Long-term test review: Renault Kadjar

Final report: practical Renault Kadjar crossover has starred in 10 months’ use

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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I’ve given the Kadjar a tough test, covering nearly double the average annual mileage in less than a year. The Renault has stood up to it well, impressing with its practicality for my photography gear and comfort on long trips. Only a few minor points have taken the shine off things.

Mileage: 22,565MPG: 52.1mpg

When I climbed into my Renault Kadjar at the start of the year, it had just been crowned Auto Express’s favourite crossover. And although it’s since been beaten by the SEAT Ateca in our New Car Awards, as I wave goodbye after 22,000-plus miles, I’m impressed with how the Renault’s delivered.

Makers have taken to marketing crossovers at lifestyle types, and while the car’s TV ad features abseiling adrenalin junkies, the reality is models such as this need to cater for families. That’s something the Renault has done perfectly over my time with it. Whether it’s putting my bike in the back, ferrying the kids and scooters, swallowing DIY kit or carrying the dog, the Kadjar’s flexibility knows virtually no bounds.

With the fitment of the optional roof bars, allowing a box to boost load space, we could load up easily and cart all our equipment to Devon for a family holiday. Forget the marketing people’s idea of snowboarding or downhill mountain biking, the Kadjar is everything a family SUV should be – delivering the practicality of a five-seat MPV in a more stylish package.

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It’s also averaged an impressive 52.1mpg in my hands – and I’m hardly an economical driver. In fact, one frustration is with the ‘eco-coaching’ feature. Try as I might, I haven’t yet got my eco score over 53/100 – yet when a colleague recently went for a short drive, they managed to up this by a few points. Still, the tips the software gives are relatively useful and have helped me improve the rating over time. Imagine how efficient the car would be with an eco score in the 70s or even 80s.

This might be my fault, but other Kadjar downsides definitely aren’t. The R-Link 2 infotainment set-up’s home button takes you to a screen that shows a split view of the sat-nav and radio station; great if you want to view either of these, yet it means you must press yet another button to get back to the main menu. It’s indicative of the whole frustrating set-up; there always seems to be one too many button presses involved.

The seven-inch touchscreen and clear graphics mean the multimedia system works well once you’re used to it, but such small, yet annoying, issues really count – especially when the sector is packed with talented rivals such as the Ateca, plus the Kia Sportage and Nissan Qashqai.

Special mention should go to the driving experience, though. While newer models like the Ateca deliver more involving handling, the Renault’s supple ride and low noise levels made it a brilliant companion on typical, everyday journeys when the traffic was heavy or you just want to cruise.

Renault Kadjar: third report

Mileage: 19,012MPG: 52.4mpg

The Renault Kadjar has notched up plenty of victories in Auto Express road tests, seeing off many of its major rivals in the process. But earlier this year, Renault and the Kadjar edged themselves ahead of the competition when it comes to ownership.

In the Auto Express Driver Power survey, the Kadjar was voted the best SUV to live with by our readers, while the French brand’s network of garages topped our 2016 car dealer rankings. So with ‘my’ Kadjar now having covered 18,906 miles and due its first service, we headed to Glyn Hopkin Renault in Chelmsford, Essex, for its first round of routine maintenance so I could experience first-hand what puts Renault’s dealers top of the pile.

The first impressive thing is that the Kadjar’s 18,000-mile service intervals are relatively long, so despite being in the car almost every day covering lots of miles, I’ve not had to book it in before now. Rivals like the Honda CR-V need servicing every 12,500 miles, for example, so after every two trips to the dealer for the Kadjar, the Honda would be due its third. It’s not this alone that makes the Kadjar a great family SUV, though. For many of the features you want in a crossover – things like ride quality, comfort and in-car tech – the Kadjar finished in the Driver Power top 10. Consistent results across the board in our survey for running costs, build quality and practicality saw the Renault outscore its rivals, too.

That’s exactly what I’ve experienced over my time with the car so far. Apart from having to top up the oil slightly, it’s been totally trouble-free – and when I did visit the dealer, I was impressed with the service.

As part of the work – what Renault calls the ‘A & B service’ – there’s a routine oil and filter change, while a whole host of checks is performed on the brakes, safety kit and other mechanical components to ensure the Kadjar stays in fine fettle. You can see the results of your car’s health test, as you’re given a colour-coded check sheet detailing the work afterwards for peace of mind.

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Our Kadjar passed with flying colours, and although a bill of £234.60 for parts and labour isn’t the cheapest, it was a fair enough price. However, opt for Renault’s £299 three-year service plan up front, and you’ll get even more value for money. The brand notched up second place in the dealer survey for value, as well as for technical knowledge and standard of workmanship, while it took first place for helpfulness and attitude. I can see why, as the service advisor at the Chelmsford branch, Jasmyn Clarke, was helpful, efficient and easy to deal with.

Renault is rightly proud of its Driver Power achievements, too, and was showing off the award inside the dealership, with a huge banner celebrating the Kadjar’s success. Work on the Renault was conducted while I waited in the newly decked out showroom, and with complimentary drinks and Wi-Fi, I could catch up with some E-mails. 

Such small touches might not sound like deal breakers, but when some premium manufacturers struggle to offer a satisfactory service, it seems Renault has really thought hard about how it treats its customers.

Once you’ve bought a car, some brands leave you to your own devices, but I found the Renault staff keen to keep me informed of what was going on – which fits exactly with what our readers told us in Driver Power.

Renault Kadjar: second report

Mileage: 12,791Economy: 53.3mpg 

It’s mid-summer, yet we’ve decided to fit all-weather tyres to our Renault Kadjar. Why, you may ask? Well, tyre maker Michelin invited us to try a set of its new CrossClimate rubber, and with the Kadjar having racked up over 12,000 miles in six months under my stewardship, it made perfect sense for them to be fitted to the Renault for a prolonged test.

So we headed to Michelin’s UK technical centre in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, where the new set of tyres was fitted by technical manager Jamie McWhir.

These CrossClimate tyres fill a gap between standard rubber and a full winter tyre. They feature multiple grooves like a winter tyre, but the rubber compound isn’t as soft, so they don’t wear as quickly if you’re using them in warm weather.

It’s a compromise for drivers who can’t afford to swap between winter and summer tyres each season, and I’ve found them to be pretty good so far.

I’ve noticed that there’s a softer edge to the Kadjar’s ride as a result of fitting the CrossClimate tyres, but they don’t have that spongy feel that you get with conventional winter tyres. The handling has been softened off, and you notice more movement from the car in corners, but then I’ve found that’s not really what the Kadjar is about, and the tyres have helped it deliver even better comfort and refinement.

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However, there hasn’t been any really warm weather to test the limits of the CrossClimates’ ability, and the extra grooves have boosted grip in what has turned out to be a soaking summer so far.

Michelin offers CrossClimate tyres in a variety of sizes, and a set of four for the Kadjar on our car’s emissions-friendly 17-inch wheels costs £444. They’re well worth investing in if you want an all-weather tyre that delivers a good mix of warm weather grip and cold weather security.

Another addition we’ve made to the Kadjar is a set of roof bars. Renault’s official accessory set cost £165, and they’re a piece of cake to install on the standard roof rails. They’re lockable, and they’ve come in pretty handy, as I used them to fit a roof box to the car for a recent camping holiday. It meant my wife, two daughters and dog could all go away and we still had plenty of space to relax on the journey there and back.

As it turns out, the holiday was a bit of a washout, but at least we could stuff all of our wet items back in the roof box, rather than getting the cabin dirty. One issue with the roof bars is the extra wind noise they generate at motorway speeds – so much so that it becomes hard to hold a conversation – although at least they don’t whistle, like the set I fitted to a Kia Sportage a few years ago.

What’s surprising is that fuel economy hasn’t been affected by the roof bars. Maybe it’s because the bars are oval shaped and the end caps are rounded to help air flow over the car, but we’re returning 53.3mpg now the 1.5 dCi diesel has loosened up. This is around 5mpg better than we were managing before our first report, and is pretty impressive for such a large car.

When I’m driving the Kadjar for work, the diesel engine is powerful enough for my needs, but I have found that the 1.5 dCi feels a bit sluggish with a full complement of passengers on board. Still, the payoff is that the Kadjar is very comfortable, and the new tyres have only made the car more relaxing to drive than ever.

Renault Kadjar: first report

How will the new Renault Kadjar crossover fare as it joins our fleet?

Mileage: 4,867Economy: 47.3mpg

You only have to step out on your local high street to see how successful the crossover class has become. Cars like the Nissan Qashqai have been at the forefront of the sales boom, so it was only a matter of time before manufacturing partner Renault also joined the party. It launched the Kadjar earlier this year, and now we’ve got the keys to our fleet example, we’re going to see how it measures up over the next 12 months.

I picked up our car from the firm’s flagship showroom, Renault London West, where salesman George Walker conducted the handover. Our car is a mid- spec Dynamique S Nav, and the first thing that strikes you is the £625 Flame Red paint. I’m glad it’s such a distinctive colour, as that means it’ll look great when I’m snapping it.

The rounded nose and tail mean the Kadjar doesn’t bear too much resemblance to its Nissan Qashqai cousin, while LED daytime running lights add a distinctive signature to the nose. Smooth curves around the door panels stop it looking too square and boxy as well. Aside from the paint, the only other option our car has is 17-inch Athena alloys. Dynamique S models get 19-inch Apollo wheels as standard, but the smaller rims are a no-cost option that help to reduce CO2 emissions from 103g/km to 99g/km.

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While I must admit that I prefer the look of the bigger wheels, colleagues who have driven the Kadjar on both sizes say that cruising comfort is a lot better on our car.

At the dealer, George talked me through Renault’s R-Link infotainment system. As I do a lot of motorway miles, it’s essential that I can stay in contact, and linking my phone to the R-Link set-up was a breeze. Not only does it handle calls, but you can get the system to read out text messages, too, and the standard TomTom navigation features live traffic alerts. These have been a godsend, and have helped me avoid nasty hold-ups on more than one occasion.

As you would expect, the Dynamique S is loaded with kit, including plenty of safety features. Lane departure is one particular highlight, although the system is a bit sensitive to white lines at the side of the road. On occasion, I’ve had the set-up warn me that I’m straying from my lane – via a bassy rumble through the speakers – when I’ve just been keeping left of the road to avoid oncoming traffic.

Aside from that niggle, the Kadjar has been impressive. There’s plenty of passenger space for my wife and kids, while the boot is big enough for my camera gear, or our dog. We’ve raided the accessories list and added an all-in-one liner for £125, so the boot itself remains clean while the protective sheet takes all the punishment. It features zip- up edges, so you can still use the 60:40 split rear seats, which are easily folded thanks to the levers in the boot sides.

We’ve gone for the 109bhp 1.5 dCi diesel, and I must admit, I’ve been pretty impressed with its performance. Considering its size, it feels reasonably punchy, although you do have to push it hard through the lower gears to make decent progress. Once you’re up to speed, it’s quiet, refined and tractable, and with those 17-inch wheels, makes the Kadjar a great motorway cruiser. Even better is the fact we’ve managed to return 47.3mpg since it first arrived on fleet.

Insurance quote (below) provided by AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old living in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

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