Well here we go, the launch of yet another SUV. Australia’s insatiable appetite for them makes jumping into a sedan these days feel like you’re wearing your clothes inside out. I don’t have a hatred of SUVs; in fact, I get them especially now I have a kid. But in all honestly many mass market SUVs are about as boring as the back of a bus. So, when a brand that suffers a little from familiarity issues offers up a new one, one of my eyebrows rises a little. I’ve just spent two days in the Renault Kadjar, a brand-new mid-sized SUV.
WHAT IS IT?
Let me just explain the name firstly, it brings two words together ‘quad’ and ‘agile’. The car is offered as an AWD in overseas markets, but only in a combo that includes a diesel and manual transmission. Literally no one in Australia would buy that.
It would be easy for me to say this is a French twist on the Nissan Qashqai. Sure, it shares the same underpinnings, but there are some very commendable, and key, differences. For starters up front sits a 1.3L turbocharged engine co-developed with Mercedes-Benz. The transmission is a seven-speed dual clutch as opposed to a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).
It’s also in my mind, a more comfortable alternative to the Nissan, from the base model to the top. The five-seats are well bolstered, be it cloth or leatherette material. The R-Link 2 infotainment system kills Nissan’s outgoing software and overall let’s face it, it has that whole French flair thing going on. There’s even a small French flag at the base of the B-pillar to prove it.
There are three variants, the Life, Zen and Intens. Familiar grade names for the Renault portfolio.
Truth be told the car is actually elegant to look at. Chrome brightwork has stood the test of time and still looks great when used appropriately. The Zen and Intens certainly score a fair dose, over the grille, lower door mouldings and window surrounds.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
I would describe the Kadjar as relatively benign when you’re the one steering it around. It doesn’t overly excel in any area nor does it epically fail. The steering is light and consistent with a car designed for a family or owner not concerned with engaging dynamics, some people just don’t find driving fun so don’t care about such matters. Dynamically cars such as the Mazda CX-5, leave it for dead in that department, but once again most people don’t drive like they’ve just committed a bank robbery.
The ride borders on plush, especially when fitted with the 17-inch rims. The roads around the Yarra Valley area are generally a tad harsh, the Kadjar had no issues delivering an inoffensive drive and ride.
The 1.3L turbo is a surprise, being perkier and more enthusiastic than the numbers may suggest. It is more than capable of getting up and running smoothly, with minimal fuss but it will take 9.6 seconds to hit the tonne. Although I didn’t find the engine note to be enjoyable, I was happy with its ability to coast along the undulating hills of Victoria with ease and easily accessible torque.
In the past I’ve found Renault interiors to be lacking finesse when it comes to build quality. Not so with the Kadjar, it is mostly a very well put together vehicle. There was just one constant issue that seemed common across all cars at the launch, creaks around the transmission tunnel and centre console. Every time you went around a corner with a level of enthusiasm, that whole area seemed to flex.
Importantly for an SUV the Kadjar is practical, in fact it’s marginally longer than the Qashqai. This allows for extra boot space, a total of 408 litres. If you elect for a Zen or Intens model the 60:40 split rear seats also have a one touch release button in the boot, that drops them flat in two seconds.
The 1.3L petrol turbocharged four-cylinder produces 117kW and 260Nm. That’s more punch than the 106kW and 200Nm of torque produced by the 2.0L petrol unit found in the Nissan Qashqai. The seven-speed DCT has its own peculiarities, like most do, but aside from an enormous delay when the engine auto stop-go function is on, it wasn’t overly problematic. I’d certainly prefer it over a CVT set up any day of the week.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are offered across the range, Renault’s own R-LINK 2 infotainment system is showcased via a seven-inch touchscreen, which is a tad small by today’s standards. Safety technology includes an Autonomous Emergency Braking system, but only for lower speed accidents. Some more sophiscated systems will attempt to intervene at highway speeds or even autobahn limits. But the Kadjar AEB is designed for city speed collisions. It also lacks the ability to detect pedestrians and cyclists, that is disappointing and something a Toyota Corolla can do for example.
It should be noted there is no adaptive or radar-based cruise control on any model or a head up display. The full list of safety features includes front and rear parking sensors, rear parking camera, cruise control with speed limiter, Hill Start Assist, Electric Stability Control (ESC), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Emergency Break Assist (EBA) with distance warning.
The Zen variant kicks off the range at $29,990 followed by the $32,990 Zen and $37,990 Intens. There’s a choice of a fixed panoramic glass roof and auto-dimming rear view mirror on the Zen for $1,000. The Intens scores that as standard. The Kadjar is covered by a five-year unlimited km warranty. Service intervals are a massive 30,000km. This also includes a handy five years of capped priced serving or up to 150,000km. So over five years of ownership you will pay $399 for a service, except for service number four, that will set you back $789. Renault also throws in up to 5 years roadside assistance.
WHY WOULD YOU BUY ONE?
To be a tad different.
There is very little wrong with the Kadjar, it’s an accomplished and in some areas surprising development from Renault. It won’t set your world alight, but I doubt in the long term you’ll be disappointed. There are a few key features missing, but once again many will overlook that due to either a lack of understanding or priorities that lie elsewhere. If that place is practicality and style the Renault Kadjar is worth a look. It’s a 7.5 out fo 10 from me.