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Engine options, speed, acceleration and refinement

First impressions of the Qashqai tended to revolve around how brilliantly refined Nissan had made it on the road; first impressions of the Kadjar tend to strain in the opposite direction. The diesel engine’s discordant voice seems prominent at virtually every stage, corrupting almost immediately the notion that the Renault might live up to its sibling’s high standard of isolation.

Beneath the noise, the 1.5-litre engine is a somewhat inconsistent performer, its shortcomings further highlighted by the subsequent evolution of a superior generation of small oil-burners – not least that found in the Honda HR-V we tested.

The Kadjar reaches 90mph after 35.4secs, almost 11 seconds slower than a Honda CR-V

The Kadjar’s worst failing, exacerbated by its gearing, is a reluctance to rev below the point at which the turbo spins into life to yield the engine’s modest 192lb ft. At low speeds, in any gear above first, it hacks and grumbles discontentedly below 2000rpm. That’s not unheard of in a diesel, but it’s bewildering nevertheless when merely being asked to accelerate from 30-50mph in fifth – an odyssey that took almost six seconds longer here than it did in the Honda.

That stuttering low-rev intransigence can be frustrating – but in truth it’s easily avoided. Drive with even a hint of purpose and the Kadjar progresses more keenly, its clamorous, short-lived, 850rpm-wide band of peak tug usually sufficient to see you smartly up the road. Exploit this thin seam of enthusiasm and the car is responsive enough, probably to the fulfilment of most buyers’ expectations.

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This is fortunate, because much as there isn’t anything helpful below the onset of peak twist, there isn’t anything gratifying beyond it, either. The Kadjar limped to 60mph from rest in 14.5sec at Millbrook. Even allowing for the poor weather and a double helping of well-fed road testers, that’s disappointingly shy of Renault’s claim and even our modest expectations.

But being almost four seconds adrift of the HR-V from 30-70mph isn’t really good enough. Less crucial, perhaps, than the fuel economy figure of 51.6mpg that we averaged in testing, but reason enough for some to automatically opt for the burlier 1.6 dCi