable seat covers that can be unzipped and washed to keep clean, among other features. (Read our separate pricing and specifications story here.)
Under the bonnet sits a turbocharged petrol drivetrain duo familiar from the Clio.
The entry-level Expression teams a 0.9-litre three-cylinder engine with a five-speed manual transmission. The tiny triple looks underwhelming on paper, producing just 66kW at 5250rpm and 135Nm at 2500rpm, and taking 13.0 seconds to accelerate to 100km/h from rest.
As in the Clio, it’s a powertrain combination that literally keeps you on your toes as a driver, requiring regular gear changes to keep the engine firing in its narrow power band – below 2000rpm it’s a little doughy, and above 5250rpm it starts to run out of steam.
It’s an enormously endearing engine, however. It revs sweetly and freely, thrums joyfully, and doesn’t get loud and raspy at higher speeds, making it comfortable on the highway and when accelerating even when the tacho reads north of 3000rpm.
It also claims combined cycle fuel consumption of 4.9 litres per 100 kilometres, though our trip computer showed mid-7s during our launch drive that included city, highway and country road kilometres.
Delivering more effortless performance but significantly less personality is the 1.2-litre four-cylinder. Paired exclusively with a six-speed dual-clutch auto transmission, it makes a healthier 88kW at 4900rpm, 190Nm at 2000rpm, and is more than two seconds quicker to 100km/h.
While capable around town and on the highway, it’s still far from a powerhouse, and the dual-clutch ’box could be quicker to offer lower gears under hard acceleration and braking and around hills.
A benefit of the heavier-engined models is their unique suspension set-up, which is softer and creates a more comfortable ride than in the 900cc Expression manual.
Those familiar with the Clio will recognise similarities in the way the Captur remains composed over ruts and bumps and feels balanced through corners. Captur’s softer set-up means it’s more pronounced as it bounces over undulations and leans around bends, however, feeling ultimately less finessed than the hatch.
Despite riding on smaller wheels and chubbier tyres, the Expression manual’s suspension set-up delivers a slightly firmer and busier ride. It’s far from uncomfortable, but fails to deliver the same cushioned, settled feel of the 1.2.
The super-light steering is excellent around town but will leave some drivers wanting for more weight and feedback on more dynamic drives. Still, it’s accurate, consistent, and settled around the straight-ahead.
The Captur’s higher seating position (up 100mm on Clio) is instantly noticeable, and rear visibility is also better than in the city-sized hatch.
Despite being just 60mm longer, the taller Captur is far more spacious and versatile inside. There’s adequate legroom for adults in the second row, though some taller passengers could be squeezed for headroom, and all will rue the lack of rear vents.
Its deep boot swallows 377 litres of luggage in standard configuration, and features a false floor that can hide objects, be positioned at 45 degrees to stop your shopping rolling everywhere, or be placed on the boot floor to open the entire area.
Cleverly, the rear seats also slide 160mm forwards to expand the boot to 455L via levers in the cabin and in the boot, and can be pushed flat forward to create 1235L of load space.
Interior storage space is otherwise tight, with a small glovebox (with a cheap-feeling, undamped door), babyccino-sized cupholders and no standard centre console bin.
The dashboard layout is neat and user-friendly, and can be brought to life with (cheap, optional) splashes of colour around the centre stack, air vents and on the steering wheel.
Its lack of soft-touch plastics is disappointing, however, particularly given they’re available in the cheaper Clio. Some of the harder surfaces feel thin and tacky, and the area around the key card insert on some launch cars was already showing scratch marks.
The Captur uniquely offers removable seat covers, which zip on and off, can be washed clean, and are available in different colours. Time will tell if they start to stretch or bunch over time…
Renault Australia’s comprehensive aftersales program gives Captur an advantage over its key rivals. All variants are covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, five years of roadside assistance, and three-year/45,000km capped-price servicing that’s fixed at $299 per service.
Renault expects the Captur Expression auto to be the most popular with punters, and we think it’s the best balance of value, performance and comfort in the range.
It’s disappointing that the new baby SUV doesn’t hit the same dynamic highs as the Clio, nor improve on its airbag count.
But combining the design flair of the Clio with greater versatility is guaranteed to make the Renault Captur well worth the wait for many buyers.