Renault Captur for elegant off-roading

When Renault bought the Romanian Dacia car factory in 1999, very few people would have imagined that a stylish French touch could so dramatically change a solid and chunky military vehicle into a very elegant and desirable civilian SUV. Actually it is not really an SUV but a ‘soft roader’ offering the comforts of a car with mild SUV capabilities. The Duster has been a great success and the French flair has been taken further to create the new Captur that is a bit longer, wider and a lot more elegant. It is built on the well-tested Duster platform with similar engines to carry forward the Duster DNA, but the styling both inside and outside the car is a lot more ‘chic’. The Ford EcoSport looked chunky and masculine with a bulldog look but the Captur looks more curvy and feminine while retaining its SUV persona.

The external styling is a harmonious melody of curves, from the shape of the bonnet to the flared wheel arches, crystal cut alloy wheels, sweeping front grille and daring designs for all the lights. There are no jerky angular bits but curves and creases flowing across all surfaces. The segment-first ‘sparkle’ full LED headlights, the ‘C’ shaped LED daylight running lights and ‘ripple effect’ tail lights grab the eyes. Floating indicator lights are a novel touch, and the model offers many features found on more expensive cars.

The interiors are just as slick as the exteriors with contrasting ivory and black seats and a very futuristic butterfly shaped ‘infinity’ instrument panel on the dashboard. The centre-mounted touchscreen provides easy access to entertainment, communication, navigation and all other functions but has not been given the same attention as has been devoted to the styling. The boot is quite capacious but the rear seat legroom could have been better and the sleek roof line means that the ceiling is a bit low for a tall passenger.

But to compete with well established stalwarts like the Ford EcoSport or Hyundai Creta the Captur must also offer good power trains. Renault engines all deliver smooth power from small packages and with commendable fuel efficiency. The 1500cc diesel mill delivers a competent 106 HP that is tamed by a 6-speed manual gearbox. The 1500cc petrol plant delivers 110 HP with a 5-speed gearbox. There is no automatic or 4WD on offer as yet. Though it is a bit less powerful than its competitors, the Captur will never let a driver feel any lack of power or speed while on the road.

The Captur features a ‘smart card’ instead of a key. The front suspension is conventional but the robust ‘twist beam’ system for the rear and huge 210 mm ground clearance will definitely be big assets on bad roads. The Captur has a predictably long list of features for safety including airbags, ABS anti-skid braking with EDB brake assist, et cetera, but many of these features will also be available in the entry level models.

Renault boasts of offering cars that are innovative for customers and disruptive for their competitors. This was certainly true of the Duster and Kwid but only time will tell whether the Captur’s sleek styling will be enough to score over the conventional virtues that most buyers look for in a soft SUV.

The author is the region’s most celebrated automobile columnist.