Much enhanced Renault Captur builds on recent Clio platform upgrade
Working to a more evolutionary than revolutionary ethos, reports Iain Robertson, Renault’s highly popular Captur continues its customer captivating process with a raft of satisfying design, engineering and detail changes that go deeper than expected.
It is not so long ago that most things ‘French’ were epitomised by their style and complete ease in their respective markets. French women’s clothing, unless you delved into the Marie Antoinette era, has always been daringly simple, yet elegant, seldom requiring more than a simple jewel, or necklace, to enhance a desired Gallic look.
French cuisine used to be on a pinnacle of style and flavour, something that renowned and much-loved British chef, Rick Stein, is hoping to re-illustrate through his latest six-part BBC TV culinary series. It is not so much that the French ‘lost the plot’ but that other nationalities upped the ante. However, as Mr Stein exemplifies, nothing can beat the simplicity of a port-side restaurant serving a platter of fruits de mer, landed an hour earlier by a local fisherman.
French motorcars were automotive harbours in their own right. Effortlessly comfortable, possessing a defined bias towards elegance and fluidity of movement, while the archetypal 2CV hooning around the Arc de Triomphe, displaying alarming angles of body roll, is a picture worth a thousand words, the conclusion also embodied remarkable control. Renaults, Peugeots and Citroens aplenty would conduct their transportational business with aplomb, their occupants emerging neither shaken, nor stirred.
Yet, in all areas of sometime expertise, the French have been overwhelmed by inter-continental travel potential. The further people can go, the greater the emphasis can be expounded on other international style and service principles. When the choice was ‘just’ France, our nearest neighbour, a continental ferry foray was more than sufficient. The French have needed to up their game. They have needed to resort to a focus on a long-established remit.
It has only been seven years since the Captur first charmed its way into our motoring consciousness. I was among the first British motoring scribes to sample the car. I was fascinated by it and a component of that fascination lay in its glorious Gallic reversion. At last, Renault was not trying to compete with the Germans, or Japanese. It had innate Gallic strengths. Yet, it has been a seven-year cycle that has witnessed immense change, not least from Renault’s virtually uncontested place in the compact crossover market segment, to one populated today by over twenty rivals. Renault recognised that whatever changes it wrought on Captur would need to be comprehensive but also studiously avoid rocking the boat.
The original Captur was liked straight out of the box because it majored on a readily lost comfort remit. It was as if Renault had stepped back into its past to rediscover its traditional suspension, seat construction and dynamic prowess and, fortunately, even using the latest Clio model underpinnings that have hoisted that important car onto a new, higher level, it has been uber-keen to retain those best aspects.
Externally, the new Captur introduces itself with the ‘new style’ daytime running lamp, ‘big-C’ signature, a design element carried into the swoopier tail-lamp units that now reach across the hatchback to provide an impression of greater width. It is a ‘styling trick’ that imparts an upmarket step. However, you need to park the latest model alongside the original to note that the similarities are truly scant, the new car is visually larger, by 110mm in length, 19mm width and 17mm in height. It is a judicious decision, as the original Captur was loved as much for its looks as anything else. Fortunately, the visual balance has not been squandered and, as suggested earlier, what results is more evolutionary.
The Clio platform gifts the new model a vastly roomier interior and it is gratifying to notice that the trim quality has also taken a significant upgrade, which is all but identical to the latest Clio and much appreciated in the process. Soft-touch, squidgy trim abounds and, dependent on model level, it benefits from splashes of colour on dash, door cards and centre console. The materials also possess a grander level of tactility, while benefitting the Captur’s overall refinement and extraneous noise suppression. While digital instrumentation, using a 10.0-inch display ahead of the driver, is now a great value £250 option, the dashboards of top versions are dominated by the 9.3-inch driver-angled touchscreen that includes sat-nav and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity (the standard offering is a 7.0-inch screen, inevitably without the navigation option).
Cabin space has been optimised and, apart from beneficial adjustments for the vastly improved driving position, it is load practicality that has taken a massive leap into the space race. The rear bench can slide fore and aft to create a maximum of 516-litres of boot space (albeit with no legroom in the rear, although this is better for securing either a cot, or children’s seats). It ‘makes do’ with 422-litres otherwise. Regardless, it is flexibility that counts in this class and Captur possesses it in abundance.
The test car features the latest 1.3-litre turbo-petrol unit that propels new Clio. Developing a cool 128bhp, when driving through a 6-speed manual gearbox, it can clock the 0-60mph dash satisfactorily in approximately 10.3s, with a top speed of around 121mph. It can also return 44.1mpg, while emitting 127g/km CO2, making it averagely affordable. It drives supremely well and handles with tremendous fluency thanks to shedding some excess baggage, while having increased overall body rigidity. Captur’s steering is surgically sharp but, even riding on fancy alloys and low-profile tyres, the ride quality is sublime, a factor that promotes relaxation for both driver and occupants. Equally impressive stopping power completes an impressive package for such a compact crossover contender. Is it a ‘winner’? For sure it is!
Conclusion: The original Captur was already a ‘silk purse’, so you will read no ‘sow’s ear’ references here. Renault has made an excellent car into a really great one, with prices starting from mid-£15k, ranging to £22k, pre-discount from the dealers.