FRENCH FLAVOUR: Three months in to our long term Renault Captur road test and the good looker reveals its pros and cons.
FRENCH FLAVOUR: Three months in to our long term Renault Captur road test and the good looker reveals its pros and cons. Iain Curry

Renault Captur long term review #3

SMALL SUVs are so hot right now.

To date this year we Aussies have bought 94,000 of the things, up a whopping 30% over this time last year.

Of course, much of this is down to the number of small SUVs launched on our market in 2014 and 2015, the manufacturers responding to trends and flooding the country with them, as you'd expect.

All this without our number one brand Toyota coming to the small SUV party. Yet.

It makes me feel very in vogue of course, cruising around as I am in our little Renault Captur Dynamique small SUV long termer.

But I don't see many others on the road. Despite the segment being red hot, if the Aussie sales figures are anything to go by we haven't warmed to the funky Frenchie as perhaps Renault would have hoped.

Expectations, with good reason, should have been high. In the first quarter of 2015, Europe's top selling small SUV, by some margin, was the Captur. But the love affair hasn't quite extended down under.

Renault Captur long term test car. Photo: Iain Curry / Sunshine Coast Daily
Renault Captur long term test car. Photo: Iain Curry / Sunshine Coast Daily Iain Curry

This year our small SUV market is led by Hyundai's ix35, followed by the Mitsubishi ASX, Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V.

These vehicles are in relation cheaper in Australia than in Europe (thanks in part to our free trade agreement with Japan), explaining the trend somewhat.

But it doesn't explain why the Renault is so far behind. We can't look at the Captur's sales figures in 2015 as a whole because it only went on sale in early February, so looking at this month's alone it has managed just a 1.4% market share with 119 sales - down from a 2.2% market share in September and 1.6% in August.

Amusingly, in October, Aussies bought twice as many Ford EcoSport SUVs as they did Capturs - and the EcoSport is pretty bloody ordinary.

The Captur deserves better in my mind, as I still find it a lovely thing to behold in the metal, no doubt a huge factor helping its popularity in Europe.

NOT GREAT: Dash-top storage bin feels a bit cheap and plastic, and struggles to open or close with any ease.
NOT GREAT: Dash-top storage bin feels a bit cheap and plastic, and struggles to open or close with any ease. Iain Curry

But have I fallen in love with it? Still not I'm afraid. Its sluggish nature doesn't give it that buzziness around town that I feel small SUVs need. Delayed engine response has been my bugbear from day one and nothing has changed. Some steering wheel paddles to keep the revs up easily around town would work wonders on it.

While we're on the subject of tardiness, the rear view camera takes an age to waken up. I like to have the ignition on, reverse engaged and moving backwards swiftly (busy man, you see), but the Captur's screen only boots up and shows the rear view by the time I've finished reversing and am on my way. Maybe the French prefer a slower pace of life.

Yet the Captur often charms with its ease of use. The sliding rear seats came into their own when picking up relations and their baggage from the airport (three large cases swallowed), and highway cruising is cosseting, effortless and enjoyable.

Fuel economy this month has also improved from 6.5litres/100km down to 6.3litres, and with fuel prices staying low, I filled a tank with E10 (95 octane) for a shade over $40. Happy with that. But I'd happily sacrifice some economy for a bit of performance.

SMART STUFF: Renault Captur Dynamique features useful sliding rear seats to maximise either boot space or rear leg room.
SMART STUFF: Renault Captur Dynamique features useful sliding rear seats to maximise either boot space or rear leg room. Iain Curry

Vital statistics

Model: Renault Captur Dynamique TCe 120.

Price as tested: $30,280.

Kilometres this month: 1821km.

Fuel economy this month: 6.3litres/100km.

The good: Comfortable ride and decent steering and cornering balance, impressive combined fuel economy, decent specification, nice looking thing.

The not so good: Acceleration is tardy, smallish size means two child seats compromise front seat positions, bluetooth is sketchy.


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