What is it?
Renault's answer to the Qashqai. In the wake of the success of Nissan’s crossover, the Qashqai, Renault is, with the help of its Japanese partner, looking to cash in with this, its own C-segment SUV called the Kadjar.
If you think there’s more than a little similarity between the two crossovers, you’d be right. Not that Renault is keen to accept they look similar. It says 95% of the visible parts are different, but they're underpinned by the same platform, while the model has the same engine line-up as the Qashqai and shares around 60% of its components.
However, if not identical, they are at least very similar, while the Kadjar is usefully cheaper than the Qashqai.
We’ve driven the 1.2-litre petrol and 1.6-litre diesel, but this is the first time we’ve got our hands on the 1.5-litre diesel. It’s slower but more frugal than either of them and looks set to be the most popular engine in the line-up, despite the fact that, unlike the 1.6, it's not available with four-wheel drive.
The Qashqai has long been the class-leading crossover, but this entry-level diesel version of the Kadjar could be the one that lands the sucker punch and finally topples the Nissan from its perch.
What's it like?
If you’re after a car in the family crossover market, then space, comfort and fuel economy are probably high on your agenda. On these measures, the Kadjar won't disappoint you. Its 527-litre boot will easily swallow the family’s kit, while its roomy cabin means four adults will be comfortable on long journeys.
This is our first experience of a right-hand drive Kadjar and, fortunately, the driving position hasn't been mangled in the transition from left-hand drive. The high seating position gives the same good view of the road, and the car is just as comfortable to sit in.
A full five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, supported by plenty of safety features, should further reassure family buyers. The car's infotainment offering is fairly strong, too. In the context of the dashboard, the system's 7.0in display looks a little on the small side but it’s quick to respond and easy to use. Meanwhile, quality feels generally good throughout the interior. It doesn't feel quite up there with the Qashqai, but then the Kadjar is cheaper after all.
Dynamique S Nav trim is generously specced with sat-nav, front and rear parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers, and dual-zone climate control. It’s a more sensible choice than the luxurious, but pricey, range-topping Signature Nav, which commands a £1200 premium.
However, although it's not new, the engine is the game-changer here. The 1.5-litre diesel is the same one from the Qashqai line-up, and is the sweet spot in the Kadjar range. It may not offer jaw-dropping performance but will save buyers money. With CO2 emissions dipping below 100g/km and claimed economy of 74.3mpg, it's a great option for company car users. Private buyers needn’t feel left out, either, their wallets benefiting from the engine's impressive fuel economy and the model's competitive resale values at three years and 60,000 miles.
It’s worth noting that the 19in alloys that are standard on Dynamique S Nav trim raise CO2 emissions to 103g/km, while fuel economy falls slightly to 72.4mpg. Given that the ride can be a touch choppy (if never harsh enough to be uncomfortable) on these big wheels, it makes sense to save fuel and improve ride comfort by opting for the smaller 17in wheels that you can specify as an alternative. The Kadjar rides more quietly on these smaller wheels, too. There is some road and engine noise but not so much that you have to raise your voice to be heard at a fast cruise on the motorway.
Despite its modest 1.5-litre capacity, the engine is powerful enough for spirited overtaking on country roads. It won’t have any trouble hauling a fully laden Kadjar up to motorway speeds, but it does require a little more work than the bigger 1.6-litre if you want to make quick progress. It's a fair trade-off for its lower price and running costs.
The steering is not particularly engaging but it is accurate. There’s some body roll in corners but, considering the Kadjar’s beefy proportions, it's well controlled .
Should I buy one?
Renault’s crossover is good to drive, spacious and efficient. Add class-leading residuals and a price that undercuts a similarly specified Qashqai by more than £2000, and you have a crossover that should have the Nissan quaking on its tyres.
This 1.5-litre Kadjar embodies everything that's good about the Qashqai, and is cheaper into the bargain. We’ll be pitting both of them against each other to discover which is the true class leader but, on the face of it, it looks like you’d be better off saving the cash and going for the Renault.
2015 Renault Kadjar 1.5 dCi 110 Dynamique S Nav
Location: Darlington; On sale: Now; Price £22,395; Engine 4 cyls, 1461cc, diesel; Power 109bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 192lb ft at 1750rpm; Kerb weight 1394kg; Gearbox 6-spd manual; 0-62mph 11.9sec; Top Speed 113mph; Economy 72.4mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 103g/km, 18%