Motoring correspondent Mark Gallivan test drives the new 2020 Renault Captur to see if it deserves its claim to be the most successful compact SUV in Ireland.

You can’t objectively offer a review of the all-new Renault Captur compact crossover without mentioning one of its newest direct rivals – the 2020 Ford Puma.

The previous generation Captur was a surprise sales success for Renault. Since it was launched in 2013 around 10,000 were sold new in Ireland. For me it was always an enigma. The car was certainly very decent but never outstanding.

“Renault sells more versions of the Captur than the Clio and Megane so it has a lot of ground to make up when chasing excellent rivals that are chomping at its heels”

Now there is a brand new Captur for 2020. It’s a strong testament to the old car’s exterior styling that the second generation Captur appears to have hardly changed at all. Seven years ago it was a striking design by Julio Lozano with much of the rakish coupe concept’s design lexicon carried over into final production.

In this second-generation the Captur has been lengthened by 110mm and the changes externally are minimal. Truth be told, the exterior styling on the new car could well be mistaken for a mid-cycle facelift. Irish prices for the Captur range from €21,995 to €31,445 and there is a choice of petrol and diesel engines.

Staying ahead of the pack

Renault claims the Captur was the most successful compact SUV ever in Ireland. Renault sells more versions of the Captur than the Clio and Megane so it has a lot of ground to make up when chasing excellent rivals that are chomping at its heels. The big question is this: has Renault done enough with the new car to stay ahead of the pack?

The key to the Captur’s sales appeal are three things: keen prices, looks and safety. The new Captur range starts from €21,995 with three trim levels available – Play, Iconic and S-Edition.

Price:

To entice new buyers Renault’s Irish website focuses on the payment plan per month and the value of their trade-in vehicle. By putting sliding calculators with representative examples on the site, buyers are already 80pc through the buying process before ever arriving at the dealer.

Safety:

The Captur is off to a good start with a 5-star safety rating from Euro NCAP. Renault offers strong driver safety systems including automatic emergency braking, lane assist and departure warning, emergency call function and traffic sign recognition. It also scores well in child occupancy protection.

Looks:

With the exception of the Ford Puma, the Renault Captur is the most handsome in the class including the rival Nissan Juke and Volkswagen T-Roc.

It’s a clean sheet for the new-gen Renault Captur, right? Not quite. It’s clear that Renault paid close attention to the feedback on the old car’s interior quality. For 2020 it’s improved and my test car felt better constructed with the addition of a large central touchscreen that was easy to use. It is good to see Renault retains physical rotating knobs for the heating controls and kept them away from the touchscreen.

But the longer you sit in the car you’ll see the effort to improve the quality here and there masks the one perennial Renault problem. Volkswagen, Skoda and even Ford manufacture nicer interiors. Renault still trails the pack with hard plastics suggesting that Renault are still cutting costs back in HQ.

Performance:

My test car was fitted with a 1.3 litre/130hp petrol engine with CO2 of 127 g/km with a 0-100km/h in 10.6 seconds and top speed of 202 km/h. Disappointingly the unit lacks the low down grunt you’ll find in the rivalling 1.0 litre three-cylinder that’s used in the Ford Puma. Ford’s adoption of electrification with a mild hybrid engine sees Renault still relying on old technology when everyone knows the future will be smaller engines with an electrification power boot to add performance. The engine itself drives fine but it has little personality and never closes the gap on the smoothness found in the Volkswagen or Ford.

One frustration is the driving experience. My test car was fitted with the seven-speed EDC dual-clutch gearbox. When setting off it takes millimeter pressure on the accelerator to avoid lurching forward. This improves once the engine warms up but the effort to drive the automatic gearbox smoothly is more tiring than driving the manual gearbox. Renault at least has achieved a first with that. I struggled by the car’s composure and the way the ride fidgeted and never properly settled down to a comfortable cruise.

Not wishing to be too hard on the Captur the car’s overall dynamics were a disappointment and should be described as fine and competent. When compared with the new Ford Puma, the Renault cannot keep up. Jumping from the Captur into the Ford Puma is like going from a saloon and into a Mazda MX-5 Roadster.

For the undemanding driver the Renault Captur is still a thoroughly decent compact crossover to drive. The trouble is that rivals have launched some seriously impressive products and Renault is left behind. Where is Renault’s reputation for wafting suspension and relaxation? It was their USP back as far as cars like the tremendous Renault 4 and 5.

What’s odd is the new Captur’s ride never excelled on my test leaving it acceptable instead of excellent.

By all means consider the 2020 Renault Captur. It’s a handsome car, has good standard equipment and is safe. But only after you’ve exhausted all its rivals first.

Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 6 July, 2020

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