First drive: Renault Captur
What is it?
This is the vehicle Renault hopes will attract nearly as many, if not as many punters as its best selling Clio. Picture the Captur as a Clio that has gobbled a few protein shakes and spent the past few weeks performing pull-ups - it's based on the same basic underpinnings as the aforementioned hatch back (and comes in front-wheel-drive only) but rides 10cm higher and measures around 6cm longer. It's surprisingly compact from the outside and customers used to driving smaller runarounds won't really notice the difference when it comes to squeezing it into tight parking spaces. Prices start at £12,495 but can quickly escalate to around £18,000 when options boxes are ticked.ng>What's under the bonnet?
Both petrol and diesel engines are on the table with the former offered in two states of tune - around 90bhp (manual only) and 120bhp (auto only) - and the latter diesel developing 90bhp (both manual and auto offered) but with an extra dollop of torque. The diesel looks fantastic on paper, with a combined economy figure of 76.4mpg but it lacks grunt. Get it on a twisty route with a few hills and it becomes a real workout for the left arm as you muddle between second and third gear. The petrol feels better, it's much quieter for a start and when coupled with the auto box, its an absolute doddle to drive. Unless you are covering masses of motorway miles, the petrol would be the wise choice.
What's the spec like?
Renault has really upped its game when it comes to interior kit as even the basic Captur includes cruise control, an Eco mode, a decent sound system and hill start assist but most customers will likely opt to add a dash of glamour to their vehicles. There is a plethora of interior and exterior personalisation options such as roof colour, wheels, interior trim and even seats covers - which also zip on and off for easy cleaning/replacing. Optional extra packs - or 'collections' as Renault calls them - can get slightly confusing so make sure you know exactly what options you require before visiting a dealer and go carefully on the crazy styling front.
There are a few in this segment with the Nissan Juke being the tried and tested crossover of choice. However, the Captur is roomier and boasts little touches of design genius like a sliding rear bench that allows for added legroom for rear passengers or further boot space, and a storage area in the boot that can be flipped to reveal a plastic side for stowing muddy boots etc. The Vauxhall Mokka also throws its hat in the ring with its more rugged styling and the Mini Countryman could also be considered if you really want something different - just expect to hand over a lot more money. French car fans could also hold out for the upcoming Peugeot 2008.
What's it like to drive?
The Captur will never set the Tarmac alight but then again it's not supposed to. The diesel engine felt a little rough and lacked the kind of torque a little crossover like this needs but life inside the petrol was much more pleasant. The engine was quiet, the cabin hushed and the seats incredibly comfortable. Yes, the steering lacked a bit of feel at times and both the petrol and diesel engines could do with more shove but like the inhabitants of Biarritz with their tanned skin and sun bleached hair, the Captur has a chilled-out way of doing things and will get occupants to their destination relaxed and in style.
The AOL Cars verdict
Renault is pinning a lot on its latest crossover but we think they are on to something. The Captur is practical beyond belief, with an interior that's robust yet doesn't feel cheap. The removable seat covers are clever and stowage space in the rear is impressive. If you have a hectic lifestyle yet like to cart around surfboards, bicycles and babies at the weekend, you can't go far wrong with this car. It's a sensible solution that still manages to look cool (especially in orange and black- Ed).
Model: Renault Captur Dynamique Media Nav TCe 120
Engine: 1.2 litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Max speed: 119mph
0-62mph: 10.9 seconds
MPG: 52.3 mpg (combined)
Emissions: 125 g/km