Motoring review: Renault Kadjar shakes up crossovers

The Renault Radjar - unique enough to bring a winning new element to the crossover market

The Renault Radjar - unique enough to bring a winning new element to the crossover market - Credit: Archant

Renault aims to build on its crossover success with the mid-size Kadjar. While it shares much with partner Nissan’s market-leading Qashqai, this new Renault oozes character and style, says motoring editor Andy Russell

So far this year just over one in every 10 new cars sold in the UK has been a mid-size crossover – a sector dominated by the Nissan Qashqai and one no mainstream manufacturer can ignore. Renault has now entered it with the Kadjar, big brother to its hugely-successful Captur which has taken everyone by surprise – even Renault - to become Europe’s best-selling supermini crossover. The biggest surprise is how long it has taken Renault to bid for a slice of the action given its alliance with Nissan.

Given the Spanish-built Kadjar has a lot in common with the British-built Qashqai, you have to applaud Renault for the Kadjar’s individualism. While they share 60 per cent of parts, 95 per cent of those visible are unique to Kadjar. Looks-wise, it’s more in tune with Captur than Qashqai; with that friendly face dominated by a bold Renault diamond, while the back end is set off by sculpted 3D tail lights. It might just be because it’s new, or that we have become familiar with the big volume Qashqai, but the Kadjar looks more stylish and will have no trouble standing out from the ever-growing crowd.

Sensible, high-efficiency engines, shared with Qashqai, are a 130PS 1.2l turbo petrol and 110PS 1.5l and 130PS 1.6l turbo diesels with slick six-speed manual gearboxes. The smaller diesel is also offered with a six-speed automatic gearbox while the more powerful engine is also available with intelligent four-wheel drive with front-wheel drive, auto and locked four-drive modes.

The big-seller is going to be the perky 1.5 unit. It’s more than up to the job but needs stirring into life with the gearbox to maintain momentum going uphill. The upside is up to 74.3mpg combined and CO2 as low as 99g/km even with the automatic gearbox.

The 1.6 diesel feels more lively, noticeably more willing from low revs, and, because it doesn’t have to be worked so hard to make decent progress, more relaxing to drive, smoother and barely audible cruising at 70mpg. But at £1,200 more than the 1.5 unit you need to tow or need four-wheel drive to justify the extra cost.

Despite their looks, a good crossover drives more like a family car than an SUV and that’s very much the impression with the Kadjar. Sharing the running gear with the Qashqai is a good starting point but the Kadjar’s ride feels less firm - down to Renault’s seat design with side bolstering and well-padded cushions and backs which add absorbency to the ride quality.

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Well-weighted steering and a chunky wheel, which has a nice feel to it, combine with a sprightly suspension set-up to make the Kadjar reassuring and rewarding; flowing through a series of bends on twisty roads with little sensation of body roll, even at speed.

Six-footers won’t complain about legroom in the back and the tall body means headroom isn’t an issue. The boot, with a twin-level floor on top models, provides up to 472 litres of load space, even with the full-size spare wheel, so carrying luggage is not an issue either. Rear seat backs split 60/40 and fold flat to create a 1,478l load bay. It’s all very clever and practical so it’s a shame the roller tonneau cover feels flimsy and fiddly to clip in place.

Renault is really nailing its cabin design in its latest models and the Kadjar has the look and feel of a car costing considerably more with double stitching on trim panels and tasteful, tactile materials. The fascia is easy on the eye and the hand with sensible switchgear, the R-Link 2 connectivity and control system which swipes like a smartphone and the large thin-film transistor virtual rev counter with digital speedometer.

Available in Expression+, Dynamique Nav, Dynamique S Nav and Signature Nav, the Kadjar is well kitted out - apart from the rather functional entry model. The most popular tim is likely to be Dynamique S which, at only £800 more than Dynamique, adds 19in diamond-cut alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, synthetic leather and cloth seats, driver’s seat height adjustment, one-touch easy-folding rear bench seat, electric and heated door mirrors and multi-position boot floor.

Despite the inevitable comparisons, Renault is not looking to emulate the soaraway success of the Qashqai but, as with the smaller Captur, I can see it being pleasantly surprised by the uptake of the Kadjar which is not only well priced and well equipped but class-leading residuals of 42 per cent after three years and 60,000 miles, should mean highly-competitive PCP finance deals.

Renault Group sales have nearly doubled in the UK between 2012 and last year to 108,000 units and the Kadjar is certain to give it another big boost.

Fact File

Price: Renault Kadjar Dynamique S Nav dCi 110 £22,395 (range £17,995 to £26,295)

Engine: 1,461cc, 110hp, four-cylinder turbo diesel

Performance: 0-62mph 11.9 seconds; top speed 113mph

MPG: Urban 67.3; extra urban 74.3; combined 72.4

CO2 emissions: 103g/km

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 18 per cent

Insurance group: 14E (out of 50)

Warranty: Four years or 100,000 miles

Size: L 4,449mm; W (incl door mirrors) 2,058mm; H 1,613mm

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