Review: Renault Kadjar leads the field of mid-sized SUVs

Carlton Boyce / 08 April 2016

Carlton Boyce reviews the super practical Kadjar which is Renault's attempt to challenge the Nissan Qashqai’s market dominance for mid-sized SUVs.



Score

9/10

Review

The mid-sized Sport Utility Vehicle, or SUV as it is more commonly known, is ubiquitous with more and more families coming to appreciate the advantages they give. 

The raised ride height not only gives better visibility, it also makes access easier; older drivers will appreciate sliding into, rather than dropping down onto, the seats while anyone who has to lean in to strap in a recalcitrant toddler will understand that a child that sits higher up is a child that is easier to wrangle into position without cricking your back.

They also look good, and their boxy, squared-off shape makes them super-practical and all are now available with only the front wheels driven, something that might belie their off-road styling cues but does make them much cheaper to buy and run (and nicer to drive, on the road at least…) than their all-wheel-drive siblings.

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Standing out in a saturated market

As a result, the market is saturated with them, all but guaranteeing that every prominent manufacturer will look to challenge the Nissan Qashqai’s market dominance. 

Renault's stab at the title is the Kadjar, a handsome car saddled with an odd name. Still, a daft name hasn’t harmed Vin Diesel’s career in any way, so I’m willing to cut the Renault some slack, for now, anyway.

Like Vin, the Kadjar is a good-looking thing, muscular and lithe and is clearly from the same mould as the Qashqai, which isn’t surprising as they share a common platform. 

While looks are inevitably a very subjective thing, I think it looks terrific. 

I especially love the flared wheel arches, which looked very retro and very Audi Quattro-esque, especially in the upmarket dark blue colour of my test car. I’m not sure that’s exactly the look the design studio was aiming for, but they never failed to raise a small smile and small smiles throughout the day help, don’t they?

The interior is similarly well thought out, being simple and intuitive. Such simplicity is almost always cleverer than it looks and so I don’t underestimate the attention to detail that has gone into it. As a result it is almost entire free of the sort of niggling irritations that jar disproportionately after a while. It also gives superb visibility for low-speed maneuvering and pulling out of oblique junctions.

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Spacious and well thought out

Interior space is very good, with enough legroom in the back for a lanky teenager to sit behind a tall driver. 

Boot space was also very good, and the ability to rotate the false floor through 90° made stowing dirty wellington boots a doddle, keeping them separate from clean coats. Again, it’s the little things that make a difference.

Like the automatic wipers and headlights, which work brilliantly and seamlessly and could give useful lessons to other car manufacturers who still can’t seem to get them quite right. 

And the key-fob, which stays in your pocket or handbag enabling you to avoid the hunt-the-key fumble that afflicts most cars. 

My almost-top-of-the-range Dynamique S Nav was astonishingly well equipped, yet never felt over-burdened with complexity. It’s that everyday usability again.

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Effortless drive

The 110bhp diesel engine isn’t the last word in power but it enables the 1,394kg Kadjar to lope along effortlessly, helped by a slick six-speed gearbox that is a pleasure to use. 

Overtaking is relatively easy and high-speed cruising is refined and quiet, making the Kadjar well suited to long distance jaunts as well as short-journey commutes and city pottering.

Mine was a two-wheel-drive, but four-wheel-drive versions are available with the more powerful diesel engines, which would make full use of the increased underbody clearance the SUV design endows. 

However, if your concerns are solely weather-related, you might be better off sticking with the front-wheel-drive car and fitting winter tyres instead. The Scandinavians, who know a thing or two about driving on snow and ice, would always rather drive a two-wheel-drive car that has been fitted with winter tyres than a four-wheel-drive without. 

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Nothing could detract from the enjoyment

The ride is very good, but as this isn’t a sports car the handling does feel a bit out-of-sorts when you are pushing on at anything more than a moderately imprudent speed. 

While I’m moaning, the Hill Hold function was sometimes slow to release, leading to the odd stall. 

And the key fob might have been super-useful and stylish but it didn’t have anywhere for me to hang a back door key, which seemed an odd omission. 

Yet these irritations were of a very minor nature, and didn’t prevent me from enjoying my week with the Kadjar.

Carwow reports that savings of up to £2,500 are available on the Kadjar, turning an already competitive price into a very good one. 

If you are looking for a Golf-sized SUV then you are now spoiled for choice, and my choice would be the Kadjar. Highly recommended.

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Competition

Best-in-class – The Renault Kadjar is even better to drive than the Nissan Qashqai and cheaper to buy, which makes it my choice. That it comes with an extra year’s warranty compared to the Nissan serves to consolidate its win.

The best of the rest – The Nissan Qashqai has been the best selling car in its class for ages, and you only achieve that sort of market dominance by being very good at what you do.

Left-field alternative - The Suzuki Vitara, especially in S format, has soared to the top of the class and is much cheaper than either the Kadjar or Qashqai. Worth a look, even if they aren’t necessarily natural rivals.

For more car reviews and driving tips, browse our motoring articles.


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Renault Kadjar vital statistics

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.