First Drive

2015 Renault Kadjar UK review

Renault's Nissan Qashqai rival gets loads of equipment, efficient engines and a practical interior, so promises to be one of the top choices in the class.

Words ByVicky Parrott

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Welcome to Renault’s take on the popular Nissan Qashqai – the equally intriguingly named Kadjar. Available with a 1.2-litre petrol, and 1.5 or 1.6-litre diesel engines – the latter offered with four- as well as two-wheel drive – the Renault Kadjar is a mid-sized family car that’s mostly SUV with a dash of swoopy hatchback styling recognisable from the smaller Renault Captur.

Seating is the usual five-seat layout (there’s no seven-seat version) and there are four trims to choose from. All versions come with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, although you can pay extra for a dual-clutch automatic gearbox on the 1.5 diesel.

So, it all looks quite similar to the Qashqai line-up, then. No surprise there given that the Kadjar shares its key mechanical parts with the Nissan. The Renault even looks similarly priced at first glance, but the better equipment offered on the Kadjar means you can get a model with sat-nav and some luxury comforts for around Β£2000 less than the cheapest equivalent Qashqai model with nav. Given that the Renault matches the Nissan's emissions, it promises to be cheaper for company car tax on a spec-for-spec basis, too.

What’s the 2015 Renault Kadjar like to drive?

Relaxed and unflappable, which is precisely what most buyers will want. We drove the 1.2 petrol and 1.6 diesel, but it’s worth avoiding the petrol if you value sprightly performance. While it’s smooth-revving and fine to drive in town, its quite flat at low revs, so you have to work the engine hard to make snappy progress.

The 1.6 diesel is a better bet for motorway drivers – it picks up more eagerly from low revs, delivering a more satisfying surge of power and offering a flexible response when you need it.

The Kadjar is no sports SUV but its light steering makes it easy to place precisely, and body lean isn’t overly troublesome even through fast corners. Don't bother with the four-wheel-drive version unless you regularly struggle with icy weather, as in all other conditions the front-wheel-drive car will prove to be just as secure. It's a shame that the slightly sharp initial brake response can make smooth stopping a bit tricky, but generally the Kadjar is easy to drive smoothly.

Ride comfort is mostly fine, even on the UK's crumbling roads where we tried a left-hand-drive 1.6 diesel with 19in wheels. Bigger bumps are soaked up well, and at low speeds the ride is never too unsettled. However, the Kadjar isn't quite as settled as the rival Nissan Qashqai over broken surfaces.

Refinement is good in the petrol Kadjar, but the diesel engine is a bit clattery even under moderate acceleration, and tyre noise (especially on bigger wheeled versions) is more intrusive in the Kadjar than the Qashqai.

What’s the 2015 Renault Kadjar like inside?

The Kadjar represents a huge step forward in interior quality for Renault. The switchgear is well damped, looks good and is straightforward to use, while most of the dashboard finish is soft-touch and nicely textured. However, not so impressive is the fact that entry-level models don’t get a leather steering wheel.

The broad driver’s seat is comfortable, and there’s plenty of head and leg room even for very tall drivers, although those who go for top-spec Signature trim with its electric adjustability might wish the seat would drop a little lower. We'll have to try a right-hand-drive car before we can draw final conclusions about the driving position as a whole.

The colour touchscreen, which comes as standard with sat-nav on all but entry-level Expression+ trim, is a bit fiddly to use at times (particularly in more advanced settings) but it's bright and responds fairly quickly when you press the screen.

There’s loads of room in the back and the outer seats are comfortable, although the panoramic roof you get on top-spec models does eat into head room enough that it might bother tall passengers. A middle passenger will find the raised floor and flat seat base a bit uncomfortable, too.

The boot is a good size, and at 472 litres actually betters the Qashqai by 42 litres. It's a shame that you have to go for pricey Dynamique S to get the false boot floor that irons out the step in the load bay that the seats leave when folded. A high boot lip might make loading heavy items quite a chore, as well.

Should I buy one?

The Kadjar is very well priced, its interior quality isn't far off the Qashqai’s (in mid or high-spec trims, at least) and while not flawless, it’s more than spacious and versatile enough for most families. Resale values are predicted to be very competitive, Renault’s four-year warranty and roadside assistance pack adds further incentive, and company car users benefit from low tax rates. To top all that, PCP finance deals look set to be some of the best in the class.

Just avoid the entry-level trim, which misses out on some key equipment, and go for Dynamique Nav, which gets parking sensors, climate control, alloy wheels, a smarter interior finish, auto lights and wipers, and loads of safety kit, as well as sat-nav – all for a reasonable price.

Is it good enough to end the Qashqai’s reign? In the forms we've tried not quite, but until we drive the 1.5 diesel (likely to be the most popular engine), we can’t be sure. As it stands, the Kadjar should be near the very top of your shortlist.

What Car? says...

Rivals:

Nissan Qashqai

Kia Sportage

Renault Kadjar 1.6 dCi 130 2WD Dynamique Nav

Engine size 1.6-litre diesel

Price from Β£22,795

Power 129bhp

Torque 236lb ft

0-62mph 9.9 seconds

Top speed 118mph

Fuel economy 65.7mpg

CO2 113g/km

Renault Kadjar 1.6 dCi 130 4WD Dynamique Nav

Engine size 1.6-litre diesel

Price from Β£24,295

Power 129bhp

Torque 236lb ft

0-62mph 10.5 seconds

Top speed 118mph

Fuel economy 58.8mpg

CO2 126g/km

Renault Kadjar 1.2 TCe 130 Expression+

Engine size 1.2-litre turbo petrol

Price from Β£17,995

Power 129bhp

Torque 151lb ft

0-62mph 10.1 seconds

Top speed 119mph

Fuel economy 50.4mpg

CO2 126g/km