What is it? Long-awaited entry by Renault into the booming C-segment crossover market.
Key features: All-wheel-drive capability, strong styling cues, efficient engines.
Our View: The Renault Kadjar is a very capable new member of the ever-expanding crossover segment, but has it arrived at the party too late?
A family crossover has very quickly become a must-have for car manufacturers, with even the premium and luxury brands now getting in on the act.
While the European C segment, comprising family hatches such as the Ford Focus and Renault Megane, has remained stable over the last decade at around 5.5 million vehicles, the crossover share of the market has exploded from just about nothing to account for more than a quarter of the segment, 1.5 million of them sold in 2014.
In the UK such C crossovers now account for one in 10 of every car sold, so it is a significant market, and therefore perhaps surprising that Renault is so late to jump into it – particularly considering that sister brand Nissan started the crossover explosion with its all-conquering Qashqai.
In fact the Kadjar is not the first such vehicle from Renault. The larger Koleos first appeared in 2008, was based on the Nissan X-Trail and saw one of the earliest uses of the ‘crossover’ description. But it did not greatly impress the public and unfortunately arrived just as the recession did.
The Kadjar is a very different machine – Renault has not surprisingly taken the Qashqai as its base and the two vehicles share 60 per cent of their makeup, both built on the same Renault-Nissan CMF (Common Module Family) platform and using the same engines.
However the creators of the Kadjar are very keen to add that the car has very much its own identity, with 95 per cent of the components that owners will see, feel and touch bespoke to the vehicle.
From the outside the newcomer is clearly related to its smaller sister the Captur, which since its arrival in 2013 has proven a major success, selling 413,000 globally and becoming Europe’s best-selling B-segment crossover.
The two share similar styling cues from the team led by design head Laurens Van Den Acker, notably the very prominent badge on the nose, though we are told that the Kadjar is styled more as an all-terrain vehicle whereas the Captur is seen very much as an urban crossover.
The interior is one of the best aspects of the Renault Kadjar. As well as being spacious and practical – thr 475-litre boot for example grows to 1,478 litres with on high trim levels a single movement of the easy-folding rear seats – it wins plaudits for its quality of finish and its dash design, which is uncluttered and neatly laid out, and on all but entry-level models dominated by the touchscreen of the R-Link 2 multimedia system.
It is a sign of the modern crossover market that of the three engines available in the Kadjar, only the most powerful of the two diesels, the dCi 130, will be choosable with an all-wheel-drive transmission instead of the standard front-wheel drive. The four-wheel-drive models are expected to take just eight per cent of sales.
Alongside the stock six-speed manual gearbox, an EDC six-speed auto will be offered, but initially only on the dCi 110 diesel which Renault expects to be the best-selling power plant.
The third power option is a TCe 130 petrol unit – it is predicted that only 20 per cent of customers will choose petrol, though one wonders if recent events concerning diesel engines could change this.
The petrol engine was not available to test at the launch event but both of the diesels were driven and proved equally capable. Refinement comes as a given in the modern environment while the 110 provides enough power to accelerate the Kadjar briskly and keep it bowling along at reasonable pace. The extra torque of the 1.6 will, however, come in useful on all-wheel-drive equipped models, particularly if indulging in what very few modern crossover owners do, taking their cars off road.
On the road the Renault Kadjar is composed, riding less-than-perfect surfaces well and possessing well-weighted steering that makes for confident cornering. The only downside on our test vehicles was a noticeable amount of wind noise seemingly generated by the door mirrors. Overall it’s a very easy car to live with.
Renault is marketing the Kadjar aggressively, the £17,995 starting price under several of the competition. For this one gets the lowest of the four trim levels, Expression+, highlights of its standard spec including DAB radio, a seven-inch TFT instrument panel with a digital speedometer, cruise control with a speed limiter and a strong safety package.
An extra £1700 buys the Dynamique trim and extras that include the R-Link 2 multimedia system, incorporating TomTom navigation with live traffic updates, dual-zone climate control and extra safety features ranging from cornering lights and the Visio system, comprising lane-departure warning, traffic sign recognition and automatic headlight adjustment.
For an extra £800 Dynamique S includes larger alloy wheels with a diamond-cut finish, parking sensors and leather and cloth upholstery, while the top-of-the-range Signature Nav, £1200 more, tops its list of additions with an eight-speaker Bose sound system and a panoramic sunroof.
The Car Expert comes away from its first drive of the Kadjar with two questions. Firstly we wonder if Renault hasn’t left it a little late to join a market that is now overcrowded with rivals – the newcomer will have to work twice as hard to stand out form the crowd.
The other is the name – apparently it’s a combination of quad, which in French is effectively pronounced as Kad, and ‘jaillir’, French for ‘emerge quickly’. So the word means ‘Agile 4×4’ but on our evidence tends to raise either laughter or confusion when spoken.
Such concerns apart, the Kadjar is a very capable new member of the ever-expanding crossover family, and Renault will no doubt be hoping its quirky name becomes as familiar as Qashqai…
Renault Kadjar – key specifications
Models Tested: Renault Kadjar Dynamique S Nav dCi 110,
Signature Nav dCi 130
On Sale: September 2015.
Range price: £17,995-£26,295.
Insurance groups: 14E-18E.
Engines: Petrol 1.2. Diesel 1.5, 1.6.
Power (bhp): 128. 108, 128
Torque (lb/ft): 151. 192, 236.
0-62mph (sec): 10.1. 11.9, 9.9
Top speed (mph): 119. 113, 118.
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 50.4. 74.3, 65.7.
CO2 emissions (g/km): 126. 99, 113.
Key rivals: Nissan Qashqai, Mazda CX-5, Volkswagen Tiguan
Test Date: September 2015.
* All figures with manual gearbox, two-wheel drive.