Despite delays arriving in Australia, the 2021 Renault Captur has finally landed, and first impressions suggest it has been worth the wait.
The previous-generation Captur, when it arrived in 2014, slotted into the small-SUV class – a category that has since split into light SUV and small SUV. Many stayed classed as small, but the Captur, Nissan Juke and Suzuki Jimny are the only light SUVs of a crop of 11 currently that shared market space with the Captur back then.
The first Captur launched strong, with something of an eye-catching design and a strong engineering base, being closely related to the critically acclaimed Clio hatch of the era. Sadly, though, it never fully delivered. It packed in some interior versatility, sure, but never the sparkling driving flair or upmarket interior of the closely related Clio.
For its second generation, the Captur fronts up to a much busier market segment in a much more competitive guise. It claims the most powerful engine and the biggest boot in its segment – more on those in a sec.
Really, though, with a much, much more mature, inviting and well-finished cabin, the Renault Captur wants to snare buyers looking for a design-led, part-premium city SUV, which could almost be a prestige car were it not for the mainstream price tag.
On that note, the new Captur range offers three models starting with the Captur Zen from $28,190, moving up to the mid-grade Captur Life from $30,790, and topping out at the Captur Intens with a $35,790 list price – all before options and on-road costs.
|2021 Renault Captur|
|Engine||1.3-litre (1332cc) four-cylinder turbo petrol|
|Power and torque||113kW at 6500rpm, 270Nm at 1800rpm|
|Transmission||Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim, combined||6.6L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||7.2L/100km|
|Boot volume (rear seats up / down)||442–536L / 1275L|
|ANCAP safety rating||Five-star Euro NCAP (tested 2019), not rated locally|
|Warranty||Five years / unlimited kilometre|
|Main competitors||Nissan Juke, Volkswagen T-Cross, Ford Puma|
|Price as tested||$38,440 plus on-road costs|
Across the range, all Captur models are powered by the same 1.3-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder engine matched to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic driving the front wheels.
Outputs are 113kW at 5500rpm and 270Nm at 1700rpm. While there are a few variations within the class, the Captur largely lines up against a field of three-cylinder newcomers like the Nissan Juke, Kia Stonic, Volkswagen T-Cross and Ford Puma, which all huddle in a group between 74–92kW and 170–200Nm.
The car itself has grown, too. Measuring 4227mm long, 1797mm wide and 1576mm tall (with roof rails), the new Captur is 105mm longer, 19mm wider and 10mm taller than before.
The 2639mm distance between the axles is also 33mm longer than before – not enough to push it up a size class, though in some instances it’s closer to a one-size-larger Skoda Kamiq (which is just 14mm longer) than it is a fellow light-class T-Cross (a substantial 119mm shorter).
The result isn’t the most generous interior, however. It’s improved over its predecessor, and up front the seating position is tall and upright, which helps eke out a little extra in terms of knee and leg space.
Jump to the rear seat, though, and in most directions the Captur still feels compact. There’s lofty head room, but leg and knee space are as compact as most of the other segment contenders, and there are high sills to clear and a high-placed floor that limits overall space.
The interior has also rocketed upmarket in terms of fit, finish and materials. There are fancy soft-touch surfaces on the dash, upper door cards, armrests, and around the top of the floating centre console.
Look more closely, though, and you’ll also find a thorough spread of little knurled metal-look finishing details on the climate controls, starter button, e-shifter gear nub, and even on the ends of the indicator and wiper stalks. It’s all very fancy, and not always found at this end of the market.
Gone are novelty items like the previous car’s removable, washable seat cover trims and brightly coloured activity-inspired colour schemes. Instead, the new car is presented in a much less divisive way.
Of course, impressions here are based solely on the top-spec Intens model. We’re yet to cast an eye on the Zen and Life grades.
Interior practicality rates a mention. There’s a pair of storage trays in the centre console (one high, one low with wireless charging), cupholders low enough to be clear of elbows, a very compact lidded centre console with a sliding armrest, a deeper than usual glovebox (though it’s still pretty narrow), and big door bins in the front doors.
The rear seat can slide back and forward – handy if you need to squeeze in more cargo or just want to bring your littlest passengers in the back a little closer. As for the boot, it’s rated at a maximum of 536L, which is huge – bigger even than that of the Koleos – with a two-level floor to allow you to load the boot in two layers, or just slot in tall items with ease.
Even with the rear seat slid back, there’s 422L of storage. That’s ahead of the Puma and T-Cross (410L and 385L respectively), a match for the Nissan Juke, and way ahead of the 264L in the top-selling Mazda CX-3.
Boasting the most power in the class is certainly a great selling point for Renault to have up its sleeve, but in reality, unless you’re an adamant traffic-light GP champ, it’s an academic claim. In the real world, the engine feels nicely capable, able to pile on sufficient speed without feeling underdone, but it never feels like it's a front-runner.
The zesty mid-range is the Captur’s strongest asset. Rolling acceleration as speed limits rise is authoritative and overtaking doesn’t have to be a worrisome event.
The dual-clutch automatic is good at low speeds, so parking or three-point turns aren’t an issue as they can sometimes be for this type of automatic. It’s not as resolved in traffic, though, and tends to toss occupants back in their seat from every standing start, as it struggles to move from stopped to accelerating.
Renault rates fuel consumption at 6.6 litres per 100km. On test that worked out to a still decent 7.2L/100km with a largely urban test loop. The Captur also asks for 95RON premium unleaded.
On the road, the steering is super-light. There are three modes for the steering, but each is incredibly light and free of surety. While the lightness comes into its own for parking, on the open road it makes the Captur feel vague. The car we drove also exhibited a lumpy/notchy feeling as it approached full lock, which isn't too pleasant.
Ride quality was good for the most part. It’s not super-squishy, nor too terse for running about town. Bigger bumps like sunken service covers in the road surface or sharp expansion joints do catch the suspension out. It tends to drop a wheel with an uncultured crash and sends the shockwave right into the cabin, blighting an otherwise decent experience.
Neither issue is enough to relegate the Captur to worst-in-class status, but they do dull the package’s potential shine as a city-centric runabout.
As for equipment, the top-spec Intens comes with a really solid equipment list, with leather seat trim, heated front seats, a powered driver’s seat, full LED headlights and LED tail-lights (with startup animations), 18-inch alloy wheels, ‘Multi-sense’ three-stage drive modes, electric park brake, rear air vents and USB ports, and splashes of extra chrome around the exterior.
The infotainment screen grows to 9.3 inches in size (7.0 inches on lower grades), with satellite navigation (though interestingly a disclaimer warning map updates are not available), Bose audio, and wired Apple and Android smartphone mirroring. The Intens also comes with a 360-degree camera, a 7.0-inch instrument display, and eight-colour ambient interior lighting.
Infotainment hasn't always been Renault's strong suit. The Captur runs a new 'Easy Link' centre screen that allows access to the above functions, as well as access to some vehicle functions. It's a more user-friendly and detailed system than before, looks good, and has nice, clear, high-contrast maps and easy to navigate menus, though some functions are still buried deep within. Gone are the days of having to dive through multiple screens just to change audio source and other silly quirks of the past.
If you’d like to add more, it’s also possible to option a $2000 Easy Life package with hands-free park assist, auto high beam, a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, and a frameless rear-view mirror (on top of the already auto-dimming item). A no-cost Orange Signature pack is also available, with orange trim highlights on the seats, dash and doors, but a switch back to textile seat coverings, manual seat adjustment, and no seat heating.
Even as a base model, the Captur Life includes features like cruise control with speed limiter, steering wheel paddle shifters, a sliding rear seat with 60/40 folding backrest, 17-inch wheels, power mirrors, a 4.2-inch multi-info cluster display, and auto LED headlights and tail-lights.
Moving up to the Zen adds standard two-tone paint, wireless phone charging, single-zone climate control, heated steering wheel, power-folding door mirrors, and keyless entry with push-button start.
There’s no ANCAP safety score yet, but in the largely similar Euro NCAP testing, the Captur returned a five-star result in 2019.
Safety kit covers autonomous emergency braking with cyclist and pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist, traffic sign recognition and six airbags. The mid-spec Zen adds rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring, rain-sensing wipers, and walk-away locking.
At the top level, there’s an additional 360-degree camera system, plus the option of adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go. While most systems worked intuitively and unobtrusively, the lane-departure systems would intervene a good 10–15cm away from lane markers, and became incredibly frustrating on narrower roads with an endless flurry of twitchy steering adjustments.
Warranty runs for five years/unlimited kilometres, and capped-price servicing is available priced at $399 for the first three services, $789 for the fourth and for the fifth $399 (or $2385 over five years) with service intervals every 12 months or up to 30,000km. While service and warranty details have been set by Renault Australia, the new distributor (from April 1) will adopt the same schedule.
Renault’s new second-generation Captur arrives with much more certain and confident positioning. Its first attempt landed in a market that was still finding its feet and attempting to define exactly what a compact crossover SUV was.
Now the segment is much more defined, and with more mature, sensible options all round. As such, Renault has stepped up to the challenge with a much more mainstream Captur – one that finally comes with the poise and polish missing from the first car.
It still may not be perfect, but it’s priced in line with rivals, wants for little in terms of standard equipment, and works as a perfectly agreeable city-sized SUV.