One of the perks of motoring journalism is suspending reality for a while and pretending to live a life that someone on a motoring journalist’s salary (if you can call it that) could only ever dream of.
For most, the pinnacle of this double life is cruising down the busiest street in town in a Porsche 911 Convertible with the volume cranked up to obnoxious.
Call me peculiar, but my 911 equivalent over the past month has been trading in my Mitsubishi Mirage long-termer for a new Renault Captur Dynamique.
In my mind, gone are my days as a carefree student and an entry-level employee with no money for food or petrol. I’m now a semi-successful, 30-something-year-old with an active lifestyle (probably something like Thursday night Ultimate Frisbee mixed league Division 4), a tan, a hip girl/boyfriend, and a little disposable income to buy things that express my personality.
Enter the top-spec Renault Captur Dynamique that I splashed $29,780 before on-road costs on (call it low $30,000s driveaway). The Dynamique actually starts at $27,990, but I couldn’t resist the $990 R-Link infotainment system upgrade or the two-tone metallic paint for $800. (Though if I really got to choose the colour scheme, I’d go the orange body and white roof combination.)
The Dynamique sits at the top of Renault’s three-variant Captur range in Australia, joining the entry-spec Expression manual ($22,990) and dual-clutch automatic ($25,990) models.
The Captur’s standard specification is impressive, boasting 16-inch alloy wheels, auto headlights and wipers, LED daytime running lights, reverse-view camera and rear parking sensors, cruise control, climate control, 7.0-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a smart key card with keyless entry, push-button start and ‘walk-away’ locking.
The $2000 step from Expression to Dynamique is inexpensive but not entirely necessary. Over the base variant it adds larger 17-inch alloys, a cornering function for the foglights, two-tone body paint (metallic is extra), chrome boot lid strip, rear privacy glass, chrome interior highlights, removable seat covers, and storage nets on the front seatbacks.
If you’re happy with a manual, the entry Expression is super value.
That variant pairs a characterful 0.9-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with a five-speed manual, while the Expression auto shares its 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol and six-speed dual-clutch (Renault calls it EDC) with the Dynamique. All three are front-wheel drive.
The larger engine’s outputs are impressive for its modest size. Producing 88kW at 4900rpm and 190Nm at 2000rpm, it’s more than adequate for the city-sized SUV that’s based on the Clio and tips the scales at a tidy 1215 kilograms.
Early impressions of its partnership with the EDC have left the CarAdvice team a little underwhelmed, however. The two work well when you simply accelerate off the line, with well-timed gear changes performed swiftly on the way to the 1.2-litre Captur’s 10.9-second 0-100km/h time and beyond.
But in regular traffic when you’re speed is more variable as you accelerate, coast and brake, it’s eager to grab and hang on to high gears, working hard to hit its official combined cycle fuel consumption measure of 5.4 litres per 100 kilometres. (We’ve recorded a reasonable 7.5L/100km so far, and will track real-world consumption across the duration of our loan.)
There’s nothing wrong with the pursuit of higher gears in theory, though in real life the Captur’s EDC is far too slow to downshift when you hit the throttle, leaving you waiting for it grab a more appropriate gear and hit the sweet spot of the engine’s rev range north of 2000rpm.
In the absence of a sport mode, keen drivers may find themselves nudging the gear lever into manual mode (as I did) to keep the engine on the boil. Driven in this way it’s far more spritely and engaging, which is great but also a shame, because it proves the EDC really doesn’t get the best out of what is a perky little engine.
As we’ve found previously with the Captur, it lacks the Clio’s suppleness over bumps. The high-rider feels wooden as it knocks its way over patchy suburban roads, with sharper bumps felt firmly in the cabin and smaller imperfections causing little wobbles and vibrations.
Its quick, light steering makes it easy to manoeuvre around tight streets and car parks, and the rear camera and sensors help when backing up, especially given rear visibility is hampered by its thick D-pillars (a Clio shortcoming, too).
You sit far higher in the Captur than in the Clio, giving you a more commanding view of the world around you.
We’ve been far more interested in the world inside the Captur’s cabin this month, however.
It makes a good visual impression thanks to its colourful 7.0-inch touchscreen, piano black and glossy chrome trim highlights, and two-tone grey seat covers (that can be unzipped and removed if you need to clean them – we’re looking forward to trying this out over the coming weeks).
In a world where many car interiors are cookie-cutter and conservative, it’s refreshing to be in one that’s so individual.
It’s not without its failings, however. The lack of soft-touch materials on the dash and door panels make it feel a bit plasticky and cheap. We also think that for a car that’s likely to spend much more time in the city than on the highway, it would make more sense for the audio and phone buttons to be on the steering wheel and the cruise controls hidden on a stalk behind it, rather than the other way around as is Renault’s custom.
The cabin offers myriad storage options though none of them are particularly generous (the teeny tiny cup holders are a particular favourite of mine), though the boot, at 377 litres, is a good size, and can be expanded both by sliding the rear bench seats forward by about a foot and/or by folding the 60:40 split fold seatbacks forward.
We’re also very critical of its lack of curtain airbags to protect passengers in the back. Still, it’s been awarded a five-star safety rating from ANCAP for its crashworthiness, helped by its structural integrity, four front-row airbags and electronic stability control, among other features.
While the Renault Captur Dynamique has charmed me in a number of ways in our first month together, it hasn’t convinced me completely that it’s the best car for either of my lives at this stage. In the coming months, I’m (or should that be we’re) looking forward to loading it with friends and gear for some dirty beach trips as well as getting to know the R-Link system a little better.
For the next few weeks, however, I’ve handed the Captur’s key card over to CarAdvice’s national sales director Benn Sykes, who is actually 30-something, actually has an active lifestyle, as well as a wife and baby boy, and actually has a tan.
Renault Captur Dynamique
Date acquired: September 2015
Odometer reading: 992km
Distance travelled: 1453km
Fuel consumption: 7.5L/100km
Click the Photos tab for more images by Sam Venn.