Made-for-India French crossover impresses us
Vanilla is usually associated with the plainJane, the bland, even considered colourless. Yet, Vanilla isn’t so. It’s one of the more complex flavours, and getting it right — from the beans to the mix — is what truly contributes to the eventual creamy-smooth flavour. French Vanilla takes things one step further. No, it isn’t a Vanilla bean grown in France. Rather, it’s the addition of more flavour, and colour, from the egg-yolk that goes in. Distinct images come to mind of noted chef, Guillaume Brahimi, doing what he does best — besides adding more butter. French Vanilla, then, is more depth of flavour and technique than one sees at first. And renowned French carmakers Renault have given us one more contemporary example of how to bring beauty and depth of flavour to the road. This is the Captur. The flagship.
It’s been available overseas for some time now, wowing urban SUV seekers with its style and flowing design language. And, now, here it is in India but it’s not the same car. It’s longer, at 4,329 mm, and higher, with a 210-mm ground clearance. The same proven K9K turbo-diesel engine that fares so well in so many models overseas powers it here. Renault have been on a badge-engineering run. Not since the Koleos and Fluence — and, okay, the Kwid — have we received a car from the French with its original badge. The Captur takes the values of the Duster and raises them further. There has been some serious attention to detail, but is it enough to make it a success?
Exterior styling for the Captur is something Renault have to be proud of. The new face of the French major comes here for the first time with the bold grille sharply tapering towards its extremities. The LED headlamps with ‘floating’ turn indicators take a page from the exotic
and super-luxury book. The accentuating lines continue on the air dam and host LED daytime lights. The side profile has pronounced lines and sweeps upwards sharply. Together with the ‘crystal-cut’ 17-inch alloy wheels, they give this car a bolder profile not often seen. The rear is tight, but looks vaguely familiar, albeit much larger. LED tail-lamp clusters complete the look.
Inside, the most outstanding feature is the pair of front seats. A lot of research and effort has gone into making them not just feel good, but also look good. While Renault could have slimmed the seat-backs and lightened them as well as freed up room, they haven’t. The brilliant ergonomics and comfort come from the fact that they’ve retained the large units. The support is fantastic and is in just the right places, too. The attention to detail on the seats, with the faux leather and the contrast stitching, makes you feel like this is indeed a special car you’re in. Again, this is a bag of mixed emotions because while the seats are brilliant, there are ways comfort could be improved. They’re mounted far too high, and only the driver’s seat is adjustable. Lowering the seats and, maybe, even offering power adjustments would surely make things much better.
There are several features that are commensurate with the quality and price in question. The dashboard layout and design look artistic and the tone of the metal accents — soft silver and gold, no less — look and feel rather fancy. The centre touchscreen MediaNA V system makes connectivity and navigation easier. Again, the mixed bag steps in to say the quality of plastic could be improved. The door-handles and switches are from the parts bin used by the Duster and Lodgy. And there’s no sunroof. Okay, to be fair, Renault haven’t announced a price yet, but they’re saying it will be extremely appealing, let alone competitive.
More goodies are on offer. First, the flat key. The Captur is equipped with keyless entry and go, and even a little slot for the key. The start button sits neatly on the centre console, not hidden from view. There are several storage spaces around the cabin and each one can store objects of varying shapes and sizes. The boot is large and wide, with additional under-floor storage available. Safety-wise, ABS is standard, as are four airbags: dual front and side bags.
So what of its ability? The Renault Captur is based on the B0 stretched-wheelbase platform from Dacia; who created the Duster. In all fairness, it’s brilliant. The suspension is nothing short of engineering wizardry — as always! — and it deals with all surfaces and changes in direction pretty much flawlessly. However, that
also means it gets the 1.5-litre turbo-diesel K9K motor in dCi110 guise, and its surge of torque.
We were in Goa driving across and that meant a good mix of narrow roads, steep inclines, sudden direction changes, even grass and sand (we hit the beach!). The Captur sounds reasonably refined, yet the early morning hours meant the diesel clatter was audible through the sound deadening. Paired to a six-speed manual driving the front wheels, the engine’s lack of response below 1,750 rpm meant frequent shifts to first to tackle the many speed-humps. The gate is small and the throws are short, thankfully. Post 2,000 rpm, though, there’s a strong wave of torque. Yes, it may be 245 Nm but even that can seem amplified by the lack of low-end grunt. The driveability on the move is good. The mid-range builds well and overtaking is easier given the engine’s character. It will rev strong to over 4,000. There’s scope, rather, a necessity, for an automatic transmission here and their new dual-clutcher, on sale in Europe and the UK, should do just fine.
The steering feel is excellent, the new info-console behind it is easy to read, with its mix of digital and analogue. The steering wheel is height-adjustable. The right spoke successfully makes the phone-control stalk invisible, but once you figure it out, you know where everything is. The gauges are also informative and a real-time fuel economy read-out actually tells you how much fuel you’ve used, apart from the fuel economy; 11 km/l was what we saw in the city. You’ll have to wait for the road test to find out exactly how much it delivers.
No price to give you yet, but we expect to see something around Rs 15 lakh. Renault will also offer a lot of personalisation choices. Everything from a dual-tone roof and roof-rails to a choice of graphics as well as themes will be available. It’s a great all-rounder and can deal with a fair bit of the rough stuff and tricky terrain. It’s a classic French automotive dish balancing convenience, comfort, safety, and practicality with exuberant design and modern touches. Plain-Jane Vanilla? Far from it.
Below) Bold new grille ahead of the proven 1.5-litre turbo-diesel engine with 110 PS