What is it?The Renault Captur is ""˜an urban crossover', according it its maker. In industry parlance, it's a ""˜B-segment crossover'. Renault says this market niche has only been around for a few years, with the Nissan Juke (the Captur's first cousin) leading the way as well as the B-segment sized, if not priced, Mini Countryman. Unlike many rivals, however, the Captur will only be sold in front-drive guise.
At the moment, 74 per cent of the European supermini market is accounted for by hatchbacks, 11 per cent baby MPVs, 8 per cent ""˜crossovers' and only 5 per cent are estate cars. Renault planners are predicting that Crossover sales will leap from 257,000 units in 2012, to just short of 500,000, taking a healthy 14 per cent slice of the supermini market.
The main reason for this shift is the sudden rush of new products all arriving at the same time. As well as the Captur, the Peugeot 2008 has already been released this week and the new Fiat 500X and Ford Ecosport are not far behind. Who would have thought the Rover Streetwise was so far ahead of its time?
In the flesh, the Captur is certainly eye-catching. All of the test cars had the optional duo-tone roof and body (a £300 option), which, partly because the contrasting colour extends to the A-pillars, makes the car stand out even more. Compared to the restrained Peugeot 2008, the Captur is much extravagantly styled, especially with the exterior trim ""˜gloss pack' fitted around the fog lights, to the sills and grille.
The interior, on this particular model, is dominated by the touch-screen infotainment screen (which offers layers of sophistication, including the R-Link version which can play internet radio stations and read out text messages). The dash plastics are finished in a modern dimple pattern and there are some usefully deep cubby holes in the centre console. Renault has also patented the removable seat covers.
The Captur is based on the same new-generation platform as the Clio estate, though it has been modified with a wider track. It is quite compact, measuring just 4.1m long, and is 1.53m high including the useful 200mm of ground clearance. The decent 2.6m-long wheelbase works with a sliding rear (60/40 spilt) bench seat and allows for up to 215mm of knee room.
With the seat right back, you get a reasonable 377-litres capacity and a healthy 455-litres with it fully forward. There's a double-sided (carpet and rubber) hard boot floor that splits the rear luggage space.
What is it like?
Pleasant, undemanding, cheerful, potentially extremely frugal. It's also refined and a nicely planned and styled place to sit. The Captur, however, is not going to whet the appetite of the keen driver. It has lightly weighted controls, is utterly viceless and easy to punt around, but it also delivers a driving experience that can be called a touch bland.
The 90bhp diesel engine is impressive refined (though it gets noticeable in town on a trailing throttle) and it delivers a relatively relaxed 12.6sec 0-62mph time. On long uphill roads the driver needs to stay on the ball and drop down a ratio to keep the car's speed up. The upside is a claimed combined economy of 76.4mpg, which should mean over 60mpg in the real world.
The only handling negatives I could detect were a slightly ""˜tippy' sensation when piling into faster bends (a result of the higher ground clearance, surely) and some thumps and bangs from the suspension on the odd broken surface. However, the roads around Biarritz were uncannily smooth so we'll have to wait until the car arrives in the UK for the final verdict.
Stand-out looks and the buying package (see below) are what will ensure the Captur is a success.
Should I buy one?
The Captur is very much a style and lifestyle statement - you can get similar interior versatility in an MPV, but the Captur is much more about showmanship and the ability to completely customise the car inside. There are also some very strong practical reasons to buy the car - Renault offers a comprehensive ownership package including a four-year warranty, four years' servicing and four years' road side cover.
The Captur also significantly undercuts the Mini models, especially the Countryman, which will be a big attraction. The entry-level (alloys, air-con etc.) dCi diesel model starts at £13,895, which many day-to-day drivers will see as extremely tempting when weighed against a conventional supermini.
The model tested here was pretty lavishly specced, with such refinements as hands-free locking and starting, an uprated stereo, Bluetooth, a leather steering wheels and interior and exterior ""˜gloss' styling as standard.
It's worth noting that the fleet and potentially frugal (+50mpg) three-pot, turbo petrol TCe90 model is priced from just £12,495. The Captur is no great driving experience, but the style and buying package should ensure that it is a big seller. Indeed, Renault says that it expects the Captur to become the company's second best-selling model in the UK.
Renault Captur dCI 90 Dynamique Media Nav
Price £16,395; 0-62mph 12.6sec; Top speed 106mph; Economy 76.4.6mpg (EU Combined); CO2 96g/km; Kerb weight 1170kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1461cc, turbodiesel; Power 89bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 162lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 5spd manual
Read more at Autocar:http://www.autocar.co.uk/car-review/renault/captur/first-drives/renault-captur-dci-90-dynamique-media-nav-first-drive-review
Edited by: Dan