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A Ride in the Renault Kadjar

A Ride in the Renault Kadjar

The strangely named Renault Kadjar SUV, a French-Japanese fusion, combines très chic styling with superb engineering and comes out tops…

Words: Stephen Smith

Pictures: Stephen Smith and Supplied

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It isn’t an area where the French have had much success, the 4×4 world. Citroën, Renault, Peugeot – they’ve all steered clear of the 4×4 track, by and large, and their occasional forays into the market have been less than spectacular. But Renault has had some recent, much deserved success locally with a brace of dynamic crossovers, the Captur and Duster. Now they’ve added a third, the Kadjar, and it’s the best, most complete offering of them all.

Renault is most definitely a brand on the up, both internationally and locally. The year 2015 was the company’s best year in South Africa; they sold more than 20 000 vehicles. The Sandero was the most popular, with just over 7 000 units, followed by the Clio (5 280), the Duster (3 650) and the Captur (3 278, despite not being on sale for the whole year).

The Captur, launched locally in 2015, is a lesser-dimensioned crossover-styled hatch that has totally won my heart, a fact that is by no means unique when you look at the sales over the past year. In fact, it’s probably my favourite of the hatches that look like they can go off-road but can’t really, and if I were looking for a hatch, any hatch, the Captur would be up there at the top of my list.

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But back to the Kadjar. The Kadjar shares its underpinnings with the equally strangely named Nissan Qashqai and its sibling, the X-Trail, both of which are popular, capable vehicles with excellent reliability records. So the Kadjar has a solid base. Engine-wise there are just two options at the moment, a 1.2-litre petrol unit (96kW and 205Nm) and a 1.6-litre dCi turbodiesel (96kw and 320Nm), both of which are primed for the all-important fuel-economy figures. The petrol uses a claimed 5.8ℓ/100km while the diesel manages to get by on just 5.4ℓ/100km.

To achieve these figures Renault has fitted a Stop and Start system to the petrol models, while all models have an eco mode that can be switched on or off. It helps you to save fuel by up to 12 per cent at the touch of a button, and there is also eco scoring and eco coaching, which give you driving tips and evaluate the efficiency of your driving. It’s clever stuff and is surprisingly engaging.

Ground clearance of 200mm brings the Kadjar up (literally) to true SUV abilities, as do the approach and departure angles of 18° and 28° respectively. The 4×4 model (diesel only) has a part-time 4×4 system, but is normally powered by the front wheels. Turn a dial and select Auto, which automatically distributes torque between the front and rear axles, or select Lock, which distributes torque 50/50 between front and rear wheels. It’s a familiar system to anyone who has driven a 4×4 Nissan, and we took it to the dunes of Atlantis in the Western Cape to see how well it worked.

The short answer is that the silver sands posed no problem for the Kadjar, despite it being a hot day and the sands soft. In 4WD Lock the car easily plodded through even the relatively thick stuff and at no stage did we feel as though we were at risk of getting stuck. The diesel engine, too, performed well, the 320Nm of torque very comfortably pulling the vehicle along. Because of the nature of small turbocharged engines it is necessary to get the revs up before pulling off. There were no revelations driving the Kadjar around the Cape.

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The interior is as stylish as we have come to expect of a Renault, with strong Clio design cues and good-quality finishes. It was also well specced and spacious – far more so than the Qashqai-clone we were expecting. There were no surprises in the drive either – it’s based on the Nissans, after all, so you can expect a comfortable ride without too much fanfare. It’s the styling that really sets it apart, and isn’t that what you want – French styling and Japanese engineering?

Safety is one of the things that Renault prides itself on, boasting that all models in any range are given all the safety features available to that range. So all Clios have the same safety features, all Capturs and all Kadjars. In the case of the latter, this means a 5-star EuroNCAP rating, thanks to ABS braking, with emergency brake assist, electronic stability programme, hill start assist, six side and curtain airbags, and ISOFIX for baby seats. It’s an impressive package, all told. You can even order your Kadjar with the self-park function, whereby it will steer itself into a free parking space.

There are just three models at the moment, and they are priced at R359 900, R384 900 and R449 900. Prices include a 5-year/90 000km service plan and a 5-year/150 000km warranty.

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Fact file

  • Name: Renault Kadjar
  • Body type: Crossover SUV
  • Engine capacity: 1.6 litres
  • Power output: 96kW
  • Torque: 320Nm
  • Price: R359 900 – R449 900

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