First drive: the Renault Captur
It's a Clio on Steroids, and it's pretty good. Bit dull, though...
What is it?
A Renault Clio on steroids. The Captur is Renault's answer to the ever-growing band of baby-softroaders, and it's designed to take on cars like the Nissan Juke and the slightly-bigger Vauxhall Mokka.
And ‘soft' is very much the order of the day here - the Captur is not about hardcore off-roading. The Captur is two-wheel drive only and very much family-focused. School run, supermarket shop - all the usual clichés apply. And the engines aren't exactly going to tear up the tarmac either.
So what are these engines?
The car we drove was a 1.5-litre diesel with 89bhp and 220Nm. 0-100kph in 12.6 seconds with the manual gearbox or 13.1 seconds with the twin-clutch. There are also two petrols available - a three-cylinder with 89bhp or a larger in-line four with 119bhp - but neither of these crack 0-100kph in less than 10.0 seconds.
But do you know what? None of this matters. Pottering is the aim and no one is going to be doing burnouts, four-up with the kids in the back. And besides, the diesel doesn't feel as slow as the figures suggest as it's got a healthy dollop of torque available from when the turbo kicks in at 1,500rpm. I'm not saying it's great at overtaking, but once it's up to speed the Captur is responsive and quick enough.
Combined with the comfortable ride, and seriously impressive refinement, the Captur is dull but perfectly equipped for what it'll need to do.
So if it's all about the family, presumably it's practical?
To a certain extent, yes. The Captur has got a large boot - it's comparable to the larger Mokka - and the seats have weird, zip-off covers on the top two trim levels. The theory being that you unzip the covers after the children/dog/irresponsible husband have been sick on them, wash them, re-zip and then the Captur looks like new again.
And the practicality is partly why the Captur is on the Clio platform, rather than the Juke's. Renault and Nissan are part of the same company, so in theory it would have made sense for the Captur and Juke to share platforms. But the Juke is available with four-wheel drive and that needs extra hardware, which impacts on the space in the cabin. The front-wheel drive-only Clio's underpinnings allow more freedom inside, and it certainly shows on the Captur. It's spacious in the back and can easily sit four adults in comfort.
But despite all this, it still feels like Renault has missed a trick on the interior. Sure, there are storage compartments, but they're nothing like as clever, or numerous, as the Scenic's. It's like the company that helped pioneer the MPV has forgotten its roots slightly.
But are there other USPs?
Renault is claiming the Captur offers much greater personalisation because it's got three ‘themed collections'. It all sounds a bit Ab Fab, but these ‘collections' run to Arizona, Manhattan and Miami. Very exotic...
Each of the three themes is then split into four packs - colour, exterior gloss, interior touch and style. All of which means that choosing your Captur won't be the work of a moment because there are so many different possibilities. It's debatable whether this is simply window-dressing the Captur, but customers seem to want this sort of choice these days so you can hardly blame Renault for offering it.
Plus, the upper spec levels come with MediaNav (in-built touch-screen sat nav to you and me). And you can option R-Link, which is Renault's ‘app' system. This gives you six months worth of downloadable features like a live news stream, horoscopes, it'll read your emails to you....you can even change the engine note to make the Captur sound like an historic Renault.
Excellent. I'll have an A110, then.
Thought you'd say that.
Seriously, though. Should I be looking at the Captur?
If you're in the market for a baby crossover, then yes. Apart from anything else, it is good value in this class. I personally think it looks OK, it drives OK, and it's got more than enough space inside for the children you'll be shuttling around.
But here's the TopGear caveat. It's playing it safe in the extreme - it's the most beige (and also, ironically, vivid blue) car on the market. Renault itself admits that this is not an adventurous car - it's not designed to provoke a reaction or divide opinion like the Juke.
It should be a sales hit because there aren't many rivals out there at the moment. But as soon as more come along, it feels like the Captur could slip into obscurity because it doesn't have enough depth of ability. No matter how many Americana-style ‘collections' you throw at it...
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