By: Denis Droppa
Johannesburg - Flicking through the news channels I was either aggravated by the violent SA student protests or bored to tears by the US presidential race. The week was looking grim until the Renault Captur arrived on my doorstep.
Every now and then we get pleasantly surprised by a vehicle that comes our way for testing, and it was this Renault’s fuel-sipping nature that hooked us. We’re so used to reporting how vehicles’ actual fuel economy is much worse than claimed, that it’s refreshing to see one that comes (relatively) close to what the factory says it’s capable of.
The 5.1 litres per 100km we averaged in the new turbodiesel Renault Captur, driving normally in a mix of town and freeway, is one of the most economical figures we’ve ever achieved in a car. When switching to Eco mode and driving like there was an egg under the throttle pedal we managed as low as 4.2 litres, which wasn’t drastically far off Renault’s claimed 3.6 litres.
With its rated C02 output of 95gm/km the diesel Captur also doesn’t attract any emissions tax, which helps keep the price down.
The Renault Captur 1.5 dCi Dynamique is a newcomer to the range and joins the existing three petrol-powered Captur siblings. It uses the same 1.5 dCi four-cylinder engine already used in the Renault Duster and Kadjar SUV ranges, though detuned (for the fuel-sipping reasons mentioned above) to outputs of 66kW and 220Nm (the Duster uses an 80kW/240Nm version and the Kadjar an 81kW/260Nm unit).
Decent real-world pace
This down-powering hasn’t turned the Captur into a flaccid performer destined to spend life in the slow lane. The French car maintains a happy place between fuel economy and real-world pace, and cruises the open road just as contentedly as it jives through the concrete jungle, with a quoted top speed of 171km/h.
Though the engine doesn’t thrive on revs it does succumb to some turbo lag if you let the tacho needle drop too low. With the manual gearbox this isn’t a major problem to overcome, however, and the five-speeder’s a smooth shifter.
The car feels reasonably enthusiastic even in its Eco mode, a function available at the push of a button which electronically mutes the engine’s response to improve fuel consumption by up to 10%.
The diesel engine’s refined as well as having the thirst of a camel, and there’s no acoustic giveaway that this car sips the darker fuel.
Sunset limited edition
We drove the Captur 1.5 dCi Dynamique in its Sunset Limited Edition, of which there are only 100 units available in South Africa.
Despite what this badge might imply the Captur range isn’t cruising into the twilight of its life. Having been launched here only in May last year, and becoming the second best seller (behind the Ford EcoSport) in SA’s fiercely competitive compact crossover segment, it will be with us for some time to come.
The Sunset badge refers to this Captur’s striking black-and-orange colour scheme, which is as subtle as a petrol bomb. Sunset Orange is splashed onto the roof, mirrors, foglight surrounds, grille, and seemingly anywhere Renault could find a spare spot.
You decide whether it’s kitsch or cool, but at least it’s a refreshingly different foil to all the anonymous white and silver cars on our roads.
The orange-themed brightness continues inside the cabin with Sunset treatment on the dash, speaker grilles, steering wheel, and on the removable seat covers.
Amidst the Disney-like colour scheme, the practical stuff is well taken care of. Cabin space is pretty good for a small SUV based on the Renault Clio. The rear seat will comfortably accept a pair of adults, or a bicycle if the backrests are folded.
Nimble to drive
Being fairly light and compact, the Captur is quite nimble to drive and owns the urban space with its quick-turning nature and general manoeuvrability. The ride quality can be jittery, especially over bumps and cattle grids which elicited some juddering depite the relatively high-profile tyres. It cemented the fact that the front-wheel-drive Captur, despite its crossover SUV status and having a slightly raised ground clearance, is an urbanite with no pretence of being an offroad adventurer.
The R292 400 pricetag comes with a fairly bountiful spec sheet including cruise control, a reversing camera, automatic climate control, automatic headlights and wipers, LED daytime running lights, and a hands-free key card.
The multimedia comprises satellite navigation, radio, Bluetooth, and USB all controlled by a 7-inch touchscreen. I found the interface especially user friendly as I didn’t have to go digging deep into an electronic menu to control basic functions, as with some cars.
The Captur has a 5-Star Euro NCAP rating and its safety suite includes front and side airbags, ABS brakes, stability control, and tyre-pressure monitors.
Overall it’s a very feature-filled package, and the price includes a five-year/150 000km warranty and three-year/45 000km service plan.
There’s plenty to like about Renault’s compact crossover including its styling, spec, safety, and real-world space and pace, but what really Capturs you (sorry, couldn’t resist) is its thrifty fuel economy. The price is realistic too and slightly undercuts its main rival, the Ford EcoSport 1.5 TDCi Titanium which sells for R302 900.
If the Disney styling treatment isn’t your thing there’s also a regular (non-Sunset) Captur 1.5 dCi Dymanique selling for R289 900.
Renault Captur 66kW dCi Dynamique Sunset
Engine: 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder turbodiesel
Gearbox: 5-speed manual
Power: 66kW @ 4000rpm
Torque: 220Nm @ 1750rpm
0-100km/h (claimed): 13.1 seconds
Top speed (claimed): 171km/h
Price: R292 400
Warranty: 5-year/150 000km
Service plan: 3-year/45 000km