By: Jason Woosey
Johannesburg - It’s become quite normal for crossover SUVs in the so-called Rav4 class to look more pretty than butch and I really don’t think that any of them do the pretty thing better than Renault’s new Kadjar. Its designers seem to have found just the right blend of bold, curvaceous and sophisticated; while the striking Flame Red exterior paint hue worn by our test unit is a must-have that’s so appetising you’ll almost want to lick it.
But is there more to the Kadjar than just good looks? Like its rivals, this crossover is not trying to be an offroader and in fact just one in the six-model range even has all-wheel-drive.
This Renault shares its platform, and much of its mechanical make-up, with the Nissan Qashqai and X-Trail, but has completely unique sheet metal and interior fittings so you would never really know they were related. In terms of size, it’s actually closer to the Qashqai, sharing its 2646mm wheelbase but being marginally longer and offering a slightly bigger boot (572 litres versus 430).
Though the Renault is smaller than seemingly segment-stretching rivals such as the Ford Kuga and Toyota Rav4 and can’t quite match them for stretching space, the Kadjar still offers ample legroom and stashing space for an average family.
Engine needs to be worked
On test here is the 1.2-litre TCe automatic, a recent addition to the range featuring Renault’s EDC dual-clutch gearbox. As with the manual model, the Kadjar EDC is fitted with a more powerful version of the 1.2 turbopetrol also found in the Qashqai, producing 96kW and 205Nm, versus 85kW/190Nm.
The powertrain is a touch laggy off the mark, and though you might have a few nervous seconds if you’re risking crossing a busy avenue, you’re not going to notice the lag in everyday driving situations or even while taking gaps in traffic. Once on the boil the engine feels sprightly enough for fast paced traffic and while I wouldn’t go quite as far as calling it underpowered, it does need to be worked a bit at highway velocities and drivers will wish for a few extra ponies when pulling into the fast lane on a hill or while overtaking.
It’s not as economical as it could be either, with our car recording 9.3 litres per 100km in a mixture of town and highway driving.
The seven-speed auto-shifter is, in all fairness, not quite as pin-sharp as VW’s DSG, but it does the job smoothly enough and with very little in the way of unwanted hunting. The ride quality proved comfortable and the Kadjar also felt reassuringly stable considering its raised ride height. Overall Renault has come up with a decent balance between ride and handling, especially considering this vehicle sports a rather basic torsion-beam rear-suspension design.
High-tech cabin vibes
All in all it’s rather comfortable to drive and the cabin is a pleasant enough place to pass time. Sure, you might say that the interior’s design is not quite as exciting as the vehicle’s exterior and that it’s possibly a touch sombre, but the surfaces are of a good quality and the digital instrument cluster, with its bright background colours, and the 18cm central touchscreen infotainment system together bring some high-tech vibes into the cockpit.
Both screens are customisable, and drivers can add widgets to the home page of the central touchscreen. The system also houses the navigation system and you can even use it to view photos and videos when the vehicle is stationary, although I really can’t see why you’d want or need to when there are so many decent tablets and laptops floating around in this world.
In addition to the aforementioned infotainment hub, the Dynamique trim level comes with automatic dual-zone climate control, auto lights and wipers, a hands-free key card, front and rear park-distance control and cruise control. You’ll have to pay extra for leather seats and other options include a panoramic fixed sunroof, semi-autonomous parking system with rear camera and blind-spot warning.
There is a lot to like about La Régie’s most direct Rav4 rival to date, and in some ways it feels like the most modern contender in this segment, with its voluptuous styling and high-tech interior. It’s also one of the few to offer turbopetrol power at the lower end of the segment, although that doesn’t necessarily translate into effortless performance and on top of that the Kadjar is a bit more expensive than its natural enemies. At R399 900 it commands a near-R40 000 premium over its similarly-appointed Qashqai cousin.
Renault Kadjar 1.2T Dynamique auto
Engine: 1.2-litre, 4-cylinder turbopetrol
Gearbox: 7-speed automated dual-clutch
Power: 96kW @ 5500rpm
Torque: 205Nm @ 2000rpm
0-100km/h (claimed): 11.0 seconds
Top speed (claimed): 189km/h
Price: R399 900
Warranty: 5-year / 150 000km
Service plan: 5-year / 90 000km
Honda CR-V 2.0 Comfort auto - 114kW/192Nm - R403 600
Hyundai Tucson 2.0 Premium auto - 115kW/196Nm - R389 900
Nissan Qashqai 1.2T Acenta auto - 85kW/165Nm - R362 900
Toyota Rav4 2.0 GX auto - 107kW/187Nm - R375 700
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