RENAULT CAPTUR REVIEW: FIRST DRIVE | Words & Pictures: Syed Shiraz
This Renault Captur review (and all the other Renault Captur reviews too) could have very well been the ‘new 2018 Renault Duster review’, but the thinking hats at Renault India decided against it, and wisely so. The Lodgy, er, logic is: why try to fix something that’s not broken? Makes sense, as the Duster is the vehicle that started the compact SUV segment in India in 2012 and, while doing so, turned around the French carmaker’s fortunes in a country whose car buying populace until then had not shown a keen interest in its product portfolio. The Duster, from the beginning, was offered with both petrol and diesel engine options, where the diesel even came with two power output options, and later on the company followed up with AWD and AMT variants as well, making the Duster cater to the needs of almost all kinds of buyers. Things were great, then.
But then came the Hyundai Creta. The ride quality was nowhere close to the Duster’s exemplary trait, while its handling also wasn’t a patch on the Renault’s, but the Creta hit on what can be said as the Duster’s only chink in the armour – interiors. See, there was nothing wrong with the latter’s interiors, save for the fact that it never offered any semblance of luxury. Therefore, it didn’t appeal to those who have big fat sofas and huge chandeliers in their living rooms. People with a good aesthetic sense were, and still are, buying the Dusters. Still, Renault does understand that the percentage of the nouveau riche will only increase, and that they will always fall for something that has more flash value than Paris Hilton. Enter the Captur. It’s way more talented than Ms. Hilton, but we’ll discuss that a little later.
Renault Captur Review: EXTERIOR DESIGN
She’s got the look!
Seeing the pictures before the drive did tell me that the Captur is a good-looking vehicle, but, upon seeing it in flesh & metal, it turned out to be the most striking design to have debuted in India in 2017! The Nexon’s was the second best, I must add here. But whereas the Nexon looks like a Tata Bolt on steroids, the Captur, despite being based on the same platform as the Duster, shares nothing with it when it comes to the exterior design. The Captur is a fresh (futuristic even) design, for India, and would not appear dated even a decade later, I reckon. And even if it does, those beautiful 17-inch alloys will hold the fort. Upon seeing them for the first time, I had Roman Pearce’s “Where do ya’ll confiscate these rims from, man?” moment from Fast & Furious 2 play in my mind.
And like Mr. Pearce, there’s muscle all around, and though you won’t really need a 6/6 vision to identify it, like those bulges on the bonnet, it’s all too subtle and classy. So unlike Mr. Pearce, then. The Captur still manages to carry that all-important (for anything that carries the letters S, U, and V in its description) butch look though, especially from the front, and it does have an imposing presence, but without appearing threatening. And it does all of that while still exuding a posh and premium aura around it. That is NOT easy, and is usually the sole preserve of a few SUVs wearing some of the most premium badges in the world.
And though I wanted this coloured car for our shoot, I later realized that it’s the White that looks drop-dead gorgeous! Heck, I don’t think there’s any other SUV, save for the Range Rover Evoque, that looks so stunning in White.
The lights all around are LEDs, a segment first, and you wouldn’t want to miss the ‘floating’ (as per Renault) front indicators that light up in a sweeping pattern (similar to those in the latest Audis), which is also a first in this segment. I can already visualize youngsters leaving no opportunity to use the hazard button while halting briefly at India Gate or Marine Drive… You may want to take a look at this impromptu walk-around video I made while at the media drive in Goa.
Renault Captur Review: INTERIORS
All that glitters IS gold
No, seriously, I mean it. You see, unlike the Arabs, I hate gold in and on cars. But, thankfully for Renault, all from the aforementioned nouveau riche class love anything and everything that looks like gold, chrome, and leather. A combination of all is loved by these folks even more. ‘Say no more!’, exclaimed Renault while giving a dash of the golden stuff (don’t ask me the carat) almost everywhere from the dashboard to the seats. Okay, I did exaggerate there, and in all honesty, those golden accents, together with the premium white leather on the seats and door panels, do give the cabin a premium, upmarket, feel and texture.
Speaking of seats, they are wonderful, especially the front ones. From the firmness of the cushioning to the lumbar bolstering; from the under-thigh support to the width of the seat squab – Renault has got everything perfect!
The rear seats won’t give anyone a chance to complain either as they also offer sufficient under-thigh support, knee-room, leg-room, and shoulder-room.
My friend, in the pictures below, is 5’9” and agreed to be the dummy (but only after I could assure him that we ain’t doing no Euro NCAP simulation) to let me showcase the maximum and minimum knee-room on offer. As can be seen, it’s pretty good. He also confirmed to me that the rear AC vents do chill quickly. Also, from the looks of it, even six-footers won’t complain about the head-room on offer.
I couldn’t manage to sit three abreast at the rear, but Renault had given us a basket (see the video again) filled with assorted eatables that did take more than a person’s space in the middle, and, despite that, the other two occupants were still comfortable. Therefore, it can be deduced that the person in the middle would be comfortable too, even if they are not shaped like a basket. In case they are shaped like one, ask them to sit in the boot, which seems more cavernous than what the press release’s 392 liters suggests.
Now, since Renault is yet to launch the Captur, the company has not updated the vehicle specifications on the website. And that means I will have to do the most boring work of listing the specs and features for you. Let me see if I can take the spec-sheet from the press release and paste it below after adding more information to it. In the meantime let me quickly tell you that the Captur’s instrument cluster (shows Range / Distance To Empty, among other things) looks far more premium than the Duster’s and even than the Creta’s, and all the control stalks and buttons look and feel sturdy enough to withstand years of abuse.
The only exception would be the lid of the top storage compartment in the dashboard which felt quite flimsy to use.
Rest everything feels tough, consistent, and built-to-last.
Okay, so here’s that list:
|Features & equipment (listing only the main ones here)||Keyless Ignition, Climate Control, Rear AC Vents, Reversing Camera, Dual Airbags, Side Airbags, Antilock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist, Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Hill Start Assist, Cruise Control, Speed Limited, 2 lateral ISOFIX fixtures, etc.|
|Length||4329 mm *Longest in Segment*|
|Width||1813 mm *Widest in Segment*|
|Engine Type||1.5 H4KL petrol and K9K1.5dci diesel|
|Displacement||Petrol – 1498 cc
Diesel – 1461 cc
|Configuration||4 cylinders in-line|
|Gearbox||Petrol – 5-speed Manual Transmission
Diesel – 6-speed Manual Transmission
|Power||Petrol – 106 PS @ 5600 RPM
Diesel – 110 PS @ 4000 RPM
|Torque||Petrol -142 Nm @ 4000 RPM
Diesel – 240 Nm @ 1750 RPM
|Tyre size||215/60 R17|
|Wheel size||R17 Crystal Cut Alloy Wheels|
|Front suspension||MacPherson strut with Lower Transverse link,coil spring|
|Rear suspension||Twist beam suspension with coil springs, Twin tubes, Telescopic shock absorber|
|Boot volume||392 L expandable to 1352 L|
|Ground Clearance (Unladen)||210 mm|
|Fuel tank volume||50 L|
Renault Captur Review: THE DRIVE
Let’s now talk about Captur’s engine and gearbox, performance, ride & handling, and other not so important bits because interiors take precedence over everything else, right?
If you’ve reached this part of the review and want to read further then it means you have a sensible head, and you do know the difference between vehicles, furniture, and gadgets. Therefore, you will be glad to know, if you had not already anticipated it, that the ride and handling characteristics of the Captur are as sublime as the Duster’s. You can just bomb through the rough patches and the Captur, and your co-passengers, will remain unfazed. The ride quality is almost magical of this one! And that’s despite the Captur retaining the stiffer torsion beam setup of the 2WD Dusters and not the multi-link suspension of the Duster AWD with which it shares its higher 210 mm ground clearance. The 2WD Dusters offer 205 mm, while the Hyundai Creta makes do with 190 mm.
The Captur also handles as good as the Duster, displaying minimal bodyroll in corners, which means that you should be able to chase quite a few of those hot hatchbacks in the ghats. And finally overtake them at full chat upon encountering a broken patch. The Captur also displays the same composure and stability at triple digit speeds, while the excellent brakes always have your back. I did multiple 0-100-0 km/h runs, with four people on board, and came away really impressed. I’ll talk about the zero to hundred time in just a while; here, let me tell you that the Captur came to a complete halt from 100 km/h in just over three seconds! And it didn’t deviate a bit from its line – no skidding, no drama, just surefooted stopping. Four guys made that possible, and they are called ABS, EBD, ESP, and Brake Assist. Thanks fellas!
Though it’s an FWD, the massive ground clearance ensures that it clears quite a few obstacles off the road without a worry. Hill Start Assist also helps.
The Captur will be available with the tried and tested 1.5-litre petrol and diesel motors from the Duster but the entire media got to sample only the 6-speed diesel that puts out 110 PS at 4,000 rpm and 240 Nm of torque at 1,750 rpm.
There would be no 85 PS 5-speed version or an AMT or even a CVT variant as Renault does not find them suitable for a premium offering. I disagree, but that’s a topic for some other day. Now, this engine-gearbox combo has proven to be more reliable and trustworthy than all our state and central governments put together, so it’s obvious that the company went ahead with it for their latest offering as well. And it does the job quite nicely in the Captur too. How nicely? How does a zero to hundred sprint in under 12 seconds sound? That too with four people on board? Here, check it out:
Unlike most diesels in and around this segment, which come alive only post 2,000 rpm, this one offers poke right from 1,500 rpm onwards and it gets meatier as the revs rise. You still need to tackle speed humps in the first gear if the revs drop below 1,500 though, but keep that in mind and you won’t have any complaints from this motor. If you go back to the starting of my Duster AMT review, you would notice that I have mentioned something about the manual 6-speed Duster’s clutch. It’s hard. Now though the Captur’s clutch is perceptibly a notch or two lighter than the earlier 6-speed Duster’s (or my left calf might have gotten stronger, I can’t really tell), people who learnt driving in a car with electric-steering will still find it to be on the stiffer side. That said, it’s not a deal breaker! And it’s good for your leg too. Just take care of the right one as well.
Other minor minuses would be the lack of a dead pedal and the fixed centre armrest that comes in the way when you are using the handbrake. What else? Fuel efficiency? Well, you can’t determine that in media drives but going by what the Duster gives – anywhere between 11-15 km/l in city and 17-20 km/l on highways – the Captur’s should be in that range too. Just so you know, like the Duster, 100 km/h in 6th gear of the Captur translates to a trifle over 2,000 revs on the tachometer.
Renault Captur Review: VERDICT
This would have been easier had Renault announced the prices of the Captur because, as a product and its intended positioning (‘premium Compact SUV’, primarily against the Creta) it has almost everything going for it. The design is the best in segment; in fact, it is so good that it makes the Creta look bland. The ride and handling is also leagues ahead than what the competition has been able to offer as yet; the engine performance is on a par too, while the NVH levels are the best yet from Renault. And finally, the interiors do impart a premium feel.
But, there is a reason I used ‘almost’ in the paragraph above. I said that because I strongly feel that the Captur should have come with an automatic transmission from day one. I know I had said earlier in the review that I will discuss about the suitability of AMT/CVT for the Captur some other day, but I guess I should do it right away.
See, for the majority of masses who want to buy an automatic, the mere absence of a clutch pedal makes it one. It doesn’t really matter to them much whether it is an AMT, CVT, a torque converter, or a dual-clutch unit. They’re happy as long as the gears are changing automatically, period. Therefore, I feel that not bringing in a Captur AMT diesel and Captur CVT petrol is a mistake, especially when you already have these engine-gearbox combos under application in the Duster! I would have bought the suitability argument if Hyundai had given the Creta a state-of-the-art dual-clutch tranny, but no, the Creta ATs employ torque converters. So, the AMT and CVT could have been brought in against them.
And pricing it well would have been a cinch too. The Duster CVT petrol is priced at INR 10.15 lakh (ex-showroom) while the Creta AT petrol sells at INR 12.99 lakh (ex-showroom, again; in fact, all the prices I would be mentioning would be ex-showroom, so save me the trouble of repeating it every time). Therefore, the Captur CVT petrol could have been priced perfectly in between at around INR 11.5 lakh, and it would have still been a lot cheaper than the Creta AT. Similar strategy could have been adopted for the Captur AMT diesel as well. Pricing it above the Duster AMT’s 12.97 lakh, but less than Creta AT diesel’s 13.65 lakh, would have brought more people to the fold.
But, as of now at least, it’s only the manual Captur that would battle alone to capture whatever territory the Duster has lost to the Creta. At present, the Creta 1.6 CRDi manual is offered in four trims, which start at 12.45 lakh and go up to almost 14.5 lakh. Now we drove the top-end Platine variant and the company did not divulge details of the number of variants it plans to introduce. But, the company’s MD, Sumit Sawhney, did have a round-table conference with us, that was more personal and, therefore, confidence inspiring than the usual ‘I stay on the stage and maintain distance to give diplomatic answers’ routine. It was here that he told us that the Captur will not have a base model, or, in other words, even the least expensive Captur will be quite loaded.
Still, keeping in mind just what we drove and the equipment on offer, Renault would do itself a favour by keeping this top-end Platine variant well under 14.5 lakh, undercutting the top-end Creta. Why does Renault need to to do that, you ask? Simply because even though the Captur is a better product than the Creta, its features & equipment list is shorter. And that’s a big thing for most (ask Maruti).
But, I don’t think I’ll lose touch with my family and friends if my vehicle doesn’t have stuff like Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. I’ll connect my phone via Bluetooth, thank you. I’m sorry Apple users, but you can connect it via the USB cable, right? Do let me know. And, don’t be disheartened, as a part of the press release does mention ‘voice recognition (for iOS)’ while talking about its seven-inch touchscreen for multimedia and navigation. I am a poor man; I couldn’t test this feature. You do that and let me know in the comments section below.
However, if you ask me about buying an SUV, compact or otherwise, I’ll tell you to buy the one that comes with the best ground clearance, the best ride quality, and the best handling, period. The darn cellphones can wait.