Renault Kadjar review
The Renault Kadjar crossover is the French firm’s take on the Nissan Qashqai - and it's a great family car
The Renault Kadjar is a stylish new crossover based on the same platform as the Nissan Qashqai. But, while the Qashqai took undisputed class honours when it arrived in early 2014, the game has moved on and the Renault equivalent betters it in almost every area.
The Kadjar’s winning blend of desirability, quality, practicality and low running costs, make this a sure-fire family favourite. We’d go for the lower-powered diesel in mid-spec Dynamique Nav trim as it feels almost as powerful and comes loaded with standard kit.
The Renault Kadjar is a mid-size crossover based on the evergreen Nissan Qashqai. While the two are said to share 60 per cent of their parts, Renault claims 95 per cent of what you see and feel is completely new in the Kadjar. That means the Kadjar benefits from a bold new exterior and high quality interior, as well as a range of frugal engines and a comfortable ride.
Main rivals include the Nissan Qashqai (of course), the Ford Kuga and the Mazda CX-5 as well as models like the Peugeot 3008, Skoda Yeti and MINI Countryman. In fact, the C-segment crossover is a market that has grown from almost nothing in 2007, to one that caters for a sizeable 11 per cent of all new car sales in the UK in 2015.
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Only one Kadjar body style is available, and that’s unlikely to change any time soon. However, Renault already sells the smaller Captur crossover, and is looking at launching a larger seven-seater some time in 2016. All cars come well equipped and there are a range of trims to choose from, starting with the entry-level air con-equipped Expression+, through to the mid-spec Dynamique Nav and Dynamique S Nav. Top-of-the-range Signature Nav cars are expensive, but they boast a list of kit even Lexus would be envious of. A Bose stereo, 19-inch alloy wheels and touchscreen nav are all included.
Engine options are good, too. The basic 108bhp dCi 110 diesel is the one to go for, though those regularly towing trailers might be better suited to the larger 128bhp dCi 130. There’s a turbocharged petrol option, too, though speed freaks need not apply – Renaultsport won’t be touching the Kadjar any time soon.
Engines, performance and drive
Not many people are likely to take the Renault Kadjar off-road and that’s a sensible move. Limited ground clearance and a lack of a low ratio gearbox mean this car is more of a soft-roader than a proper mud-plugging 4x4.
On the road though, it is really very good indeed. The raised driving position gives a better view ahead than you get with a normal family hatchback and despite seeming quite large, the Kadjar is easy to drive in town. The controls are nicely weighted too.
On faster roads the car steers precisely, grips well and doesn’t roll much through the corners. It’s comfy, too. The suspension has been tuned perfectly to give the optimum balance of handling and ride quality. Only on really broken surfaces does the Kadjar start to fidget about.
It’s a generally quiet car, though there is a bit of wind whistle from the windscreen pillars at speed and tyre roar starts to become noticeable on rough surfaces, though more so on cars with the larger 19-inch alloy wheels. Also, the 1.2-litre petrol engine makes a strange whistling sound like a balloon deflating when you put your foot down in the higher gears. While it is by no means thrilling, the Renault Kadjar is a thoroughly pleasant car to drive.
The Kadjar is available with three engines. The 1.2-litre TCe turbo petrol develops 128bhp, and can do 119mph and 0-62mph in 10.1 seconds - with maximum pulling power from just 2,000rpm. Around town the 1.2 is nippy enough and feels pretty sprightly up to moderate speeds.
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However, at higher speeds it does start to feel a little stretched and requires you to select a lower gear to overtake - you'll want a diesel for more in-gear punch on the motorway. In this instance, you can choose between the 109bhp 1.5-litre dCi, which is expected to be the top seller, and the 1.6-litre dCi with 128bhp.
The 1.6 has 320Nm of torque from just 1,750rpm, so it's extremely flexible and perfect for those wanting to tow. This engine is also available with all-wheel drive - and the system can send up to 50 per cent of the power to the rear wheels for added traction.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
The new Renault Kadjar is impressively economical – especially the 1.5 dCi diesel, which returns 74.3mpg on the combined cycle and is free to tax with excellent CO2 emissions of 99g/km. Plus, it still achieves these figures if you go for the dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Be careful, though, as Dynamique S Nav and Signature Nav models get bigger 19-inch wheels and will result in an emissions increase that void that tax-free status.
The 1.6-litre diesel is pretty frugal too, claiming 65.7mpg and 113g/km of CO2, which doesn’t seem like all that big a sacrifice given the 20bhp power increase. What’s more, opting for the CVT auto on this model only penalises you slightly – the Kadjar still returning 62.8mpg and 117g/km. The impact of four-wheel drive is greater, as the 1.6 dCi all-wheel drive returns 58.8mpg with 126g/km CO2 in official tests.
Meanwhile, the 1.2-litre petrol returns 50.4mpg and emits 126g/km CO2 - making it the least efficient car in the range. It is the cheapest to buy, mind.
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Insurance groups start at a reasonable group 14 for entry-level diesels. In fact, even the well-specced dCi 110 Dynamique S Nav is group 14. If you want a petrol, you’ll be forced up a couple of bands, to group 16, while the higher-powered dCi 130 diesel starts at group 17. Range-topping diesel 4x4s are group 18.
An equivalent Nissan Qashqai is at least three groups higher, while the more powerful Mazda CX-5 sits above that again. In fact, if low insurance is your priority, the Renault Kadjar is hard to beat.
Residual values for the Renault Kadjar are actually very good. Some of the entry-level models (which admittedly have less value to lose) can retain as much as 47 per cent of their value during the first three years of ownership.
Most sit between 42 and 45 per cent, which rates favourably against rivals. It’s on a par with the Nissan Qashqai (44-48 per cent) but slightly behind the Mazda CX-5, Ford Kuga and MINI Countryman, which all sit in the high 40s and early 50s. However, the Renault Kadjar still represents good value for money thanks to its low list price and long list of standard kit.
Interior, design and technology
The Renault Kadjar is a good-looking car, and arguably has more character than the slightly generic Nissan Qashqai. Its big, bold nose with the massive Renault logo is very concept car-like, and the swept-back headlights make it immediately more striking to look at.
This is complemented by the curvaceous bodywork and creases in panels help give this tall vehicle a stylish swooping stance. Round the back, the futuristic design theme is maintained by some distinctive, shapely tail lamps. The Kadjar looks fine on the 17-inch alloy wheels, but it's the 19-inch diamond-cut wheels that really make the car stand out. So too does the red metallic paint seen on many of the initial launch cars.
Inside, apart from the digital instrument dials, the Kadjar doesn’t feel quite so futuristic – but the design of the dash is sportier and than that in the Nissan Qashqai. Overall quality is really good, too, with soft-touch materials used in most places that you'll see while driving. Harder and more brittle plastics are used lower down in the car, but overall everything seems pretty robust and well put together.
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Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
Like in the Nissan Qashqai, on which it is based, the Kadjar’s infotainment system is simply laid out and easy to use. The whole dashboard design is altogether more upmarket than its Nissan sibling, and everything feels well built.
All cars come with Bluetooth and all those with ‘Nav’ in their name (e.g. Dynamique Nav and Signature Nav) get mapping as standard. The cheap-feeling TomTom set-up does seem a bit aftermarket, though, despite being displayed through the central touchscreen. The climate controls are top-notch though, with the classy white dials reminiscent of modern-day VWs.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
While the Kadjar is based on the same platform as the Qashqai and has similar dimensions, Renault's designers have decided to lengthen the rear overhang to give their car more boot space. As a result, capacity is up by 42 litres to a rather impressive 472 litres. Fold all the seats down and total load volume increases to 1,478 litres, which will be more than enough for most people.
There are plenty of storage spaces through the rest of the car, too, with a combined capacity of 30 litres. However, there are no really clever storage features and the front door bin can only just about fit a one-litre bottle. Renault could have made more effort in this area.
At 4,449mm long and 1,836mm wide, the Kadjar is shorter and thinner than a Ford Kuga or Mazda CX-5. Yet despite the fact the Renault Kadjar is essentially a lengthened Nissan Qashqai, it doesn’t really feel any bigger from behind the wheel. That is despite the tall right height and commanding view from the driver’s seat – both of which actually provide decent visibility.
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Leg room, head room & passenger space
Space in the back is good, but isn’t quite the best in class. Legroom is good but taller adults may find headroom a little tight especially in the top specification Signature Nav model, as its panoramic sunroof eats into space. Overall the space in the back is fine for a family – but a Mazda CX-5 is slightly roomier.
The Renault Kadjar is a practical car, and its boot surpasses the already practical Nissan Qashqai by 42 litres. That means a total load volume of 472 litres, or 1,478 litres with the rear seats folded down. While that’s good, a Mazda CX-5 (1,620 litres) is bigger still.
The two top-spec Kadjars get a flexible boot floor, which can be divided to partition the storage area, or raised up to create a flat load bay with no lip when you fold the seats down. These models also get one-touch release, which allows you to lower the 60:40 split bench from the boot. There’s no seven-seat option, though a bigger SUV is in the pipeline for Renault.
Reliability and Safety
The Renault Kadjar shares many of its parts with the Nissan Qashqai and so from a reliability point of view you may think this would be a good thing. But perhaps not so much - the Qashqai was marked down for reliability in our Driver Power 2015 customer satisfaction survey, and ranked 46th out of 200 cars.
However, Renault as a brand did better than Nissan, ranking in seventh place out of all manufacturers. Plus, the car comes with the French brand's excellent four-year, 100,000-mile warranty.
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The Kadjar has yet to be crash tested by Euro NCAP but just like the Nissan Qashqai it is likely to achieve a top rating. All but the entry-level model has lane departure warning and traffic sign recognition as standard. Autonomous emergency braking, which will automatically apply the brakes if a collision is imminent, is an option on all trim levels.
All Renault Kadjars get a four-year warranty as standard. That may beat rival warranties from VW, Mazda and Ford (all three years) but be aware that only the first two years are unlimited mileage – with the final couple restricted to 100,000 miles. That means in the highly unlikely event that you cover more than 100k in years one and two, your Kadjar will not be under warranty for the final two years.
The Renault Kadjar is of course applicable for all the same servicing plans and offers as the rest of the product range. Scheduled servicing is every 12 months or 12,500 miles, and owners can purchase a package that covers this for a set period of time.