Test Drives

Renault Kadjar review: An East-West kombo

renault kadjar singapore price

A diesel engine gives Renault’s new crossover outstanding fuel economy

SINGAPORE — It’s krystal klear just whom the Renault Kadjar is for. Some people don’t trust French engineering, and some people look down on Japanese brands. The Kadjar’s neat way of tempting them both is to combine the platform of a Nissan Qashqai with a big dose of Frenchness.

Renault and Nissan have an alliance, and being corporate bedfellows they share quite a few things. In this case, the Qashqai is the donor and the Kadjar, the recipient of roughly 60 percent of its parts.

That still leaves around 40 percent that’s different, and most of that must be what you see, touch and feel. The Kadjar doesn’t have any body panels in common with the Qashqai, for instance, and is actually a bit longer and wider as a result.

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The name, in case you were wondering, doesn’t really mean anything, but Renault says that spelling it with a “K” makes it a bit more macho.

I kan’t see that it makes any difference, myself, but the Kadjar’s looks are certainly fairly rugged, anyway. There’s the tall ride height of a Sports Utility Vehicle (though I wouldn’t bet on making it very far into the jungle in the Renault), and sinewy curves in the right places on the body.

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Then there’s the practicality of the thing. The boot is 472 litres large (making it the class champ, says Renault) and it can be configured in all sorts of ways, including one that lets you carry loads up to 2.5m in length when you tip the front passenger seat forward (an old Volvo trick — Renault had a tryst with them once).

READ MORE > What we think of the Nissan Qashqai

Folding the back seats, meanwhile, is just a matter of hooking a quick-release latch. Unlike in a growing number of cars in the segment, you can’t slide them back-and-forth to play with the amount of space available, but the Kadjar is decently roomy in the back to begin with so you’re unlikely to miss that particular feature.

Probably the biggest sin back there is the lack of air-con vents, though the payoff for that is a storage box between the front seats that can nearly take in an entire bottle of wine.

That must be a French quirk, and if you’re wondering if there are others, you needn’t look hard to find them.

Key cards have been a thing with Renault for a while, but the Kadjar comes with a posh-looking one that you’re bound to show off to people.

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Another fancy feature is the instrument cluster, which replaces analogue instruments with a bright, clear display.

Some of the other uncommon features in the Kadjar are decently useful; the boot floor is reversible, for instance, and has a surface that can be rinsed off in case you chucked a mountain bike back there and got mud all over the place.

Others make you scratch your head. Why the French think the cruise control switch belongs near the parking brake, I’ll never know.

Still, the Renault’s controls are easy to learn overall. There’s an Android-powered, seven-inch touchscreen that works the major functions and settings, and it’s as straightforward to use as a doorbell. It leaves the dashboard very tidy, is responsive to the touch, and it displays much better in bright sunlight than the screen in other Renault models do.

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Though the cabin materials are nice, the Kadjar’s interior is not quite built to German standards. Things creak occasionally, although the bodyshell does feel reassuringly stiff.

But there’s a flaw in the idea that the Renault is for someone who is a closet Japanese car fan. The engine is a very French one, a version of the 1.5 turbodiesel engine that powers everything from Renault’s Captur to the Mercedes Citan (Renault has a cosy relationship with them, too).

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Depending on how you view these things, the diesel engine either gives the Kadjar an edge or it’s a complete dealbreaker. It shouldn’t be. The engine gives the Kadjar an acceptable amount of mid-range gusto, and it works well with the six-speed transmission to ensure that you won’t be left behind by traffic.

There’s little to be gained from revving it hard, but if you’re in town the Renault’s engine seldom needs to spin hard. It does sound a bit like a robot gargling, but the diesel motor’s frugality is jaw-dropping.

The claimed fuel consumption average is 3.9L/100km (on one drive we averaged 4.0L/100km), which makes it theoretically possible to travel 1,410km before running dry.

Even if you subtract a good 20 percent to be safe, that means you can comfortably exceed 1,100km between fill-ups. Given that diesel is cheaper than petrol, the Kadjar could well be the cheapest car to feed in Singapore.

Hopefully, that’s the sort of thing to give you some satisfaction behind the wheel, because the Kadjar is not the most rewarding car around corners. It’s stable and there’s good steering feel, but it’s not particularly grippy and the balance is a bit nose-heavy.

Mind you, for something that has 19-inch wheels it rides well over our once-smooth roads, so the suspension guys didn’t mess around all day at work.

You actually have two Kadjars to choose from, with a $12,000 price gap between them. Some of the stuff you see in the pictures here — the full LED lamps, glass roof, black wing mirrors, and grey skid plates, to name a few — are part of the equipment that make up the Bose Edition.

Never mind the strangeness of naming a car after a sound system maker, the Bose pack also includes a blind spot monitoring system that we found useful, a hands-free parking assist system, a rear view camera and of course, a Bose sound system with a thumpy subwoofer.

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Whether all that is worth 12 grand is up to you. What’s equally worth pondering is what else can be had for $127,999 with COE. Of all the Kadjar’s rivals, perhaps it isn’t the Nissan Qashqai at all that is the main threat, but Nissan’s X-Trail — another platform sibling, but one that you can buy for $119,988.

That car doesn’t have French flair or a teetotaling diesel engine, but it does come with seven-seats, and practicality has never been a handicap in Singapore. Renault and Nissan may be allies, but some of their children are clearly foes.

singapore renault kadjar review

NEED TO KNOW Renault Kadjar 1.5T dCi
Engine 1,461cc, turbodiesel, in-line four
Power 110hp at 4000rpm
Torque 250Nm at 1750rpm
Gearbox 6-speed twin-clutch transmission
Top Speed 181km/h
0-100km/h 11.7 seconds
Fuel efficiency 3.9L/100km
CO2 103g/km
Price $115,999 with COE, $127,999 with COE (Bose Edition)
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about the author

Leow Ju-Len
Leow Ju-Len is a lot older than he behaves. He's been writing about cars for 23 years. Someday he might do it coherently. Ju-Len believes in world peace and V8s, but not necessarily in that order.