French cars— they’re as likely to confound as they are to delight. Founded in 1899 as Société Renault Frères by Louis Renault and his brothers Marcel and Fernand, Renault has done its share of each over more than a century of car manufacturing. Born of brother Louis’s engineering chops, and the business tutelage the Renault’s received working for the family textile firm, they were avid racers from the beginning, and at a steep cost— Marcel Renault perished in an accident during the 1903 Paris-Madrid race, after which his brother Louis never raced again.
The ups and downs have continued ever since— at one point in 1984, Renault was hemorrhaging more than one billion francs a month. But for all their trials, this company always seems to come back stronger. With the Captur, Renault is intent on capturing a piece of the urban crossover market, and the French carmaker is taking three crucial steps to do it, by combining styling and driving position of a premium SUV, the interior space and modularity of an MPV, and the agility and driving enjoyment of a compact saloon. Sound like a tall order? We took the new Captur out on the road in Dubai to find out.
The first thing you notice, approaching the Captur with fob in hand, is that it evinces a bold style that’s neither flashy, or ostentatious, but still attractive to the eye. Its robust, status-enhancing look takes its inspiration from the original Captur concept. The lines of this new crossover are inviting and almost optimistic, while the forward position of its steeply-raked windscreen gives it a ready-to-run crouch. With raised ground clearance, large-diameter wheels and sill guards, the Captur appears ready for our region’s varied terrain. There’s no 4WD version on offer, but at the top of the range Renault does offer the Grip Xtend pack, with its traction control system designed to improve grip on slippery surfaces.
Aesthetically, one of the Captur’s greatest strengths is its available two-tone color scheme which produces a lovely contrast between the roof and pillars and the rest of the body work, and to our mind represents the most pleasing iteration of the car. Despite its compact footprint, the Captur feels relatively accommodating inside, although long-legged passengers may wish to avoid the rear seats. Its well appointed cabin is warm and relaxing, and there are a number of inspired interior colour combinations on offer. With its high-up driving position, large boot, modular interior and sundry stowage solutions, the Captur ticks many of the boxes required by SUV drivers, without ever feeling too massive.
Renault is making sure that the Captur offers plenty of modern features, including hands-free entry, hill start assist and rear parking sensors. For a bit more, you can spec Renault R-Link touchscreen multimedia tablet, plus a system that comprises six loudspeakers, Bluetooth connectivity, audio-streaming and Arkamys hi-fi sound. With the range-topping Signature Nav model you get partial leather and, er, heated front seats for those chilly desert mornings.
Based on the same platform as New Clio, the Captur builds on some of Renault’s best driving dynamics, from road holding to engine response and relatively agile handling. The car also offers best-in-class fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, starting from as low as 96g/km.
The Turbo is smooth and almost noiseless, and pairs effortlessly with the dual clutch transmission, making it a more than decent daily driver. No, it’s not particularly sporty, doing the 0-100 dash in more than 10 seconds, but it does well at the pump, something more and more relevant here in the GCC.
The Captur is a bold little crossover that has an appealing French flair sure to wow a certain segment of perspective buyers. Add in its overall capability and its excellent efficiency, and the Captur is well worth a look in its segment.