You may have heard that the Scrabble dictionary was updated recently. New words including ‘twerking’, ‘shizzle’ and ‘ridic’ can now earn you points or perhaps even a triple-word score. One word that’s conspicuously absent from the Scrabble lexicon, though, is ‘crossover’. And that’s surprising, because these high-rise hatchbacks are fast becoming the most popular type of new car. Indeed, Renault says that one in five cars sold around the world today is a crossover.
It seems odd, therefore, that Renault has taken so long to bring a C-segment (VW Golf-sized) crossover to market. Especially since its alliance partner, Renault, launched the wildly successful Qashqai back in 2006. As you’d expect, the Kadjar is closely based on the Qashqai, and it follows the same formula: a roomy five-seat interior wrapped in swoopy, SUV styling.
Buyers have a choice of three engines: 130hp 1.2 TCe petrol, 100hp 1.5 dCi diesel and 130hp 1.6 dCi diesel. A dual-clutch automatic gearbox is available with the dCi 110 engine, while four-wheel drive is offered on higher-spec versions of the dCi 130. All other models drive through the front wheels only. The Kadjar will cost from £17,995 when it goes on sale in July 2015.
Oh, and don’t expect to see the word ‘Kadjar’ in any dictionary soon. It’s an abbreviation of the French terms for ‘quad’ and ‘agility’, apparently. Sadly, it will earn you nul points on a Scrabble board.
Car manufacturers usually bend over backwards to tell you how ‘sporty’ their new model is, but Renault didn’t use the S-word once during its press conference for the new Kadjar. Instead, the focus was on comfort – surely a higher priority for most crossover buyers than on-the-limit handling.
And yes, the Kadjar is comfortable, although its suspension feels firmer that you might expect. Speed humps and potholes are soaked up smoothly, but the ride feels jittery on uneven road surfaces. The larger 19in alloy wheels of Dynamique S Nav and Signature versions don’t help.
Tackle a twisty road and the Kadjar is competent if hardly, well… sporty. There’s a decent amount of feedback through the chunky, flat-bottomed steering wheel and the six-speed manual gearbox feels slick. Nonetheless, that lofty ride height means a fair degree of body-roll when you push on. You can’t defeat the laws of physics.
Frustratingly, the 110hp 1.5 diesel engine, which is likely to be the bestseller, was not available at the launch. It’s on-paper performance is good, though, with 0-62mph in 11.9 seconds – or 11.7 seconds with the EDC auto gearbox. We tried the 130hp 1.2 petrol first, which hits 62mph in 10.1 seconds. An audible turbo whistle when accelerating lends it some character, yet it’s also smooth and very refined at speed. The 130hp 1.6 diesel (10.5sec) is noisier, but its extra mid-range punch is welcome on the open road. However, the price premium makes this engine difficult for most buyers to justify (see Verdict for more details).
Inside, the Kadjar has a high driving position that allows you to literally look down on other road users. Unless they’re also driving crossovers, of course. The well-padded seats are very comfortable, although we found the pedals were offset to the right in our (left-hand-drive) test cars.
Its stylish dashboard is dominated by a large digital speedo and – in our car – flashes of tasteful carbonfibre-look trim. The quality of the plastics won’t worry the premium brands, though. Renault’s R-Link 2 touchscreen media system is standard on all but entry-level versions, and is a marked improvement on the original version. You can swipe between screens like an iPad and download a wide range of apps. Unfortunately, its relatively low position means taking your eyes off the road to use it.
The Kadjar is slightly bigger than its sister Qashqai, which translates into enough rear-seat space for three adults (or two adults in comfort) and an additional 42 litres of luggage capacity. Its 472-litre volume compares to 316 litres in a Ford Focus and 416 litres in a Skoda Yeti. Better-equipped versions have handles in the boot for one-touch folding of the 60/40-split rear seat, plus there’s an adjustable-height floor to make loading large objects easier. Elsewhere in the cabin, you’ll find plenty of useful stowage space and a front passenger seat that folds forward into a table.
Trim levels start with Expression+, then Dynamique Nav, Dynamique S Nav and Signature Nav. All come with six airbags, cruise control, hill-start assist (to stop you rolling backwards), air conditioning, Bluetooth and a DAB radio. The Dynamique Nav adds sat nav, along with R-Link 2 and automatic lights/wipers. Upgrading to Dynamique S Nav gets you 19in alloys, front and rear parking sensors, and heated door mirrors. And the range-topping Signature Nav comes fully loaded with LED headlights, panoramic sunroof and a thumping Bose audio system.
Affordable running costs have been key to the Qashqai’s success. In essence it offers SUV-style without the hefty fuel and car tax bills. The same is true of the Kadjar, which boasts fuel-efficiency on par with many medium hatchbacks.
The economy champion is the 110hp 1.5 diesel, with a claimed 74.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 99g/km (low enough for free car tax). Impressively, those figures stay the same with the EDC automatic gearbox, although you’ll pay a £1,200 premium for choosing it in the first place.
The gutsier 130hp 1.6 diesel returns 65.7mpg and 113g/km, which still equates to annual car tax of just £30 at 2015 rates. Choosing four-wheel-drive (a £1,500 option) cuts economy to 58.8mpg and bumps emissions up to 126g/km, so Renault expects just 8% of Kadjar buyers to do so.
As you’d expect, the 130hp 1.2 petrol is the least efficient of the engines on offer; it manages a respectable 50.4mpg and 126g/km CO2. You’ll need to work it harder than the diesels, though – not a chore, but you’ll be lucky to match those figures in real-world driving.
Predicted resale values for the Kadjar are among the best in the class, which helps reduce overall running costs. Pricing expert CAP says the Renault will retain around 42% of its purchase price after three years and 60,000 miles. Compare that to 39% for a Volkswagen Tiguan, 38% for a Qashqai and just 28% for a Peugeot 3008.
Renault had a head-start by basing its crossover on the successful and very capable Nissan Qashqai. And there’s no reason to think the Kadjar won’t be a strong seller, too; it’s practical, comfortable, efficient and competitively priced.
In fact, we think the French car looks and drives better than its Japanese cousin, so perhaps Renault has a winner on its hands. A Volkswagen Golf is ultimately a better medium-sized car, but if you want pumped-up 4×4 styling, the Kadjar should definitely be on your shortlist.
A word of warning when it comes to choosing engines, though. Renault says 80% of buyers will opt for a diesel, but the 1.2 petrol may work out cheaper unless you drive a lot of miles. Assuming you cover 10,000 miles a year, for example, the £3,100 premium for the 130hp diesel over the 130hp petrol would take you 14 years to recover via reduced fuel bills. Even paying £1,900 extra for the 110hp diesel will take six years to claw back.
Renault Kadjar 1.2 TCe Dynamique Nav
Engine: 1.2-litre petrol
Gearbox: 6-speed manual
Torque: 151lb ft
0-62mph: 10.1 seconds
Top speed: 119mph
Fuel economy: 50.4mpg
CO2 emissions: 126g/km