What is it?
‘'Blimey, that’s a massive Renault badge, and what the heck is the name all about?'’ are likely to be the first things to cross your mind when you see the new Renault Kadjar. According to the French car maker, the name is a messy chopping and merging of the words quad and jaillir, which means ‘to emerge quickly’ in French.
Nope, we’re none the wiser, either, but once you’ve got over the weird name (and everybody got over Nissan Qashqai eventually), the Kadjar has lots of promise.
The Kadjar is based on the same platform as the Qashqai and is available with a 129bhp 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine or a choice of 109bhp 1.5-litre or 128bhp 1.6-litre diesels, the latter of which can be had with four-wheel drive.
It’s priced to undercut key competition, particularly given the generous spec that includes sat-nav and a colour touchscreen, so it’s primed to take on the big-selling family crossovers such as the Nissan, the Kia Sportage and Volkswagen Tiguan.
In fact, going by the list price you’ll pay more than £2000 less for a Kadjar with sat-nav than you will for a similarly equipped Nissan Qashqai.
What's it like?
It’s exactly what it needs to be: composed, predictable and easy to drive smoothly. It’s no fireball, of course, but the steering has a decent bite to it even around the dead-ahead, and it builds weight progressively so you don’t have the unpleasantly vague, woolly-feeling steering of some family-orientated Renaults.
The 1.6-litre diesel is a little laggy lower down the rev range but it does deliver a decent amount of torque, which builds from just above 1500rpm, and it keeps pulling strongly through the mid-range. The four-wheel drive system also stops any scrappy torque steer or wheelspin, making it easy to deploy what's on offer.
The Kadjar's drivetrain is an on-demand set-up that can send anything up to 50% of drive to the rear wheels when deemed necessary, and it can be locked into permanent 50/50 four-wheel-drive mode, or front-drive only, should you get bored of Auto mode doing all that for you.
Most of the time it’s in front-wheel drive, and even when power has been diverted to the back end you’ll still get a gentle wash of understeer if you take a corner aggressively, but generally it remains stoically on line even over some fast gravel roads we tried.
Mind you, for all the effectiveness of four-wheel drive, we had a dabble in a front-wheel-drive 1.2 petrol car (quiet, smooth, but needs revving) which is just as composed on road. Your local road or weather conditions will need to really warrant the extra £1500 expense of four-wheel drive, as it’s probably completely unnecessary for most buyers looking at this sort of vehicle. The front-wheel-drive 1.6-litre diesel even tows the same 1800kg max trailer weight as this 4WD model, too.
We have some reservations about the ride comfort, which on 19in alloys of our test car was pretty brittle at low speeds, but smaller wheels could make a big difference and the Kadjar is smooth and unflustered over awkward cambers and undulations.