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Trendsetter Renault shows belated SUV brilliance

Maurice and Annette Hardy

Maurice and Annette Hardy

Trendsetter Renault shows belated SUV brilliance

Renault deserves its place among automotive trendsetters.

Its 5 was the first real supermini, before that the 16 had brought alive the practicality of the hatchback, although some of us, mainly because we owned one rather than because it’s a defining truth, reckon the Austin A40 Countryman from the 50s was the first of the type. In reality, its split tailgate consigns it among the also-rans of automotive history, and the 16 also had a acrobatic back seat long before the Honda Jazz drew praise for such a feature.

Fast forward to the 80s; the Renault Espace started the whole MPV thing in Europe just as Chrylser launched its minivans in the States. What set the Espace apart was its futuristic shape, designed by Matra with plastic panels round a galvanised frame and adopted by Renault.

It’s all about vision. Renault has been equally as quick adopting electric technology and has been in enthusiastic partnership with Nissan and others for many years. With all this background in progress, Renault can perhaps be forgiven for being late to the SUV fold, not arriving until the late Noughties.

The drive to SUVs has seen people abandoning the Espace-inspired MPVs. The SUV is great at doing what it should in delivering accessible 4x4 while the MPV fulfils the role that most people try to assign to their SUV in offering practical space, which the SUV seldom does.

But it’s easy to see why Renault had to be there fighting in the SUV sector and it has done so going its own way rather than merely rebadging a Nissan Qashqai, the route Ford followed with its Nissan Terrano-based Maverick in the 90s and a Mazda as the Maverick (not very successfully) in the early Noughties. But Renault has obviously harvested whatever it needed from Nissan to good effect.

Just take a look at the Renault Kadjar, a Qashqai-sized SUV that ticks all the boxes for trendy buyers. It looks substantial yet stylish, has great interior space for five, and doesn’t cost the earth to buy. What’s not to like? As it turns out, the real question comes as 'Is there plenty to like?' and the answer is affirmative.

Launched in 2015, the Kadjar sold 450,000 units before the update to New Kadjar for the current model year. It’s had a nose job and bum lift, has new signature lights in the same way as people adopt new shades. More important to most families is that it now melds perfectly with your Apple or Android devices and even gets two USB points both front and rear so the kids are going to love its connectivity and ability to keep their devices charged throughout a journey. Who needs I Spy for a long journey, or even windows to look out of? Many kids would happily travel in a panel van these days provided they could use their devices – in fact the darker interior would improve screen visibility!

There’s a lot to like about the Kadjar, not least that for £23,595 on the road the S Edition TCE 140 doesn’t look like a poverty model. Our friends Maggie and Bob loved it and, from Maggie’s reaction, the optional and new Iron Blue metallic is a must at £650 and we wouldn’t want to go anywhere without the optional £150 spare wheel, lifting the price to £24,395 in total. But the splashes of chrome and 19 inch diamond cut wheels look very swish and upmarket, so friends might imagine you had spent well north of £30k.

Inside, the seats are impressively comfortable but the ride feels hard, possibly due to the size of the wheels. Higher profile tyres on 17 inch rims might be the solution. The 1.3 litre petrol engine is gutsy, linking well with the slightly notchy six speed manual gearbox to produce an overall 43 mpg average – impressive.

The car does offer some serious intent. The ground clearance is good and four wheel drive models get an auto switch into 4x4 although the transmission can also be locked into a permanent 50/50 front/rear split. We ventured into the Cotswolds on a stormy July day and found the stability when striking deep surface water was itself striking. The sure-footed nature of the car, which benefits from Nissan and Mercedes expertise, makes it a winner in the family SUV stakes on both price and ability.

Car: Renault New Kadjar S Edition TCe 140

Does it fit your ego...

0-62 mph: 10.4 secs

Top speed: 126 mph

Bhp: 140 @ 5,000 rpm

Torque: 240 Nm @ 1,600 rpm

 

...and your wallet...

Price: £23,595

Combined: 42.8 – 44.1 mpg

CO2 emissions: 136 g/km

 

Best bits: as good as it looks

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