The Renault Captur crossover SUV boasts some big claims, but muscling into the mainstream Singaporean car buyer’s wishlist is a complicated affair
SINGAPORE — Along comes another new product that is aiming to capture a piece of the crossover SUV pie in Singapore for itself. The aptly named Renault Captur claims to be the most powerful car in its class, which in this case means petrol-engined vehicles in the Category A COE band. It’s just one horsepower shy of breaking into the Category B COE band, so the claim is actually quite on point.
However, after plenty of experience in cars across various broad categories, we find that there’s more than just a matter of Category A and B COEs that define how a car should be classed.
In this crowded segment there’s a lot a product needs to do to be able to stand out, and the Spanish-built, French-branded Captur’s punchy, yet economical engine is a good place to start. While the big question on most mainstream buyer’s lips these days is, “Is it a hybrid?” (Answer: No, it isn’t), don’t write off the car just yet if you like the idea of a fun-driving car that is also very usable as a family vehicle.
Renault’s RS Megane is possibly the best-driving hot hatch in the world right now, and some of its dynamic genes seem to have carried over into the Captur.
The Privilege variant of the car driven here allows for three user selectable driving modes that are also individually configurable. Besides the engine response, you can also set the steering response to be sharper or more laidback, and while the Eco mode claims to improve fuel economy by up to 10 percent, the Sport mode almost turns the car into a Mini Cooper in the way it drives.
The electrically assisted steering switches gear to become a lot more direct, the accelerator response becomes a lot punchier, and the car is quite capable of darting around like a go-kart. The instantaneous torque of the turbo engine can readily be felt. While the 0 to 100km/h sprint time of 9.6 seconds doesn’t sound like much, the car is very responsive at speeds of 70km/h and under, which makes it a very good vehicle for darting between gaps in crowded urban traffic.
Its outright response is actually only hampered by the Continental EcoContact tyres, which are not formulated for sports car levels of grip. Hard acceleration will see the tyres break traction and the traction control cut in to keep the car pointed where you want it to go.
The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission drives the front wheels and does a decent job, though the car’s simple suspension setup is a bit of a limiting factor. There’s clearly been a design brief to maximise interior space, so the suspension arms are short and tucked neatly under the body. There are no complicated multi-link suspension arms intruding into the bodyshell, but the rear end’s semi-rigid axle is a bit choppy over bumpy surfaces and ultimately sets the limit of the car’s dynamic ability.
The Captur does score a win with its roomy interior and splashes of clever, family-friendly packaging. It may not have three rows of seats and will hold only five people, but the rear bench rests on adjustable sliders that allow it to move forwards to lengthen the boot slightly. Legroom is pretty decent even with the seats moved forwards, and the boot is dual-level, with a removable shelf that allows more items to be stored beneath.
It’s one of the largest boot spaces we’ve seen in a car this size, and goes up to 536 litres.
The official rated fuel economy claim is 6.1l/100km, but as is normal for passenger cars these figures are recorded under very stringent testing conditions and rarely match up to real-world figures. In mixed urban and highway driving over three days, we got an average of 7.4l/100km, which is quite decent, really.
However, there’s one conspicuous suite of features absent, and that’s active safety. When even cars like the cheaper Hyundai Avante and Toyota Yaris Cross Hybrid have them as standard fit, the lack of features like lane departure warning makes the Captur seem a little lacking.
At least the car has an in-car entertainment and user-interface that is comprehensive and isn’t hard to use, plus it has configurable cabin ambient lighting, though restricted to just the front seats. The back seat passengers get no colourful cabin lights on the go. An extra cubby hole is tucked under the floating gearshift lever console, and while there are plenty of USB ports for the front and rear seats there is no wireless phone charging dock.
The gearshift lever design is unique and actually feels like a computer mouse in use. There is a slight but perceptible delay when shifting from Drive to Neutral or Reverse, but it’s nothing that a bit of driver acclimatisation won’t sort out.
At more than S$120k with COE, the Captur’s biggest fight is really against some well-placed rivals, even from the Category B COE class. Lesser-known continental brands aside, cars like the Skoda Kamiq and Hyundai Kona Hybrid are both priced within S$10k of the Captur.
Aim a little higher, nearer to S$140k, and you get the progressively styled Peugeot 3008.
At the other side of the fence, the smaller, but ever-popular Toyota Yaris Cross Hybrid is more than S$10k cheaper but also much smaller and less powerful. Or how about the highly-rated Nissan Kicks e-Power? Hybrid drivetrain, crossover SUV styling, and with a similar power output to the Captur, the lower price tag should make it worth a consideration too.
As you can see, it’s a buyer’s world out there when it comes to crossover SUVs in Singapore. The Renault Captur has flashes of brilliance in its design, but it’s also swimming in a sea of SUV sharks.
Renault Captur Privilege
|Engine||1,332cc, inline 4, turbocharged|
|Power||129hp at 5000rpm|
|Torque||240Nm at 1600rpm|
|VES Banding||B / Neutral|
|Price||S$121,999 with COE|
|Verdict||A well-rounded car overall, though slightly pricey as a Category A COE buy|