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Tested: Kitted-up Kadjar XP offers good value

Road tests
Johannesburg – With many formidable new players having entered this patch of crossover turf in recent times, it’s only fair that I start this review by saying that the Renault Kadjar is not the biggest, nor the glitziest or most advanced contender around, but in these hard times it does aim to please consumers with something that’s perhaps even more relevant: less of a clobbering to your wallet.

The Limited Edition Kadjar XP, at R364 900, costs exactly the same as the Expression base model – which is already among the lowest priced in its segment – but adds R40 000 worth of accessories. These come in the form of 17” alloy wheels (replacing the Expression’s 16” steelies), side steps, a large set of roof racks, a swan neck tow bar and cornering fog lights. Did I mention XP badges?

My immediate reaction to this was “so what?” I don’t have a big kayak to haul around, nor have I ever really been much of a wind-noise enthusiast. And believe me, those roof racks sound like an arctic blizzard at highway speeds – although you can take them off and store them in your igloo when not in use.

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And side steps? Well, I’m not exactly Richard Hammond. At most the towbar might come in handy at times, but that’s about it really.

But you might be different, you might really want all of these aforementioned features, and if so then good for you and please excuse my whingeing. Yet even if you don’t, you’ll be glad to know that there are other ways of extracting that R40 000 worth of value. After a bit of poking around, it emerged that Renault dealers are offering a R40 000 discount on all Kadjar models excluding the XP. You can take this as a straight-out discount, as sense would dictate, or use it as trade-in assistance, or to cover the shortfall on your trade-in’s finance, in which case should you really be buying a new car?

Either way, you can get into a Kadjar for R324 900 and for that many would forgive it for not necessarily being the cream of the class. As mentioned, some of its newer rivals have moved the goalposts in this segment; the Hyundai Tucson for its solid feel and supple, whisper-quiet ride and the VW Tiguan for its first-class cabin, overall refinement and advanced features.

But getting into either is a R380 000-or-upwards kind of deal, unless the salesman is in a discounting mood.

But how good is the Kadjar really? These things can be subjective, but I’d say that in most respects it’s a seven-out-of-ten kind of vehicle and I don’t mean that in a bad way. 

The ride is hardly cloud-like, but it’s still comfortable enough. It’s not the quietest car in the world, but you’ll never really complain about road noise either. It’s not the roomiest SUV in this space-conquering mid-level SUV galaxy, but it’s unlikely that you or your loved ones will ever feel cramped inside the Kadjar. There’s definitely room to stretch in the back, although bear in mind that the seats don’t slide or recline and the 370 litre boot is a little on the stingy side.

I’ll hand out another B+ for the overall feel and style of the cabin – exciting it’s not, but the design is pleasing to the eye and overall tactile quality is pretty decent. It doesn’t make you feel like you’re settling for the base model.

But just so you know, it is missing some of the features we’ve become accustomed to in its higher-spec siblings, such as Renault’s R-Link touch-screen infotainment system and leather seats, although the Expression and XP do still pack a standard sound system with Bluetooth connectivity and steering-mounted controls. 

Also part of the XP and Expression deal is cruise control, rear park distance control, hill-start assist and a tyre pressure monitor.

Another thing Renault won’t make you pay extra for is a digital instrument cluster, and this one has a glut of colourful display modes to choose from.

Which brings us neatly to the engine. Actually it doesn’t, but we needed to get here somehow, no? 

Like every other petrol-powered Kadjar, that’s a 1.2-litre turbo unit, credited with 96kW and 205Nm. It’s a little laggy off the mark but not to the point of ever causing frustration and it is otherwise a very smooth and agreeable motor. Speedy Gonzales it isn’t, but the 1.2T delivers what you’d expect at this level and the turbo gives it an altitude advantage over those of its rivals that have stuck to normally aspirated power for their base models. 

It is a touch thirsty though, drinking about 8.4 litres per 100km on the highway and north of 10.5 in town.

VERDICT

Newer rivals might have moved the goalposts for overall sophistication, but the Kadjar is a nonetheless competent package that’s well worth considering, particularly given the discounts currently on offer. It’s also quite distinctive looking, in that typically French kind of way (insert cliche here), although you really have to order it in Flame Red to bring out its best. And avoid putting a kayak on it.

FACTS: Renault Kadjar 96kW TCe XP  

Engine: 1.2-litre, 4-cylinder turbopetrol
Gearbox: 6-speed manual
Power: 96kW @ 5500rpm
Torque: 205Nm @ 2000rpm
0-100km/h (Claimed): 10.4 seconds
Top speed (Claimed): 189km/h
Price: R364 900
Warranty: 5-year/150 000km
Service/Maintenance plan: 5-year/90 000km

ALTERNATIVES

Ford Kuga 1.5T Ambiente110kW/240NmR383 900
Hyundai Tucson 2.0 Premium115kW/196NmR379 900
Kia Sportage 2.0 Ignite114kW/192NmR369 995
Nissan X-Trail 2.0 XE106kW/200NmR370 900
Toyota Rav4 2.0 GX107kW/187NmR368 800
VW Tiguan 1.4T Trendline92kW/200NmR384 100

IOL Motoring

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