Test Drive: Renault Captur 1.5 dCi 110 PS – It’s all about style image

The chic stance of the compact crossover Captur eased Renault’s path to top of the segment in Europe. Now it comes with a more powerful diesel engine mated to a 6-speed manual transmission to be sure it stays there.

I have to admit that I always believed you should aim for the top, rather than adopt the path in between. Go big or stay small. If you want an SUV or something with four-wheel drive that can plunge into deep snow, mud or other dirty scenarios and you feel the urge to adventure into wilderness, then go for the big cars. Choose the real thing. But the market has shown that is plenty of room for the middle ground, not only for high hills and peaks.

The crossover market might be quite understandable, for some, from a psychological point of view, as it lets you aspire to the fact that you can go beyond your expectations. Then what about the compact crossover niche? Maybe it is the same perception, but on a smaller scale. Nissan Juke was the model that boosted this market and showed that there are plenty of willing drivers that feel the need to stay a bit higher in their seats and to look down to others, even if they use their cars mainly in urban spaces or on paved roads.

Renault couldn’t ignore this trend and decided a couple of years back that it has to take a piece of this demand. And they took a huge one, as its Captur small crossover is on top of this segment in Europe. Renault enjoys challenging its alliance partner, Nissan, and needs to feel in control, as the recent battle for power within the alliance reveals. And now the model comes with a 1.5 dCi 110 PS engine alongside a 6-speed manual transmission to be sure that its position in not undermined.

Renault Captur 1.5 dCi

Design. Interior. Trims
When Nissan Juke emerged, it was quite a shocking and intriguing appearance. With its bulging ET’s “eyes”, was a hate it or love it kind of thing. And most people loved it, as sales revealed. That’s not the French way. They are all about style. Well dressed, good food, good wine and the women. Oh, the women… It was a very interesting marketing approach when Captur made one of its first official appearances just before International Women’s Day: “Women will love Renault Captur”. And if you love women, then success is ensured.

For its small crossover, Renault took a Clio model and applied a flamboyance treatment to it. With a distinctive front, flared wheel arches, protection mouldings guard for that “crossover” stance, and glossy trims, Capture has a trendy look which fits perfectly with the French culture. But being fashionable means many accessories to go with and lots of personalization options. The style is essential, therefore, you can chose roof colours and coordinating bodywork paints, especially two-tone combinations, add some bonnet and roof stickers, or change the interior trim parts or the colour scheme to your liking. Furthermore, the seat covers can be unzipped and changed to whatever your fashion impulses urge you.

Renault Captur 1.5 dCi

The plastics found inside are hard on touch and not as high-life as you might want, but they are covered in a modern pattern which doesn’t give at all the impression of cheapness, only on the cup holders area there are some slightly rough edges. Overall, Capture’s interior is a pleasant place to be, with a driving position not as high as the 200 mm ground clearance is suggesting. And this is an important feature for someone, like me, who doesn’t want that SUV feel. You still sit 100 mm upper than in the Clio.

Being a small-urban crossover, Capture has a compact footprint (4.12m x 1.77m x 1.57m), but with sufficient head and knee room in the back seats for two adults, and roomier than a Juke. It also can accommodate 377 litres of luggage into the boot and thanks to a sliding back and forward rear bench seat the total volume can increase up to 455 litres. The boot also has a “double-deck” design, with a removable lid floor. The storage spaces are supplemented by a drawer-type glove box of 11 litres (with ambient lighting above it for higher trims), a removable 1.6 litre stowage bin located between the front seats, a lidded stowage area on top of the dashboard and by front door bins. It has quite a decent amount of places to put your miscellaneous, not the best in class, but adequate enough.

Renault Captur 1.5 dCi

In terms of trims and options availability, Captur’s entry-level version is around 13,000 euros depending on the market, and going up to around 20,000 euros for the dCi 90 PS with EDC transmission. In the “base” mode, you will get A/C, hill assist, ECO mode, daylight LED, start&stop system, radio CD with USB and Bluetooth and cruise control. Our test model came with a price tag of 18,100 euros for dCi 110 PS version and had included: 17 inch wheels, automatic climate control, fog light with cornering assistance, rain and light sensors and touch-sensitive sat-nav system with a 7 inch display, Radio, Bluetooth, and USB. The latter is not so touch-sensitive, forcing you from time to time to insist, or maybe it just needs a woman’s softer touch. Or you can opt for a smarter high-end R-Lynk media-navigation-system.

On the road
Some would say the French are all about appearances, interested mainly in style and look, they are quite superficial and they don’t care so much about the inner side of things. If you are among these people, you will also think this perception will translate onto their cars. But this is not quite the case and the easiest example is their Renault Sport Technologies division who takes ordinary cars and transforms them into something special that you can really enjoy driving. Unfortunately no, it is not Captur’s case, however, there is some substance underneath the style.

A compact crossover model is something of a compromise. Even if it sits on Clio Estate’s subcompact platform, it needs to be a bit more versatile and it has to give you that SUV/crossover feel that it can ride you off the paved roads if you wanted to, but not that far away, as this is Kadjar’s job. Thus, Captur comes with a very respectable 200 mm ground clearance, same as its big brother, but without a four-wheel drive option. A small car with a high ride gives you the feeling of walking on Kangoo Jumps boots. Therefore, the first technical adjustment in this case targets the suspension settings, as it has to be stiffer than on a regular small car.

Renault Captur 1.5 dCi

Renault tried to find the right balance between stiff and soft. Captur has a composed ride when the pace is alert and it doesn’t give you the feel that it will lose its balance over curvy roads. You will notice, of course, some body-roll, but not as pronounced as you would expect from a 200 mm height ride. In addition, Captur comes standard with the Electronically Stability Control system which integrates a Roll Movement Intervention feature that reacts in extreme situations, whenever the body roll angle threatens to become excessive making use of the ESC’s control unit to brake individual wheels.

However, the stiffer springs are a double-edge sword, and you realise this when you drive at a more relaxed pace over bumpy roads as the suspension damping is not quite subtle and a bit noisy, this feeling being more obvious when driving through cities. It doesn’t lack refinement, but Captur’s targeted owners might have appreciated a softer ride at the expense of “sportiness”. What will they definitely welcome is its comfy seats with a decent amount of side support and the lightness of the steering in town. And while you are in town, you will eventually have to park it, but here the design trumps function, as the back pillars are chunky, the front ones are also quite thick, the rear window is narrow and the side mirrors not very generous. Ticking the parking sensors option would be a wise choice when you configure your Capture.

Renault Captur 1.5 dCi

You can bring some criticism to French cars when it comes to drivetrains, but they certainly know something about the “power” of diesel engines. Quite refined, great fuel efficiency and lively, you will not be disappointed by Renault’s 1.5-litre dCi unit. Until recently, you would only have one option for this engine: a 90 PS output with a 5-speed manual transmission. Renault needed to keep the interest as high as possible and so it gave to Captur the Energy 110 PS version and, better than that, mated this engine with a 6-speed manual transmission. It is the best marriage for the small crossover. The unit is flexible with plenty of torque available from 1,800 rpm up, rather quiet and it can push the car from 0 to 100 km/h in a respectable 11 seconds, while the transmission assists the engine in achieving low fuel figures.

On the highway, at a cruising speed of 140 km/h, the engine stays at 2,700 rpm and it needs 6.8 l/100 km, but if you ease up the pace to 100 km/h it returns only 4.2 l/100 km at 1,900 rpm. In urban conditions, the fuel consumption depends on many factors, but Renault says Captur can achieve 4.0 l/100 km. It is a bold claim, maybe supported by the standard start&stop system and ECO Mode, the latter restricting the amount of engine torque that is delivered and controlling the climate system. The most important aspect when it comes to such systems is their ability not to annoy you to the point of switching them off. Fortunately, it didn’t happen for me. The start&stop system reacts swiftly enough and the ECO function cuts the power in a gentle manner. With their help, and also with the “advice” you are getting form an indicator for when it is optimal to switch the gears, a sub-6,0 l/100 km in the city is achievable.

Renault Captur 1.5 dCi

Final words
I definitely can understand the attraction of younger families towards Renault’s Capture. It is chic and noticeable for a small crossover, highly customizable, with plenty standard specs, has a good ground clearance for those who want to go to a picnic, it is well priced and now can be fitted with the excellent Energy diesel engine alongside a 6-speed manual. It also has some rough edges. The plastics inside are hard, the visibility wasn’t a priority for Renault though it’s meant to be urban, the Media Nav system is sometimes not so touch sensitive and the ride could have been more refined. Overall, Captur manages to stay balanced on that thin line between a small car, family hatchback and a crossover. But style is first and foremost the key of its success.

Technical specs:

Price
Starting price – Renault Captur Energy dCi 110 – 16,750 EUR
Tested Version – Renault Captur Energy dCi 110 – 18,100 EUR

Engine
1,461 cc four cylinder, diesel, direct injection, turbo, common rail, start&stop
Power: 110 HP (81 kW) at 4,000 rpm
Torque: 260 Nm at 1,750 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual

Dimensions
Length – 4.122 mm, Width – 1,778 mm, Height – 1,566 mm, Wheelbase – 2,606 mm
Fuel Tank Capacity: 45 litres
Trunk Capacity: 377-455 / 1,235 litres
Weight: 1,190 kg

Performances
0 – 100 km/h: 11,0 s
Top Speed: 175 km/h
Fuel consumption: urban – 4.0 l/100 km, highway – 3.6 l/100 km, average – 3.7 l/100 km

Rating
4.0 / 5