Test drive: Renault Kadjar 1.5 dCi EDC image

Renault promises that its stylish crossover is more efficient and peaceful than ever when it comes matted with the brand’s automatic dual-clutch transmission. But serenity is not always a virtue.

Renault has lately measured its steps quite carefully and has not plunged eagerly into releasing models until it was certain they would become a hit, even if other automakers seized the booming moment within certain segments, especially the crossovers and SUVs one. The small Captur is a good example of this approach, a latecomer to the party, but which made quite a sales impression in Europe.

Furthermore, Renault have been waiting for quite a while to develop a second generation of the Koleos, a capable off-roader that did not draw too much attention at its first attempt, promising now though to change this perception. As we are still a year away until the new full SUV comes to Europe, the compact Kadjar stays at the top of Renault’s offering in this high-demanding class.

The same pattern applies for the latter as well. Nissan’s Qashqai has been the traditional segment leader in Europe for the past six years and it will stay there in 2016, but Kadjar is coming strong from behind, fighting for the second spot with Kia Sportage, Volkswagen Tiguan and Hyundai Tucson. Therefore, it is clear that Renault has found the right ingredients.

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I definitely can understand the French flare styling attraction, as we already have met twice in recent months with the Kadjar, by extensively testing the 1.6 DCI 130 4×4 Zen and the Energy TCe 130 Intense versions. It manages to draw your attention with courageous lines and with its overall stance of an almost concept model. Inside, you will be greeted by a view much more appealing than you were familiar with in past Renault cars, also bringing some features that were later on transferred to the Megane and Talisman.

The Renault Kadjar really stands out from the mid-sized crossover crowd with a distinctive look, a very nicely put together cabin, which can easily be placed at the top of the segment. I will insist no further on design and interior details, but on the new technical paring that brought together Renault’s already classic 1.5 dCi 110 horsepower engine and the EDC dual-clutch system.

Adding an automatic transmission to Kadjar was a natural move, as there are many buyers looking for more convenience from a high-riding model. Renault developed this 6-speed gearbox with fuel-efficiency in mind and matting it with the 1.5 dCi has resulted in the least frugal Kadjar, with an official mileage rating of 3.8 l/100 km. It has a city-wise figure even lower than the one returned by the manual box.

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The EDC system works smoothly enough if you do not rush the gas pedal, changing gears without any hiccups especially in the middle area of the torque zone. However, starting from a stand still is quite a slow process, as this is the nature of such a box. But once Kadjar starts moving, it steadily builds up momentum until around 80-90 km/h; at speeds higher than these, the engine begins to display its limitations, as it does not show much enthusiasm to push forward.

The EDC also has its boundaries and it does not act as refined and nimble when the driver is rushing the gears with a heavier foot. These hesitations can be mitigated by switching to the manual mode, which is extremely responsive. Therefore, if it is not hurried, the transmission complies in a pleasant manner with the inputs.

It will also reward you with some impressive fuel-figures, of under 4.0 l/100 km for a relaxed pace to admire the countryside views, going up to around 5.0 l/100 km if the roads become more challenging. The cities are however not a welcoming environment even for the frugal Renault dCi. While the start&stop system and an ECO mode come to assist, it proves an impossible task to hit the claimed mileage urban figure of 3.8 l/100 km. More likely somewhere near 6.0 l/100 km. Ditch the rather slow and a bit annoying start&stop and ECO and the fuel consumption jumps over 7.0 l/100 km in urban driving. Renault has also done a good job by muffling the nosy 1.5 dCi and extra insulation means the cabin stays quiet.

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Despite its fuel-efficiency, the twin-clutch set-up brings some major drawbacks. It cannot be paired with an all-wheel-drive system and it pushes Kadjar’s price dangerously close to the more potent 1.6 dCi 130 hp 4WD version. And if you are planning to spend over 22,000 euros for a compact SUV, you will probably want a go-anywhere drivetrain. And with 19 inch wheels and low-profile tires brought by the Intense trim, the model is struggling for grip even when it encounters a bit of slippery-muddy ground. Therefore, it is mandatory to select from the optional panel the Extended Grip feature, for around 250 euros, which partially keeps an eye over the front wheels to prevent them from losing too much grip.

To reiterate Kadajar’s on-road posture and its overall feel from my first encounter, the appealing crossover-SUV will not offer any particular excitement to the driver, as it was not developed with this purpose in mind. But it is well-balanced under pressure, with comfy ride quality– 19 inch wheels may be excluded from this equation -, shows a nicely put together upscale and roomy cabin, while the outer noises from the rattling engine and wind are not intrusive. The 1.5 dCi engine matted with the EDC transmission would however not be my first choice, even if it is the most frugal option. It is slightly upper priced than the punchier and more refined but still efficient 1.6 dci 130 hp with manual box and around 1,000 euros under the 1.6 diesel 4WD version, which feels more suited for Renault’s Kadjar.

Renault Kadjar 1.6 DCI 130 4×4 Zen test drive

Renault Kadjar Energy TCe 130 Intense test drive

Technical specs:

Price
Starting price in range – Renault Kadjar Life 1.2 TCe 130 HP, M6 – 17,600 EUR
Starting price diesel – Renault Kadjar Life 1.5 dCi 110 HP, M6 – 19,150 EUR
Starting price diesel with EDC A6 – Renault Kadjar Zen 1.5 dCi 110 HP EDC Automata 6 – 25,750 EUR

Tested Version – Renault Kadjar Intense Energy TCe 130 – 26,920 EUR

Engine
1,478 cc, four cylinder, 2 valves per cylinder, turbodiesel, start&stop
Power: 110 HP (81 kW) at 4,000 rpm
Torque: 250 Nm at 1,750 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic EDC

Dimensions
Length – 4,449 mm, Width – 1,836 mm, Height – 1,607 mm, Wheelbase – 2,646 mm
Fuel Tank Capacity: 55 litres
Trunk Capacity: 472 / 1,478 litres
Weight: 1,482 kg

Performances
0 – 100 km/h: 11.7 s
Top Speed: 181 km/h
Fuel consumption: urban – 3.8 l/100 km, extra-urban – 3.8 l/100 km, average – 3.8 l/100 km

Rating
4.0 / 5