POSSESSING a youthful cool, the Renault Captur has joined a thriving party.
What started as a shindig of one with the Mitsubishi ASX, the sub-compact crossover segment is now booming.
But the latest to slink into baby SUV bash is the baby French fancy which is packed with good kit, good looks and a range of customisation options for just over $20,000.
The Captur has enjoyed massive popularity overseas and already is shaping as the brand's biggest seller, helping Renault break into the mainstream, and to be more than niche sports car specialist.
Despite being only slightly longer than the pint-size Clio hatch, the Captur feels like a much larger car.
With thoughtful front passengers you can fit four adults within a cabin offering doses of je ne sais quoi.
Personality resonates with the styling and it will appeal to the young and older folk who embrace contemporary styling. They'll appreciate the ride height that makes it easier to get in and out, while young families will equally appreciate the ease of getting kids into the back.
The standard colour touch-screen, glossy dash and door materials, large digital speedo and stylish instruments create an inviting environment.
French origins are never far away. Some of the dials and operations require some lateral head movements and thinking… like the cruise control and speed limiter switch on the console near the park brake, and stereo controls hidden behind the steering wheel.
The steering wheel-mounted buttons are not backlit either, so when driving at night you need to have sound knowledge of the operations to get the cruise control working.
On the road
With a choice of two engines, they are an honest pair but fall short of igniting boy racer dreams within.
Entry-level models come with a 900cc three-cylinder partnered to a five-speed manual, which is surprisingly fun to drive. Drivers need to keep the little powertrain spinning with rapid cog-swapping for
instantaneous acceleration response… and when you put your right foot down it feels like it's running out of puff at 4000rpm, but extend your ankle more and it will surge again up to the 6000rpm redline.
But most will opt for the self-shifter given Australians' love of automatics. Getting a bigger 1.2-litre four-cylinder it doesn't feel quite as lively.
Gear changes can be sluggish and sometimes lack smooth polish, although for those who enjoy linear momentum, the Captur is reliable and possesses a surefooted ride.
What do you get?
Standard features don't come much better than the Captur. Without ticking any boxes you get a 17.7cm touch-screen with sat nav and a good audio system with Bluetooth capability reversing camera and parking sensors (which can be upgraded to the R-Link enhanced system for $990), automatic headlights and wipers, keyless entry and push-button start, LED daytime running lights as well as both cruise and climate control.
The top-spec Dynamique also adds a cornering function in the fog lights, washable and removable seat covers, 17-inch alloys and two-tone body colour.
Safety features include six airbags, anti-lock brakes with brake assist and EBD, stability control, anti-slip control and hill start assist.
The manual three-cylinder managed just under six litres for every 100km while the automatic was just over seven. Both were about one litre above the official figure.
Renault has worked hard on improving parts availability, and the capped price servicing along with roadside assist for three years sweetens the deal.
For a car of this size, boot space is a reasonable 455 litres with the front passenger seat pushed forward, and with the 60-40 split-folding rear seats we fit an adult-size bike with ease.
The seat covers in up-spec models can also be unzipped and washed in a standard household machine. Pretty handy for dealing with spillages, or you can buy new ones for $715.
While there are two console cup holders, one is extremely skinny and neither can accommodate larger bottles. Doors have a useful pocket which can handle a bottle lying down.
Better news up front as there are some good nooks for storage, while the straps behind the front seats don't only look good they are also handy for holding stuff in place.
Among the rivals are the Ford EcoSport Ambiente ($20,790), Honda HR-VTi ($24,990) Mazda CX-3 ($26,790), Holden Trax LS ($23,990), Nissan Juke ST ($23,490), Mitsubishi ASX ($24,990) and the Peugeot 2008 Active ($23,990 drive-away).
Brimming with personality, it's hard not to like the Captur with its cute lines. There are some groovy two-tone colour combinations, and an array of options means you can have something different without doing severe bank balance damage - usually something primarily available in the prestige sector.
This is suddenly a busy segment. Yet the Captur has enough character to stand out from the crowd.
Cool colour combinations, a unique cabin and an array of options will entice many to look past its lack-of-acceleration urgency.
What matters most
What we liked: Funky styling inside and out, washable seat covers, surprising performance from three-cylinder engine.
What we'd like to see: Backlit steering wheel buttons, bigger cup-holders, more functional button placement, smaller key, some more oomph.
Warranty and servicing: Five-year unlimited kilometre warranty and five years roadside assist. Service intervals are 12 months/15,000km with capped price servicing first three services at $299 each.
Model: Renault Captur.
Details: Five-door front-wheel drive small SUV.
Engines: 0.9-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol generating maximum power of 66kW @ 5250rpm and peak torque of 135Nm @ 2500rpm. 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol generating maximum power of 88kW @ 4900rpm and 190Nm @ 2000rpm.
Transmissions: Five-speed manual and six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 4.9 litres/100km (m), 5.4L/100km (a).
Performance: 0-100kmh TCe 90 in 13 seconds (m), TCe 120 10.9 sec (a)
Bottom line plus on-roads: $22,990 for Expression TCe 90, $25,990 for Expression TCe 120, $27,990 for Dynamique TCe 120.
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