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First drive: Renault Kadjar. Image by Renault.

First drive: Renault Kadjar
Renault's new C-segment Kadjar crossover tested on road and through the desert.

   



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Renault Kadjar

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What to do if you watch as all your rivals cash in on the lucrative crossover game, while there's a compact SUV-shaped void in your showroom? Well, for Renault, the solution was simple - it knocked on the door of its sister company, Nissan, and asked if it could borrow the Qashqai's running gear. The resulting pseudo-SUV is the unusually-named Kadjar, but thanks to its underpinnings it's already one of the best in class.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Renault Kadjar TCe 130 Signature Nav
Pricing: from 17,995; car as tested 21,695
Engine: 1.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door, five-seat SUV
CO2 emissions: 130g/km (VED Band D, 0 year one, 110 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 48.7mpg (on 19-inch wheels, see text)
Top speed: 119mph
0-62mph: 10.1 seconds
Power: 130hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 205Nm at 2,000rpm

What's this?

Renault's all-new Kadjar, using the Common Module Family (CMF) chassis of its alliance with Nissan as the basis for this new C-segment crossover contender. We're all familiar with these underpinnings, of course, as they are also the foundation for the second-generation Qashqai, one of our very favourite crossovers in the marketplace. So, like the Nissan, the Renault offers a choice of three four-cylinder engines (the 1.2-litre petrol as tested here, or a pair of dCi diesels, the 1.5 110hp and the 1.6 130hp), two transmissions, four trim levels and the option of having four-wheel drive if you'd like for 1,500. Although that's only available on the 1.6-litre dCi; all other Kadjars are front-driven. Oh, and the EDC dual-clutch auto (1,200) can only be teamed with the 1.5-litre dCi, so this 130hp petrol comes as a front-wheel drive manual only.

The Kadjar's trim levels will be Expression+, Dynamique Nav, Dynamique S Nav and Signature Nav, with the base model offering decent if not inspirational amounts of kit. However, just one rung up the ladder sees satnav and the R Link 2 infotainment system become standard fit, while top-spec models like this Signature Nav come with what some automotive tradespeople might refer to as 'bells 'n' whistles' in the vernacular. A comprehensive amount of safety assistance systems, interior luxuries and tools to facilitate easy modern-day driving - things like cruise control and LED headlights - were fitted to our Kadjar. It also has a huge and comfortable cabin with a moderately attractive dash, a digital instrument cluster, the prerequisite central touchscreen in the console and a full-length panoramic roof to keep things light and airy. As the seats are excellent and supportive, and the driving position is commanding, there's little to complain about in terms of the Kadjar's interior.

Which brings us to the exterior. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and we're not about to say the Renault is by any means ugly, but the Kadjar's face isn't our favourite. The grille and the drooping centre part of the lower bumper make it look a bit too beaky, we reckon; the Qashqai has a meaner, sleeker appearance. Elsewhere, though, the Kadjar is attractive. It has a smart profile, tidy glasshouse lines, muscular rear haunches and a Clio-inspired rear end that works well. It could do with a wider track front and rear, though, this being especially true when it's on smaller 17-inch wheels. Our Signature Nav car had the biggest, diamond-cut 19s you can have on a Kadjar fitted to it so it looked great, but bear in mind the 19-inch wheels have a detrimental effect on fuel economy and CO2 emissions.

How does it drive?

Brilliantly in terms of refinement, not so brilliantly in terms of performance - especially this TCe model. The two diesels obviously command more money than the petrol spec-for-spec (the 110 is a 1,900 price walk from the TCe and the 130 commands a hefty 3,100 premium over the petrol) and on paper, they're not much quicker. But their cheaper running costs and big, extra dollops of torque make them well worth opting for, which will be no surprise to Renault as it expects 80 per cent of Kadjars in the UK to be diesels. The TCe 130 is a wonderfully smooth and quiet operator, but even pushing it round to the 6,500rpm redline through the bottom three gears of the gearbox doesn't really elicit any sense of urgency. Also, despite Renault saying that 90 per cent of its 205Nm peak torque is available from 1,500rpm, some basic in-gear 30-70mph and 50-70mph runs took longer to complete than your average Christopher Nolan film. Quick, or even acceptably punchy, this car is not.

If that sounds like we're about to tell you to ignore the Kadjar, you couldn't be more wrong. Because the 1.2-litre Qashqai drives just the same way and there are plenty of other petrol crossovers that are slower than this. Buyers in this marketplace aren't bothered about Renaultsport-rivalling pace or handling, which makes the Kadjar's focus on comfort all the more commendable. It's a lovely thing to just cruise along in, as it has an excellent ride, superb noise suppression and relatively high resistance to roll; you can get the Kadjar to lean markedly in corners, but you need to be heavy-handed with it to do so. Most of the time, it has decent body control and fantastic damping. The six-speed gearbox is light and easy to use, the brakes are unobtrusive and get the job done with no fuss and the steering is remarkably weighty and direct for a crossover. The Kadjar also has an able chassis, with lots of grip, a lack of excessive understeer and plenty of poise, so if you do need to get the kids somewhere in a hurry, you can at least maintain through the corners what modest speed you've built on the straights.

While the vast majority of our on-tarmac time was behind the wheel of the TCe car, we also got to drive through Europe's biggest desert (Spain's Bardenas Reales, if you're wondering) in the all-wheel drive 130 dCi. Being candid, this 'trek' consisted mainly of firm, gravel tracks that the front-wheel drive Kadjar - or, indeed, a Clio - could have dealt with in its sleep, but once again the Kadjar's supple damping meant that rolling along at over 40mph on ridged surfaces didn't subject the Renault's occupants to a bone-shaking ride. However, the dCi did reinforce our view that you have to buy a diesel Kadjar, because with another 55- or 115Nm of torque depending on which engine you choose, the endless wait for mid-range acceleration encountered in the petrol is eradicated; the 110hp diesel, which balances the extra muscle with only moderate cost increases, would earn another half-star in our overall rating. It's also expected to be the biggest seller in the UK in Dynamic S Nav trim.

Verdict

The Renault Kadjar is a strong contender, because it's every bit as competent and likeable as a Nissan Qashqai, arguably having more daring exterior styling and a more interesting, spacious interior (the Kadjar has a bigger rear-seats-up boot, although with them folded down the Nissan has the edge), while Renault offers a four-year warranty in the UK and - once above the identical entry-level price point of 17,995 - the Kadjar is a cheaper car than the Qashqai. Spec it right, with a 110hp diesel engine and mid-level trim, and the Kadjar will be a wonderfully refined and luxurious crossover that will do everything the vast majority of buyers require of it. Renault's first stab at this vital C-segment machine turns out to be one of the class leaders from the off.

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Driving Dynamics

3 3 3 3 3 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 5 Jun 2015



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2015 Renault Kadjar. Image by Max Earey.2015 Renault Kadjar. Image by Max Earey.2015 Renault Kadjar. Image by Max Earey.2015 Renault Kadjar. Image by Max Earey.2015 Renault Kadjar. Image by Max Earey.

2015 Renault Kadjar. Image by Max Earey.2015 Renault Kadjar. Image by Max Earey.2015 Renault Kadjar. Image by Max Earey.2015 Renault Kadjar. Image by Max Earey.2015 Renault Kadjar. Image by Max Earey.



2015 Renault Kadjar. Image by Renault.
 

2015 Renault Kadjar. Image by Renault.
 

2015 Renault Kadjar. Image by Renault.
 

2015 Renault Kadjar. Image by Renault.
 

2015 Renault Kadjar. Image by Renault.
 

2015 Renault Kadjar. Image by Renault.
 

2015 Renault Kadjar. Image by Renault.
 

2015 Renault Kadjar. Image by Renault.
 

2015 Renault Kadjar. Image by Renault.
 

2015 Renault Kadjar. Image by Renault.
 






 

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