With the SUV segment growing by leaps and bounds, Renault is challenging the existing players with its second SUV. While it still hasn’t quite reached the heights of its Indo-Japanese and Korean rivals, Renault has been making some interesting cars for the Indian market. While the levels of success seen by its models have been mixed, the French carmaker now wants to make a stronger impression in the mid-size SUV/crossover segment. But let’s face it, the competition here is pretty tough.The Hyundai Creta has more or less become the epitome of maximum bang-for-the-buck when it comes to features, while the newly arrived Jeep Compass has stirred up the market with its true-blue SUV credentials. The car that Renault thinks has what it takes to challenge these two is the Captur.
Design & Style
The Captur changes that completely, with the design being completely in-line with Renault’s global design language. So, you get a car with lots of curves, swoops and bold design choices. The doors feature prominent curves to give them definition, while the bonnet has two bulges running the length of it. Prominent up front is also the large Renault logo, which also makes its presence felt on the rear tailgate. Adding to the stance of the car are the large 17-inch alloys, which look pretty good with their combination of diamond polish and black finish. And with its 210mm of ground clearance – highest in the world amongst the Captur versions sold in various countries abroad – the Captur cuts a handsome figure. Like I mentioned to the Renault officials at the test drive, the Captur looks very French – read chich and stylish – in its design and that will be a differentiating factor for many customers. Also, contributing to its design is the dual-tone colour scheme – which, according to company officials was a part of the original design and not an afterthought – which makes the car stand out.
From the outside, it’s almost impossible to tell that the Captur is based on the Duster platform. It mirrors the European Captur’s design language, with swooping lines, curves and minimum angles, making it inherently French in its aesthetics, contrasting the Duster’s more Romanian origins. Even with the Captur’s graceful lines, it still manages to have a butch quality, thanks to the wide and squatter stance compared to something like the Hyundai Creta. Big wheel arches over the wonderfully designed ‘crystal cut’ 17-inch wheels sporting 215/60 rubber and the massive 210mm ground clearance lend it the unmistakable proportions of an SUV. To add to that, the Captur’s short bonnet is muscular, drooping down at the front into an elegant headlight cluster, and culminating in a chunky bumper with ‘C’-shaped units that house LED daytime running lamps (DRL) and fog lamps.
Speaking about LEDs, there are lots of them across the car. Apart from the aforementioned DRLs and fog lamp combo, the tail-lights, as well as the headlights, are also full LED. There’s LED ambient lighting on the inside as well, but more on that later. Overall, it’s a very refreshing design unlike anything else seen in this segment before. But, in spite of the Captur being a looker, Renault is offering a whole multitude of customisation options in the form of garnishes such as chromed trim parts, several roof graphics and even two preset themes for those would have a difficult time choosing individual parts.
Renault made a big deal about its ‘panoramic’ windscreen and minimal A-pillars, along with the quarter windows designed to provide you much better situational awareness of what’s around and in front of you. While the side-to-side visibility is great, sitting so high up behind a raked windshield cuts out a bit of the view of the sky. Now, this isn’t a problem when it comes to driving, but it does give you a feeling of looking at the world through a narrow letterbox.
While there’s nothing to complain about the chic exteriors, the interiors are a bit of a hit-and-miss. The wrap-around dashboard is a fresh design and certainly feels like a step up from the Duster’s. There are also some great design touches such as the butterfly-shaped instrument cluster that gets a large digital speedometer in the centre, flanked by a tachometer and a fuel gauge. And I really like the ambient LED lighting and design of the air conditioner controls. However, our biggest gripe is the type of materials that have been used for the dashboard and the overall use of hard plastics for the interiors. They don’t feel as upmarket as they should for a car in this category, especially the roof liner which feels like it’s from one full segment below.
However, the quality levels of the interiors are a definite notch up over the Duster, but I would’ve preferred some soft-touch plastics in the mix to further improve things. A particular highlight in the interiors, however, were the seats, which with their sculpted shape offer excellent support, and the quilted leather pattern on them looks very classy. Visibility too has been extensively worked upon in the Captur, and the A-pillar is never a hindrance to visibility.
On th Road
Out on the road, the Captur works quite well, with the cabin featuring excellent visibility. However, the driving seat was mounted a bit too high, and even in its lowest setting, it was too high for my preference. The test cars were all top-of-the-line Platine diesel versions, with the 108bhp engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. The fact that this engine is now a generation old is not lost on anyone, and while it works quite well in the Duster, the expected market positioning of the Captur might make this to be a bit on an issue. Frankly put, when trying to accelerate and tackling traffic, the engine has too much turbo lag and has no power below 2,000rpm, which is when the turbo kicks in. However, once on the move, the engine has good throttle response – as long as you keep the revs above 2,00rpm – and is good enough for our conditions. The NVH of the engine too has been worked upon and little of the engine noise or vibration makes it into the cabin of the Captur. The ride and handling, of course, remains excellent as usual, with the Captur tackling whatever the roads throw at it without a worry.
This enjoyable driving experience continues even on winding roads as the Captur is a very capable handler. The chunky steering is well weighted and it gives you a good feel of what’s going on with the front wheels. Although you do get some understeer if you get too ham-fisted with the steering, it keeps body roll well under control through twists and turns. Overall, if the way it drives had to be summed up in one word, ‘European’ come to mind.
Ride quality is another area that the Captur does really well in. It’s sprung a bit stiffer than the Duster, and it isn’t plush in the same way some of its competitors are, over broken roads it handles quite well. While occupants aren’t completely isolated from bumps, none of them are jarring, apart from the really sharp ones.
The Captur’s pricing hasn’t been announced at this point and we expect that it will come in a notch above the Hyundai Creta, but well under the Jeep Compass. The unique design and driving feel might be enough for some to justify its estimated price, but of course, we’d be very pleasantly surprised if Renault can go toe to toe in price against the Hyundai; and that would certainly make the Captur’s case much stronger. For now, we can just wait and watch and assure you that this funky Renault is definitely worthy of at least your attention.