The Renault Kadjar has proved to be a strong proposition for Renault in the family Crossover market, firing a broadside at the likes of the Mazda CX-5, the Volkswagen Tiguan and the Hyundai Tucson. It's a good-looking thing based on the same running gear as its alliance sibling, the Nissan Qashqai and offered in either front or all-wheel drive.
That name first. That had us all guessing. North African tribe? Middle Eastern trade wind? Wrong and wrong. Apparently it's one of those portmanteau French words where 'Kad' is inspired by the world 'quad' (the casual term for a four-wheeled all-terrain vehicle) and 'Jar' is a reference to the French words 'agile' and 'jaillir,' which means to 'emerge quickly'. Still, this is the crew who brought us Kangoos and Twizys, so perhaps it's best not to linger.
It's pretty easy to position just what this car is though. Big brother to the Captur crossover, it's spun off the same platform as alliance partner Nissan's huge-selling Qashqai. Renault reckons there's enough room in the market to go poaching sales from the likes of Volkswagen, Kia and Toyota rather than merely cannibalise Qashqai sales. Let's take a look and see if they're onto something.
The Kadjar runs on what they call the CMF-C/D platform, terminology which might make as little sense to you as the name 'Kadjar'. In fact, it references Renault and Nissan's largest shared modular chassis. This model uses much the same 1.5 and 1.6-litre turbodiesel engines seen in the Qashqai, the 1.5-litre unit developing 110bhp and offering the option of EDC twin clutch automatic transmission. And the 1.6-litre unit offering 130bhp and alone offering the option of 4WD. There's also a 1.2-litre 130bhp TCe petrol option for those wanting it, this also available with the EDC automatic gearbox.
The basic suspension setup is also carried over from the Qashqai, albeit with some Renault-specific tuning. It's manoeuvrable in town, with a tight 10.72m turning circle and the driving position has been designed to mirror that of a typical saloon, rather than a high-set 4x4.
It's not designed for anything too serious off-road but is still offered in both front and all-wheel drive guises. The front-wheel drive versions are fitted with an 'Extended Grip' system, which is claimed to enhance grip on low-traction surfaces. The all-wheel-drive system offers three specific modes: Auto, Lock and FWD. If you do choose to take the Kadjar off the beaten track, a 19cm high ground clearance lends it some ability, while front and rear skid plates will help if the 18 degree approach and 25 degree departure angles prove insufficient.
Surprise, surprise - the Kadjar looks for all the world like a scaled-up Captur, which in itself is no bad thing. There are the same deeply sculpted flanks and familiar Renault family face. It's much the same size as a Qashqai, as you'd expect, although the French proudly point out that's it's bigger in its exterior dimensions The Kadjar is quite a bit larger than the Qashqai, at 4.45m long, 1.84m wide and is 1.6m high.
The fascia is neatly executed with decent materials choices, but there's nothing about it that immediately smacks of Renault. Some might see that as a good thing given some of the wacky cabins Renault has delivered in recent memory, and there's nothing here that's going to put off those looking for a smart and presentable driving environment. The boot is a useful 42-litres bigger than a Qashqai's at 472-litres to the tonneau cover. You get handles that drop the rear seats in their 60/40 split, an organiser that prevents your shopping spilling all over the boot when you corner and a split level load floor. There's also 30-litres of oddments storage around the cabin and the front passenger seat can even be folded to use as an impromptu table.
The Kadjar is a car that Renault has really big plans for. UK versions are built in Palencia in Spain, but Asian-spec models are the first Renault vehicles to be manufactured in China.
Pricing is pitched just above that of Renault's smaller Captur crossover to a level that's pretty comparable with the Nissan Qashqai this car is based upon. That means a starting price of around £18,000 and five trim levels - 'Expression+', 'Dynamique Nav', 'Dynamique S Nav', 'Signature Nav' and 'Signature S Nav'. Core features on Expression+ include an automatic electronic parking brake, front foglights, LED daytime running lamps, tinted windows, a 7-inch TFT instrument panel with digital speedometer, all-round electric windows, driver's seat height adjustment, air conditioning, Bluetooth, a USB socket and a 4 x 20W DAB radio with fingertip controls and an AUX input.
As for connectivity, the easy-to-use R-Link 2 system is fitted to all models above 'Expression+'.
Standard safety features include ABS with Electronic Brake-force Distribution, electronic stability control with traction and understeer control, cruise control, speed limiter, Hill Start Assist, six airbags, seat belts with load limiters and pretensioners at the front, side impact protection bars and ISOFIX child-seat mounting points on the two outer rear seats. All versions have gravel, dust and rain protection kits, while for comfort and convenience there is an accessory power point, a 12-volt front socket, a trip computer, two-way adjustable steering column and an exterior temperature indicator.
As we've said, the 1.5 and 1.6-litre diesel engines that feature in the Kadjar are the same as those used by the similar Qashqai - and of course get much the same excellent efficiency figures. The 1.5-litre dCi diesel unit is the engine to choose if you feel that fuel station pasties and chocolate bars are sabotaging your fitness regime. This gets 74.3 miles per gallon and 99g/km of CO2 - and the 1.6-litre diesel isn't that much worse. Here, you get 113g/km and 65.7mpg if you go for a manual front-wheel drive version, with an equivalent four-wheel drive car registering 126g/km and 58.8mpg. Go for the petrol 1.2-litre Tce 130 variant and you'll manage 126g/km of CO2 and 50.4mpg on the combined cycle.
All versions provide the peace of mind of Renault's 4+ warranty and assistance package. The car is protected against defects recognised by Renault for four years or 100,000 miles (first two years have no mileage limit). In the event of a breakdown, Renault provides emergency roadside repairs or towing to the nearest dealer 24/7 every day of the year, plus three years' European cover. There is also a three-year paint warranty and 12 years' cover against corrosion. Servicing is required once a year or every 18,000 miles.
The success of the Nissan Qashqai has been a phenomenon and it seems bizarre that partner Renault was for so long left out in the cold for with no spin-off Crossover vehicle of its own. The Kadjar is a case of 'better late than never' and while there is the chance that it will scavenge a few Nissan sales, Renault firmly believes that it'll be sufficiently strong to purloin more than a few orders from Kia, Volkswagen and other makers of medium-sized crossovers.
We wouldn't bet against it. Cars in this class are largely bought on styling and image and, wacky name aside, the Kadjar looks to have both of those things well accounted for. It's certainly a more confident, adventurous-looking thing than the Qashqai on which it's based. With Renault's usual palette of strident paint finishes and slick personalisation options, if the marketing is right, the orders will come.
Choose from 4 different Renault Kadjar grades.
Images for illustration purposes only