Renault Captur

Boom recruit brings style and efficiency

BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

ARRIVING nine months later than expected, this Spanish-built Clio-based crossover still feels fresh in the face of its rivals.

A runaway Euro A runaway Euro bestseller, the front-drive-only Captur has a few aces up its sleeve, including appealing design, with just a hint of individuality in the two-tone roof treatment and lower-sill trim kink.

Perched 100m higher than the Clio that spawned it, Capturís solidly presented interior is both roomier and more versatile than most, with an unusually agreeable layout for a French car. Top marks for a comfy driving position on plump cushions, ample ventilation, plentiful storage and a simple multimedia touchscreen.

Fat A-pillars hinder forward vision, but Capturís cabin scores with enough rear-seat space for adults, on a split/fold bench that slides to boost either legroom or luggage capacity. Cargo space is 377-455 litres with backrests erect, increases to 1235 litres with them folded, and benefits from a clever, multi-configurable floor with wet/ dry area compartmentalisation.

Modern drivetrains bring lively and efficient, if not scintillating, performance. About 20 percent of buyers are expected to choose the base 66kW/135Nm Expression TCe90 manual powered by what is a lusty little turbo-triple in the Clio. Burdened by an extra 100kg in the Captur, it still accelerates with more vigour than its capacity suggests (0-100 in 13.0sec) The manual is a rather longthrow five-speed and, sadly, no auto option is available with the triple, necessitating a step up to the Expression or range-topping Dynamique fitted with a 1.2-litre four-pot turbo (dubbed TCe120) and six-speed dual-clutch íbox.

While the larger-engined Captur is quiet, smooth and surprisingly punchy once the revs are up, momentary offthe- line lag, accompanied by a strange graunchy sound, undermine its low-speed driveability, as is the case with many dual-clutch arrangements.

Capturís extra mass and increased ride height also blunt steering responses compared to the Clio, but relative to its rivals, it remains an eager and poised handler, with taut levels of body control. The base 16-inch wheels soak up bumps better than the firm-ish 17s, though overall ride remains civilised and quiet.

From $22,990, the Expression TCe90 is sharply priced, yet has sat-nav with touchscreen, auto headlights and wipers, climate control, keyless entry, reversing camera, rear sensors, alloys, capped-price servicing, five-year warranty and roadside assist.

The TCe120 engine and EDC íbox add $3K, which still puts it $200 under a Trax LS auto.

Keen to clean up in the compact SUV class, Captur is Renaultís most important release in years.

The wait has been worthwhile. ndermine lity, ual-rís

Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Renault Captur TCe120 Dynamique 1197cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo 88kW @ 4900rpm 190Nm @ 2000rpm 6-speed dual-clutch 1215kg 10.9sec (claimed) 5.4L/100km $27,990 Now

PLUS & MINUS

Sluggish acceleration; rear drums; no diesel or 0.9-litre dual-clutch Design; packaging; value; comfort; connectivity; equipment; warranty

Capturing economy

TO KEEP consumption down, Renault decided against using partner Nissanís Juke platform, since it would add about 100kg due to it being engineered for 4WD. That would also necessitate a higher floor, compromising cabin packaging. Additional efficiency-enhancing features include downsized engines, idle-stop for the 898cc triple, brake energy recovery tech, improved underbody aero flow, grille flaps and lowfriction tyres. But Captur still weighs 100kg more than Clio due to beefier components.