Renault Kadjar SUV (2018 - ) review
The Kadjar is Renault’s assault on the fashionable midsize SUV market, and it shares many of its mechanicals with the current class best-seller, the Nissan Qashqai. That’s a pretty encouraging start…
Interested in buying a Renault Kadjar?
How good does it look?
Being so closely related to the Nissan Qashqai, it’s no surprise the Kadjar has very similar proportions to its sister car. The Renault does have plenty of its own character, though. The big V-shaped grille is a design cue shared with numerous Renault models, and the rear end has more than a hint of Clio about it, with short-strip tail lights and curvy haunches.
The entry-level Play model comes with alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, front fog lamps and tinted windows, while the Iconic car comes with bigger wheels, roof rails and a ‘sharkfin’ radio aerial. The S-Edition and GT-Line cars mark themselves out with all-LED headlamps, LED foglamps and grey skid plates front and rear for a more rugged look.
What's the interior like?
Climb into the Kadjar, and you’ll experience a mixture of positives and negatives. The interior design looks pretty sophisticated and there are some nice touchy-feely surfaces on display, but some of the other panels feel disappointingly hard and scratchy, while the dark colour scheme adds to a slightly dour environment. Overall, it doesn’t feel as posh as the Qashqai, let alone other mid-size SUVs that sit at the posher end of the spectrum.
The standard touchscreen infotainment system isn’t the most intuitive you’ll ever use, either, although you do get more used to it as time goes on. However, the dated graphics, small-onscreen icons and ambiguous sat-nav instructions (where nav is fitted from Iconic trim and above) aren’t things that improve over time. However, the seats are very supportive and comfortable, and you get a great view out in all directions.
How practical is it?
Like the Qashqai, the Kadjar has a cabin that is very family-friendly. All five seats have generous head and legroom, the boot is an impressive size, and there’s a false boot floor that lets you open up more capacity or level out the steps in the load area, depending on your needs. What’s more, the rear seats fold perfectly flat, which helps enormously when you’re carrying big loads.
What's it like to drive?
Unsurprisingly, the Kadjar behaves very much like its sister car on the road, and that’s a very good thing. It has a really good mix of dynamic abilities, blending stable, secure and controlled handling with a comfortable and cosseting ride. The steering is the only real weak point: it has a really detached, artificial feel and the weighting is really inconsistent. It’s always very light, though, which is good for parking, but not so good when you’re travelling at higher speeds.
Most versions have front-wheel drive, but four-wheel drive can be specified if you wish. However, we wouldn’t bother unless you regularly drive in snow or mud, because it’ll make your Kadjar way more costly to buy and run.
How powerful is it?
In the fullness of time, the Kadjar will be offered with a choice of four engines: two petrol and two diesel. The diesels comprise a 1.5-litre unit with 115 horsepower and a 1.7 with 150 horsepower, but we haven’t had the chance to try either as of yet.
We have had a shot in both the petrols, though, which are turbocharged 1.3s with either 140 or 160 horsepower. In truth, the entry-level unit is all you need. It delivers performance that’s brisk, sprightly and eager, and it’s impressively smooth and quiet, even when you rev it to its limits. The six-speed manual gearshift is also considerably smoother than in your average Renault, while the optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox slushes through gears smoothly and reasonably briskly, causing virtually no hold-ups in your progress. You’ll really struggle to detect any real performance advantage from the higher powered unit (which is only available with the manual ‘box), so we’d save the extra money it costs you to buy.
How much will it cost me?
The Kadjar looks fairly even with its main competitors – including the Nissan Qashqai, Skoda Karoq, Seat Ateca and Peugeot 3008 – on price, so while it doesn’t save you much, it won’t cost you much more, either.
However, it’s a shade less efficient than some of its rivals version-for-version, so you might well end up spending more at the pumps and forking out more of your hard-earned in taxes. Resale values don’t look quite as strong as those of some rivals, either, so overall, the Kadjar might well end up costing you more than its rivals will long-term.
How reliable is it?
Renault currently sits well into the top half of Warranty Direct’s manufacturer rankings, while Nissan places a lot further up. Make of that what you will. However, that fact the two cars are built in entirely different factories in entirely different countries could well mean there might be a big difference in how they rate for reliability. Of slight concern is JD Power's Vehicle Dependability Study, which offers more recent data than Warranty Direct, and saw Renault score slightly below average for the industry, albeit only just.
How safe is it?
All Kadjars, including the entry-level Play model, come with standard safety kit, including six airbags, two Isofix child seat mounting points and electronic stability control. From then on, the amount of safety kit you get depends on which version you pick.
Iconic trim adds lane departure warning for some extra assistance and, while S-Edition cars don’t add anything else to the safety roster, GT-Line trim adds automatic emergency braking and a blind spot warning system. Now, these important features – the former being especially so – are fitted to many rivals as standard across the board. Not only is this rather stingy on Renault’s part, we also suspect it’ll harm the car’s chances of matching its predecessor’s five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.
How much equipment do I get?
The entry-level Play model gets a very decent amount of luxury kit, including automatic climate control, rear parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers, cruise control, a synthetic leather steering wheel, ambient interior lighting and a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with full smartphone integration.
Iconic trim upgrades this system to incorporate sat-nav and a rear parking camera, and also adds keyless entry and start, front parking sensors, plus air vents and a couple of USB chargers for those in the back seats.
The S-Edition adds its unique blue-stitched upholstery along with a panoramic sunroof and height adjustment for the front passenger seat, while the range-topping GT-Line car gets full leather upholstery, heated front seats, hands-free parking and exterior puddle lamps.
Because you like the idea of a Nissan Qashqai, but you don’t like how common that car has become. Or maybe just because you prefer the way that Renault’s version looks. The Kadjar gives you most of the same virtues as the best-selling Nissan – a great driving experience and classy and functional cabin, to name but two – but with a different look and character.