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Renault Captur: First Drive Review

  • Sep 24, 2017
  • 2687 Views

Has Renault India finally got the formula for a premium car right?


Renault Captur


5 years is a short amount of time to do something really big. For Renault, that challenge was to enter and make a mark in the Indian market. The brand’s had a rocky start but has managed to become the 7th largest carmaker in India in a very short span of time, on the back of two names – Duster and Kwid.


However, the one place Renault hasn’t been lucky is the premium segment. A mismatch of timing, price and strategy led to a weak response and eventual demise of the Fluence and Koleos brands in India. That is set to change with the Captur. Based on the same B0 platform as the Duster, the Captur (pronounced ‘capture’) is a crossover that comes with the promise of rugged abilities, balanced with premium packaging. Does it live up to that expectation?



Exterior


There’s no two ways about it -- the Captur is a stunning car to look at. It’s a rare car that doesn’t just market itself as a crossover but actually is one, much like the Maruti Suzuki S-Cross. On first impressions, you immediately connect with the Renault Captur as something you’d see in the cobbled streets of Paris or London.


Renault Captur


Yes, it doesn’t have the imposing presence of the Duster even though it’s 14mm longer, but it still manages to stand out, especially in the dual-tone orange-black paint shade. It has a squat stance thanks to its 1813mm width. Combine that with the muscular body lines and the curvy Euro-car styling and you have something that looks truly sporty. It looks purposeful too, with 210mm of ground clearance and the 17-inch alloy wheels that appear like something you’d see on a concept car. By the way, 16-inch alloy wheels are offered as standard, even on the base variant!


Renault Captur


The big highlight, though, is the extensive usage of LED tech. Full LED headlights come as standard and you also get C-shaped LED DRLs that accent the front fog lamps. Speaking of which, the fog lamps get the cornering function for improved visibility. Of course, there’s some novelty to it as well, with LED tail lights and floating indicator lights (akin to Audi’s dynamic turn indicators).


Renault Captur


It also draws inspiration from its baby sibling in many ways. Similarities in body shape aside, the Renault Captur also comes with an extensive range of personalisation options, including individual accessories (roof wraps, mirror covers, chrome detailing, seat covers and more), while you can choose customisation packages too.



Interior


Is it familiar? Yes, it’s easy to spot bits that are from Renault’s parts bin, such as the AC vents, climate control console and infotainment screen. However, that’s not to say the Captur doesn’t offer something unique. The auto AC console may be similar but gets rubberized dials to add a degree of tactility. The plastics are still hard to touch but are far better than what we’ve seen in the Duster. That said, they just fall short of being called ‘premium’. The glovebox cover in particular, feels very flimsy and makes you wonder if one hard enough pothole will make it come loose.


Renault Captur


You do need to give the Captur’s interior more time to make its first impression, but once you spend enough time in it, it’s easy to appreciate the upmarket bits. The white and gold faux leather-draped ergo-design seats reek of quality, with the diamond quilting adding a touch of German car finesse. The leather makes its way onto the door pads and centre armrest too, which lifts up the experience a few notches. The seats, front or rear, aren’t just eye candy either. They really are supportive, even of larger frames, and will be very handy on long distance drives.


Renault Captur


The driving position, though, is a mixed bag. The panoramic design means you have a great view of the road ahead, aided by the relatively slim A-pillar, which makes visibility at T-junctions more convenient. You also get a commanding drive position, with the bonnet falling into view even with the seat set to its lowest. However, that’s where the problem lies. The default seat height is far too high, so even drivers just under 6ft in height will find the roof a bit close for comfort, while tall drivers will feel cramped. This isn’t an issue in the Duster. We also wish telescopic steering adjustment was offered, instead of the current tilt-only setup.


Renault Captur


The ergonomics aren’t as fluid as what you’d see in a Maruti or Hyundai either. You do get an eco-drive mode and cruise control but the buttons are placed at your right knee, which isn’t where you’d expect them to be. Even the front cupholders are placed just ahead of the gearlever, so engage an odd gear and accessing anything kept here will be tricky. But then, you start appreciating some quirks, like the Duster-spec infotainment controls that sit behind the steering wheel, which you quickly start appreciating over traditional steering-mounted controls. You even get a pretty large, closed storage spot atop the dashboard, which could come in handy to slot your phone into while using navigation, provided you use an anti-slip mat.


Renault Captur


Renault Captur


Finally, the space has been better used than in the Duster, even though both cars share their 2673mm wheelbase. It helps free up a little more knee room in both seat rows and while headroom is underserved for taller folks up front, the rear seat didn’t have the same issue. It can also seat 3 at the rear quite well, even with the rear AC vents console. For added convenience, there's an armrest in between for when you’re travelling four-up. However, ingress/egress in the rear is a pain point. The B-pillar is intrusive and constricts the passage way. Senior citizens will like the tall seat, but swinging their legs in will require some effort from the thighs, as they’ll have to avoid hitting the pillar with their feet.


Renault Captur


The boot’s plenty accommodating at 392 litres, with no intrusive bulges or plus-sized loading lip to spoil the fun. The rear seat does fold down and helps make room for a lot of luggage, but doesn’t split 60:40, nor does it drop flat.



Technology


The Captur comes with a fairly detailed and thoughtful tech package but not one you’d call futuristic. For convenience, Renault has prefixed auto to the AC, exterior lights and wipers. Of course, we’ve already mentioned the LED exterior lighting but Renault also offers interior ambient lighting and LEDs for the functional cabin lights too.


Renault Captur


The ‘infinity’ instrument cluster looks cool and reads out data like the travel range, fuel consumed in litres, and average fuel efficiency. You also get a push-button starter with a smart-key card; easier to fit into your pocket, and it comes with its own slot in the centre console too.


Renault Captur


The infotainment setup is a familiar affair, with a slight update to make it quicker to respond than the Duster’s unit and the inclusion of voice commands. With Bluetooth, AUX, USB and navigation support, it has all the basics covered but at this price point, we were expecting Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, if not both. Additionally, a turn-off remains the fact that it still looks like an aftermarket head unit, which doesn’t quite fit into the premium ambience. The 6-speaker Arkamys-tuned sound system offers decent sound quality but audiophiles will want an upgrade.



Performance


Details first. The Captur will be available with 1.5-litre petrol and diesel engines, with the prior being introduced at a latter stage, after the market launch. The K9K diesel engine will be the engine of choice when the Captur arrives, offered exclusively in the 110PS/240Nm tune, paired with a 6-speed manual transmission. All-wheel drive is off the cards, but the Captur will get an automatic transmission, possibly in 2018 (it will not be an AMT).


Renault Captur


Down to business then. This diesel engine is already available with both the Duster and Lodgy so it packs no real surprises. You can tell it’s a diesel engine and there’s a fair amount of vibrations that make their way into the cabin at idle. On the move they smoothen out and the engine noise isn’t overbearing either. However, the motor does have a fair amount of turbo-dependency. Simply put, you’re fine while driving alone, but with a full passenger load, performance feels dull before around 1800rpm, which is where the turbo kicks in. Driving up on steep inclines, you will need to stick to lower gears to avoid engine knock. When the boost kicks in, you get the famed turbo surge and the engine truly comes to life. This surge is tamer than what we saw in the Duster but does need some monitoring in slow moving traffic. In that aspect, perhaps the lower 85PS tune is more forgiving for city usage.


Renault Captur


Long story short, you do have to adapt to this engine’s peculiarities but the takeaway is that it doesn’t take much time to do that. 1st and 2nd gear are on the shorter side, so you do have to shift a fair bit during city drives. A sticking point is the clutch. Given this car’s ‘urban’ placement the pedal should’ve had a shorter travel range and been a lot lighter. In stop-go traffic, it will get cumbersome to use.


Renault Captur


Get onto an open road, though, and this engine comes into its element. Triple-digit speeds are hit and maintained with ease and it’s a motor that enjoys high-speed cruising. With the 6th gear in the picture, it feels relaxed too and should deliver good fuel efficiency on long road trips.



Ride and Handling


Renault Captur


The ride, like the Duster’s, is a strong point. The Captur’s ground clearance means bad roads leave no scraping scares and even on really bad patches, it still pummels through everything, letting very little seep into the cabin. It is noticeably stiffer than the Duster, so you don’t get the exact same sense of indestructibility but it balances the marginal loss with better stability. Even though the Renault Captur sits tall, body roll is managed well and it doesn’t feel top heavy, even through sharp corners.


Renault Captur


Driver’s car then? Well, no. The chassis is set up well but the steering is a little too heavy and while it is fairly responsive, there is no feel or feedback. Charge at a sharp turn and you feel unsure of where the tyres are facing. Like the Duster, the steering also has kickback through hard turns, albeit to a milder degree.



Safety


Dual front airbags, ABS with EBD and brake assist, along with ISOFIX child seat mounts come as standard. Also offered are side airbags (2x), ESP, hill-start assist, rear parking sensors + a rear camera.



Verdict


Is the Captur the perfect premium car? Not entirely. The interior quality is better than the Duster’s but there’s still room for improvement, while refinement and noise insulation levels could be better too. We also expected a different and more comprehensive infotainment system than what Renault already offers with the Kwid and Duster.


Renault Captur


However, with the safety essentials, alloy wheels and features like auto AC and LED headlights being offered as standard, the Captur does offer good value proposition off the bat. It also looks like nothing else on the road and comes with a wide range of personalisation options. At its expected price of Rs 13-15 lakh, this crossover is an urban car you’d buy to make a statement. It’s more of a contemporary alternative to the Duster than an upgrade per se and does have enough going for it to finally give buyers something to consider over the likes of the Creta or S-Cross.


Words: Tushar Kamath


Images: Eshan Shetty

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