End of Term Report: Renault Captur Dynamique test
AU REVOIR to a small and beautiful French dalliance which lasted five fleeting months over spring and summer.
No, not some avant-garde Euro film seen on SBS in the wee hours, but our tenure with a range-topping Renault Captur small SUV that has just drawn to a close.
Lengthy tests such as these give us a greater understanding of a car's strengths and weaknesses, its charms and frustrations, as it slots into our everyday life as it would for any new buyer.
Over the five months our Captur Dynamique TCe 120 has covered more than 8000km of testing, returned an excellent real world economy figure of 6.3-litres/100km (often using E10 95 octane fuel which typically makes fuel economy worse), and carried children, boxes and bicycles around town, through city traffic, down motorways and over back road flings.
So what are our findings? In short, the Captur is a beautiful looking thing that does many things well, but is let down by niggling issues that prevent it being a winner in the fiercely competitive small SUV segment.
Most disappointing is the engine's very tardy response from standstill - there's just none of the zippiness that should be a city SUVs raison d'etre - and for families, the Captur's lack of rear airbags will prevent many shopping for the Renault when such a safety inclusion is near ubiquitous in this class these days.
But as we found in discussions with our local Renault dealer, the Captur's buying demographic, in their experience, is couples without kids and empty nesters. This lessens the importance and desirability of the rear airbags of course, as these shoppers are typically very style-centred.
And here the Captur is a triumph. During our extended test the stylish Frenchie - a small thing based on the light Clio hatchback's underpinnings - drew plenty of praise on the looks front. Our Mercury grey example with black roof isn't the funkiest of colour choices, so take a look at Corsica orange and Riviera blue Capturs with contrasting white roof and the style appeal is certainly amplified. My favourite? Diamond black body with an orange roof; such customisation adding an appreciated twist to such lifestyle car shopping.
We found the cabin to be well laid out, simple and comfortable, but even this top-spec model has too many hard plastics, a quite brittle feeling dash storage box, and misses out on some of the entertainment goodies enjoyed with some of the Captur's small SUV rivals, namely this year's must have, smartphone integration such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The seven-inch touchscreen is easy to navigate, but we found the Bluetooth to be sketchy. A rear camera is an appreciated inclusion, but takes far too long to boot up when starting the car. Often I'd already reversed out of my parking space before the screen engaged rear vision.
Leather seats in our Dynamique were excellent (and heated too), proving comfortable over all journeys. Two child seats fit in the back, but the Captur's small size meant this was at the expense of boot space (the rear seats slide forward and backward 160mm depending on preferred space usage - a clever touch).
The boot itself with false floor offered a very decent 455-litres: pretty good for the childless set, but for people like me with young kids needing prams and bikes transported, it was often a squeeze. Positively, a road bike with just one wheel removed fitted in the boot with just one part of the rear bench folded. Removable seat covers which can be cleaned in the washing machine are a real boon for families with young kids.
Spec is quite generous in these Dynamique models, with that rear view camera and park sensors, sat nav, hands-free entry, "walk away" door locking, cornering lights and auto headlights and wipers all notable. A driver's armrest and larger cup holders would be appreciated however.
Get driving the Captur and there's decent substance to match the car's style. It is at its best on motorway cruising where it belies its size by being comfortable, road imperfection-absorbing and well insulated against road noise. It also performs surprisingly well if you chuck it into a few turns, no doubt aided by the Clio's wonderful chassis DNA. No, it's not as rewarding as a Clio, but balance and grip in the Captur are decent for this higher riding offering.
The 88kW turbo 1.2-litre engine is also a nice little thing when you're up and running, and the EDC six-speed auto is also very unfussy and well matched to the power unit. It certainly is a very easy and pleasant thing to drive.
But the throttle response from standstill is really very poor. Plant your foot and the engine takes an age to react. So much so pulling out of junctions means you have to take into account the engine's response lag, and that's not the safest way to be driving.
Fuel economy was impressive however - 6.3 litres a decent return - and thanks to the Captur's small 45-litre tank, fill-ups of E10 (95 octane) were sometimes well under $50. But I'd happily sacrifice some economy for a bit more off-the-mark performance.
The Captur has impressed and frustrated in equal measure. Many will forgive some of its limitations and negatives, and buy one on the strength of its unquestionable style. But there are other small SUVs in the price range offering greater safety, performance and features than the little Renault: it really is a competitive, quality-filled segment. And when Citroen's Cactus arrives in a few weeks, there'll be serious French style competition for the Captur.
I'm sure many of the grumbles we have about the Captur will be addressed in the facelifted or second generation model, and then the baby Renault SUV may prove as big a hit in Australia as it has done in Europe.
Final report card
Model: Renault Captur Dynamique TCe 120.
Price as tested: $30,280.
Time on test: Five months.
Kilometres travelled: 8183km.
Fuel economy overall: 6.3-litres/100km.
The good: Comfortable ride and decent steering and cornering balance, very easy to drive, impressive fuel economy, decent specification, comfortable seating, lovely looking thing.
The not so good: Acceleration is tardy, smallish size means it's not an ideal family car with two child seats in the back, no airbags for the rear seats, bit plasticky inside in places, too-small cup holders, reversing camera slow to boot up when starting car, bluetooth is at times sketchy.
Model: Renault Captur Dynamique TCe 120.
Details: Five-door, front-wheel drive small SUV.
Engine: 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo developing maximum power of 88kW @ 4900rpm and 190Nm @ 2000rpm.
Transmission: EDC six-speed automatic.
Performance: 0-100kmh in 10.9-seconds.
Economy: 5.4-litres/100km (combined).
Bottom line: $30,280 (as tested) - Dynamique TCe 120 starts from $27,990 before on-roads.