New car review

Renault Kadjar test drive

We get behind the wheel of the facelifted French SUV to see if tweaks keep it up with the pack

What is it?

Though the current UK car market is seemingly overrun with SUVs, the Renault Kadjar was in showrooms way back when the trend first started kicking off. Unveiled in 2015, it shares its running gear with the ever-popular Nissan Qashqai and has, up to this point, experienced similar (if not quite better) success as Nissan’s key SUV – Renault has managed to shift 450,000 units worldwide, in fact.

Now, the French manufacturer has given it a well-needed mid-life refresh. Its looks have been updated, and new life has been breathed into the interior too. A new engine has been added as well, but we’ll have a look at that in more detail later on.

What’s new?

Look at the front end of the new Kadjar, and you’d be hard-pressed to notice that it’s been refreshed at all. Okay, so the nose of the car gets a new grille, bumper design and LED lights, but this is one light redesign. It has sharpened up the overall look the Kadjar, however, which was starting to look just a little tired.

Inside, the cabin has been lifted and areas have been improved. The infotainment system, for instance, now sits flush in the dash rather than set back, while new backlit switches dotted throughout the interior give it a far more premium look and feel.

How does it look?

As mentioned a little earlier, the updated look of the Kadjar is far more evolutionary than revolutionary. The front end refresh is minimal, and it’s the same story at the back.

However, we’re certainly not saying that the Kadjar is a bad looking car. Sitting within the mid-size SUV segment means it’s got some particularly stylish rivals – the Peugeot 3008 being a standout in terms of looks – but it manages to offer a design which will be interesting enough for most. The new LED C-shape lights make a good impression in the dark, too.

The overall impression is of a design which has been refined and honed. Larger areas of body-coloured bumpers make it appear a little more premium than it did before as well.

What’s the spec like?

The Kadjar specification range kicks off with Play trim vehicles, and even this offers a strong level of standard equipment. Renault has thrown in 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, and a new seven-inch infotainment system too. This includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone systems, which will be a boon for those who frequently use their phones for navigation and media.

You’ll have to bump up to Iconic trim (after Play) in order to secure larger 19-inch alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors as well as Renault’s R-LINK2 infotainment system which features TomTom satellite navigation. In all, all specifications available offer a good amount of standard kit – particularly when you consider the car’s £20,595 starting price.

What’s it like inside?

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Again, much like the exterior, the boat has been pushed awfully far out when it comes to redesigns in the cabin. Renault has added reinforcement into the seats to make them a touch more comfortable, and the door bins have been made larger to help swallow up a 1.5-litre water bottle.

And, big coffee drinkers rejoice, as Renault has enlarged the Kadjar’s cupholders too.

Practicality is the name of the game in this segment, and it’s here where the Kadjar delivers. There are 472 litres of space on offer with the rear seats in place, which increases to 1,478 litres if you fold them down – splitting 60:40. They also fold properly flat, which is ideal for when you’re loading larger items in.

The changes to the heating and ventilation controls and the flush new infotainment screen lift the overall perception of quality in the cabin, but it’s let down by hard plastics in a variety of areas – but let’s remember this is a relatively cheap car in the segment.

What’s under the bonnet?

Our test car utilised Renault’s new TCe 140 powertrain, which puts a four-cylinder petrol engine under the bonnet, driving the front wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox. It’s the same unit as you’ll find recently added to Nissan’s Qashqai.

A diesel is still available – Renault has yet to follow trends set by other manufacturers to ditch this entirely – and four-wheel-drive is an option too. It means that should you actually need the added traction given to you by having four driven wheels, then the box is there to be ticked.

Back to the TCe 140, however. It kicks out 140hp (hence the name) and 240Nm, and can push the Kadjar from 0-60mph in a claimed 10.2 seconds before allowing it to reach a top speed of 126mph. Renault claims that it’ll return 47.9mpg combined while emitting 134g/km of CO2.

What’s it like to drive?

The biggest impression made here is by the engine. Smooth, refined and deceptively strong, it suits the character of the Kadjar down to the ground. It’s punchy enough around town, but on open roads, it happily settles down to a cruise. It even makes a relatively nice noise.

Elsewhere, things are decent enough. The action of the six-speed gearbox is light if a little inaccurate, and there’s enough weight to the steering to give you confidence when placing the car in a bend.

Meanwhile, the suspension does well to skim over the minor imperfections in the road, though larger potholes and bumps do tend to upset it somewhat. That’s not to say it’s uncomfortable – the added reinforcement to the seats ensures this – but it just means that it can feel a little unsettled when the surfaces get craggy. Our test car’s 19-inch wheels may have contributed to this issue further, too.

Summary

The Kadjar – even with its latest improvements – may not stir the heart of a die-hard petrolhead, nor inspire people to point and look at it in the street.

This facelift does bring it more into line with rivals, however, while the addition of the new boosted 1.3-litre engine breathes a whole lot of new life into the overall package.

While other SUVs of this size may get the job done with a little more style and flair, the Renault Kadjar – particularly when you consider its price – is still well worth considering.

Similar cars

Kia Sportage, Nissan Qashqai, Peugeot 3008

Key specifications

Model as tested: Renault Kadjar TCe 140
Price: £20,595 on-road
Engine: 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol
Power: 140 hp
Torque: 240 Nm
Top speed: 126 mph
0-60mph: 10.2 seconds
Fuel economy (combined): 47.9 mpg
CO2 emissions: 134 g/km

Jack Evans
Jack Evans
Articles by Jack Evans are provided for The Car Expert by PA Media (formerly the Press Association). They include test drives of the latest new cars and features on various aspects of automotive life.

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