Literally moments after publishing my initial long-term report on our Renault Captur last month I could hear muttering from the opposite side of the office.
The source of this low-toned grumble was CarAdvice’s national sales director, Benn Sykes, who I’d handed the Captur’s key card to just a week earlier for him and his target demographic-nailing young, active family to spend some time in.
“A seven!” he exclaimed with bemusement and disgust in reaction to my overall score, in a voice soft enough to feign discreteness, but deliberately loud enough to ensure the words travelled to the editorial corner.
“It’s a five a best!”
Fair to say Benn’s first impressions of our $29,780-plus-on-road-costs Renault Captur Dynamique ($27,990 as standard; ours is optioned with two-tone metallic paint and the R-Link media system) had left him more than a little underwhelmed.
Indeed, over the coming days a running joke developed where the late-30s husband and father of one would report back to me on another aspect of the car he disliked, docking it a point each time until he’d culled its overall rating to a two out of 10 and labelled it “easily the worst car I’ve ever driven”. Never backwards in coming forwards, our Benno.
Why all the hate? The below, penned in a short email, captures a few of his early Captur criticisms:
- It takes a good three to five seconds (perhaps a slight exaggeration) to do anything when you put your foot down. For a city car it’s crazy – it should be zippy.
- The suspension is terrible and bouncy. I had three passengers in the back and one almost gave herself a concussion hitting the door frame when I turned a corner and hit a speed bump.
- The interior is low-rent. I’ve had numerous passengers comment on how bad it is.
- It’s supposed to be used for an “active” lifestyle, but it didn’t even fit my short surfboard.
- It only has one functional cup holder. The second, from what I can tell, is for a shot glass.
- The air conditioning vents won’t allow you to focus air on you (they don’t angle in a conventional sense). Fantastic for summer…
- There’s no indicator in the instrument cluster as to which side the filler cap is on.
- It’s not particularly fuel efficient.
- It has no rear airbags.
The few positives things he had to say:
- The exterior looks good.
- The infotainment system is pretty cool, especially with the eco info you can get.
- Once up to speed it’s zippy enough – it just takes an age to get there.
Benn spent another couple of weeks with the Captur before handing it back, giving him time to mellow on some criticisms, and become even more emphatic about some others.
He’s most critical of the Captur’s lack of curtain airbags to protect rear passengers – an omission that meant he wouldn’t drive the car with his nine-month-old son Archie on board.
He also said the laggy response from the Renault’s 88kW/190Nm 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine and six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission made him feel unsafe when entering intersections from a standstill and when merging and plugging holes in traffic. Others in the office – including myself – have grown similarly weary of the Captur’s lack of low-speed response.
He admitted that, once up and running, the drivetrain was agreeable and up to the task of motivating the Captur’s 1215kg body and a couple of occupants, and conceded it makes much more sense once away from the stop-start conditions of the city.
Benn’s largely urban-centric month behind the wheel saw average fuel consumption climb to 8.4 litres per 100 kilometres – some 3.0L/100km higher than its combined-cycle claim.
On the plus side, our ad sales shark says the Captur’s good looks grew on him as the month went on.
“I was a big fan of the exterior design. In fact, I’d say it was its major redeeming feature. The overall look of the car – ride height, design and features – all blend together to make it an attractive little beast.”
Benn says the infotainment system is the highlight of the interior. Displaying through a 7.0-inch touchscreen, the system is colourful and has sharp, attractive graphics. It may not have a rotary dial like our favourite infotainment systems, but it’s reasonably intuitive to navigate through its menus and options.
Our Captur’s optional R-Link system gets a number of advanced features over the standard media unit, including handy real-time traffic information, weather forecasts, email and Twitter access, expanded eco driving data, and the ability to download apps from the R-Link Store. I’ve had particular fun with the R-Sound Effect app since taking the Captur back from Benn. Stay tuned for a detailed R-Link wrap in next month’s long-term update.
Benn also praised the Renault’s standard five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty and roadside assistance coverage, and its decent capped-price servicing, which is capped at $299 per service (12 months/15,000km) for the first three trips to the dealership.
Those silver linings aren’t enough to distract Benn from the curtain airbag-shaped dark clouds surrounding planet Captur – not to mention the thunderstorm that is the laggy powertrain and wooden suspension.
Asked what small SUV he’d prefer if given the choice, Benn said the Honda HR-V was “a clear winner in the category” for him. And based on his criticisms of the Captur, it’s not hard to see why.
The HR-V feels solid and safe on the road, includes rear-protecting curtain airbags (and is available with other advanced safety features), has a more supple and compliant ride, delivers its power in a more linear fashion, and is more spacious and versatile inside.
So while not slicing its score to a five (or a two!) as recommended, we have knocked half a point off the Captur’s overall score this month, given its inability to meet the needs and expectations of a family positioned firmly within its target market.
Heading into the Renault Captur’s final month in the CarAdvice garage, I’m back in charge, and being a typical mid-20s bloke, am still putting off cleaning those removable seat covers as initially promised.
Tune in next month to see if I get around to doing the washing, as well as the complete wash-up from our three months with the Captur.
Renault Captur Dynamique
Date acquired: September 2015
Odometer reading: 3203km
Distance travelled this month: 758km
Fuel consumption: 8.4L/100km
Click the Photos tab for more images by Sam Venn.