We drive the range-topping version of Renault's Nissan Qashqai rival in the UK for the first time

What is it?

The Renault Kadjar has got one over on many of its rivals. While there are plenty of Nissan Qashqai copies out there, only the Renault is actually based on Nissan’s winning formula, sharing the Qashqai’s engines and platform. On top of this, the Renault is cheaper to buy, and some would say has a touch more pizzazz; we even know that it drives with reasonable composure from our first test of the car in Europe.  

In short, this feels like a race already won, but stranger things have been known than for a seeming dead-cert to fall short. Here, we’ve got the front-wheel-drive Renault Kadjar 1.6 dCi 130 (on-demand four-wheel drive is a £1500 option) in the UK, to find out if it really could topple its sibling’s reign over this big-selling class.

What's it like?

Absolutely fit for purpose. The diesel engine has suitable vigour in the mid-range, so while it’s a bit flat at low revs and delivers a noticeable surge as the turbo kicks in, you still don’t have to row through the gears all the time to get satisfactory pace.

Sling it in to a corner and the Kadjar hangs on gamely and with more resistance to understeer than you’d get in most rivals, while the fairly heavy steering remains consistently weighted even with cornering load applied. There is quite a bit of body roll, but, even so, the Kadjar is sure-footed and predictable enough that you can enjoy hustling it if you wish.

More importantly for most looking to buy in this class, it’s fairly comfortable around town. The suspension errs on the soft and wallowy side, so initial bump absorption is good even on the standard 19in wheels of this top-spec car, but surface patina and high-frequency undulations can make it shudder and fidget subtly. It’s not uncomfortable, even over scruffy town roads, but smaller wheels would undoubtedly improve matters further.

Perhaps more irritating is the sharp initial brake response, which can make smooth stopping more of an exercise in concentration than it should be. There's also a stodgy-feeling gearshift, and rather more diesel dirge creeping into the cabin than is ideal.

Still, overall the Kadjar is an easy and not unpleasant thing to drive, while its cabin is one of the best in class. There are a few questionable materials dotted around  - we’re not convinced by the matt dash fascia – but it generally feels well put together, and substantially better than any other current Renault.

The standard colour screen and sat-nav system is mostly easy to use, and – in this top-spec model - is fully specced with all the radio and connectivity functions you’d want. There's a Bose sound system with subwoofer, synthetic leather upholstery, panoramic glass roof and LED headlights.

On top of that, you get the full suite of safety kit, including lane-departure assist, front and rear parking sensors and traffic sign recognition. You’re not going to need to add anything, that’s for sure.

The Kadjar is equally impressive for space and practicality, with loads of room for those in the front and back, and a boot that betters the Qashqai for outright capacity and gets the same clever boot floor that can be raised, lowered, or used as a divider to keep your stuff from rolling around.  

Back to top

Should I buy one?

Well, it could be worth waiting until we’ve driven a proper UK model (rather than this left-hand drive car) before handing over your deposit, just to be sure that the driving position hasn’t been horribly mangled in the conversion to right-hand drive.

There’s also the question of whether the cheaper 1.5 diesel model might be worth considering - watch this space for a road test later this year - and new competition in the shape of the Hyundai Tucson to consider. However, it’s very likely that the Kadjar will be just as comfortable to sit in as the Qashqai, and at that point there’s very little not to like.

We’d suggest you save some money and go for the less lavish-feeling but still well-equipped Dynamique or Dynamique S models, but even this jazzed-up trim is good value given the equipment involved. It's really decent to drive and will be easy to live with in every other respect.

PCP finance deals also look seriously keen, so you’ll likely be saving hundreds, if not thousands, over a Qashqai however you’re buying. On evidence of this early UK drive, at least, we'd save the money and take the Renault. 

Renault Kadjar 1.6 dCi 130 Signature Nav

Location: SurreyOn sale: Now; Price £24,795; Engine 4 cyls, 1598cc, turbodiesel; Power 129bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 236lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1415kg; Top speed 118mph; 0 62mph 9.9sec; Economy 65.7mpg; CO2 rating & BIK tax band 113g/km / 20%

Join the debate

Add a comment…
Shane_2005 17 September 2015

I'm currently in France and

I'm currently in France and these are everywhere on the motorways. As is the new Espace in Initiale trim. Look stunning in the flesh.
scotty5 17 September 2015

New best in class?

I'm in the market for such a car, so close to buying a Kadjar 1.5 Signature in metallic. My thoughts:

Good wrote:

Just about everything. Avg MPG was more than acceptable on test drive (55mpg), 1.6 plenty powerful for me, smooth and quiet, insurance costs were very good - quoted cheaper than to insure Focus. Lots of equipment as std. Signature - wants for nothing.

the not so good wrote:

1.6 is £1000 more than 1.5 - worth it? Not in my book but couldn't find anyone with a 1.5 to test drive. Deliveries not until mid December. Plastics not as bad as I was led to believe apart from trim surrounding air vents - the slightest touch which produced horrible squeeks... if that's what the showroom car is like! Admittedly the Dynamique S test car didn't rattle. Only other complaints were a bonnet that raises at the edges making judging narrow gaps hard (would obviously get used to this over time), slightly rubbery gear change.

Overall I really liked the Kadjar and if it were not for finding an HR-V with decent discount, would have bought it. IMO superior to Qashqai in nearly every area (Qashqai rides rougher road surfaces better - prob down to smaller wheels). I'd be really happy owning a Kadjar and that's from someone who dislikes Renault cars. As for pricing, I normally pay cash but looked at other finance options. Weirdly the Nissan PCP worked out better (same interest rates, same finance house too), but still too expensive an option for me. Renault also offering what I thought was a great finance deal. Managed to get dealer down to £22000 for a 1.5 Signature in metallic 4yr HP 0%Apr 40% deposit. Was very tempted.

xxxx 17 September 2015

Seat comfort versus handling on the limits

"Sling it in to a corner and the Kadjar hangs on gamely and with more resistance to understeer than you’d get in most rivals" yes but is the seat comfortable. I now do alot of driving and one thing that's important above handling on the limits is, 'was the seat comfortable enough for the tester for all day driving'!