With the SUV segment growing by leaps and bounds, Renault is challenging the existing players with its second SUV. We drive the new Captur to find out if it has the mettle to take the competition to the Hyundai Creta.
If you look at global and Indian trends as far as automotive products are concerned, one thing is clear, SUV’s – of all shapes and sizes – are the hottest thing in the market and the scenario seems to be here to stay. And the fact that given the state of our infrastructure and roads makes them much more practical to use makes them so much more attractive for consumers. Therefore, it doesn’t come as a surprise that after the success of the Duster – it was actually the first SUV in India to hit major success – Renault is now looking to expand its lineup with the Captur.
For those not in the know, the Duster wasn’t really a ‘true’ Renault product. I use the word true in inverted commas because the Duster was actually a Dacia product – a mass-market Eastern European brand – owned by Renault. So, the Duster featured styling that’s quite un-Renault. However, with its combination of sturdy looks and fantastic ride-and-handling, the Duster was an absolute success story in our market.
The Captur changes that completely, with the design being completely in-line with Renault’s global design language. So, you get a car with lots of curves, swoops and bold design choices. The doors feature prominent curves to give them definition, while the bonnet has two bulges running the length of it. Prominent up front is also the large Renault logo, which also makes its presence felt on the rear tailgate. Adding to the stance of the car are the large 17-inch alloys, which look pretty good with their combination of diamond polish and black finish. And with its 210mm of ground clearance – highest in the world amongst the Captur versions sold in various countries abroad – the Captur cuts a handsome figure. Like I mentioned to the Renault officials at the test drive, the Captur looks very French – read chich and stylish – in its design and that will be a differentiating factor for many customers. Also, contributing to its design is the dual-tone colour scheme – which, according to company officials was a part of the original design and not an afterthought – which makes the car stand out.
The styling of the interiors though is not as revolutionary as the exteriors. The Captur shares a lot of interior fitments with the Duster and that is evident from things like the steering wheel, infotainment system and air-conditioning controls. The room inside the car, however, is a bit limited. While average-sized adults will have no issues, people taller than six feet might have an issue with the space in the rear seat. Also, it seems the seats up front are mounted a bit too high, as that compromises the headroom in the front row. However, the quality levels of the interiors are a definite notch up over the Duster, but I would’ve preferred some soft-touch plastics in the mix to further improve things. A particular highlight in the interiors, however, were the seats, which with their sculpted shape offer excellent support, and the quilted leather pattern on them looks very classy. Visibility too has been extensively worked upon in the Captur, and the A-pillar is never a hindrance to visibility.
Based on an updated version of the Duster’s platform, the Captur shares some of its qualities too. So, out on the road, you get a communicative steering which supplies you with a steady stream of information about road conditions and the ride and handling setup is fantastically well tuned. Bad roads, potholes do not trouble the Captur at all, and it has excellent high-speed stability too. Also, given its size and external appearance, the Captur has a rather large boot, which is not so evident when you look at the car from outside.
Powertrain choices of the Captur are also shared with the Duster, with the initial offerings being the 1.5-litre petrol and 1.5-litre K9K diesel engines. However, at the time of launch – which should happen sometime in late-October – the Captur will only be offered with manual transmission options. While the company officials refused to confirm, it is believed that automatic offerings on both petrol and diesel will eventually be launched, with the diesel, in all probability, offering a traditional torque converter gearbox rather than the Duster’s AMT. Also, whether an all-wheel drive version of the Captur will eventually be offered is unclear, with company officials expressing their doubts due to low interest amongst customers for the same.
Out on the road, the Captur works quite well, with the cabin featuring excellent visibility. However, the driving seat was mounted a bit too high, and even in its lowest setting, it was too high for my preference. The test cars were all top-of-the-line Platine diesel versions, with the 108bhp engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. The fact that this engine is now a generation old is not lost on anyone, and while it works quite well in the Duster, the expected market positioning of the Captur might make this to be a bit on an issue. Frankly put, when trying to accelerate and tackling traffic, the engine has too much turbo lag and has no power below 2,000rpm, which is when the turbo kicks in. However, once on the move, the engine has good throttle response – as long as you keep the revs above 2,00rpm – and is good enough for our conditions. The NVH of the engine too has been worked upon and little of the engine noise or vibration makes it into the cabin of the Captur. The ride and handling, of course, remains excellent as usual, with the Captur tackling whatever the roads throw at it without a worry.
Equipment wise, Renault claims that the Captur will be very well specced – actual details will only be revealed at launch – with every version of the car being equipped with two airbags, ABS, EBD and Isofix mounts for child seats as standard. And to add to that, the company will also offer an extensive personalisation program – something they are having great success with in Kwid sales – that will offer a myriad of options for customers to personalize their Captur with. A particular hot seller, in the Kwid at least, has been extra chrome fitments on the car, an extensive options list of which will also be offered on the Captur. While some might find the extra chrome horrendous, the average Indian customer, as we all know, loves the stuff, and buys it by the bucket loads.
In essence, the Captur will offer a valid alternative to the Hyundai Creta, which, currently has little or no competition and is doing fantastic sales numbers month-after-month. And that is exactly what Renault wants. However, I would think the Captur’s automatic transmission options should be launched as quickly as possible to expand its potential customer base. And, while it lags behind on the engine front – a newer-generation engine would be very welcome – if priced well, the Captur has a reasonable chance of weening away many of the customer’s looking for an SUV in that segment. So, while it might not be perfect, the Captur definitely has a chance of being yet another sales success for Renault India.