Renault is a brand which sails under a lot of radars, but I think it deserves to have more buyer’s bums on seats, if only for a test drive.

Captur is Renault’s baby SUV and is built on the same platform as the Clio (and the unlovable Nissan Juke).

The 88kw/190Nm 4 cylinder turbo petrol engine drives the front wheels via a 6 speed DCT (dual clutch transmission). The latter was a bit grabby, but more about that later.

There are two models in the range. Intens, and Zen. Intens is the top model.

it comes with oodles of features like LED auto headlights, auto wipers, blind spot monitoring and keyless entry/start. It also comes with Walk-away locking, by far my favourite feature. Once you learn to trust it, it is invaluable. The key can remain secreted about your person for the duration. You simply close the door and walk away with a slightly supercilious grin on your pus.

The exterior styling chunkier than I’d like, but seems to look much better after you drive it. It’s funny how that works.

The cheeky (and somewhat polarising) exterior looks more like a high-set hatchback, as most of the baby SUVs do. The two tone bodywork has the neat effect of slimming down the slightly chunky profile, and I like that.

There is a small rubber button on the door handle to unlock the doors, and can also be used to lock the car, if you don’t trust the walk-away feature. Naturally you can use the key fob buttons if you prefer. There are choices galore. Gone are the days of sticking a key in a hole while standing in the pouring rain.

Once inside, you quickly get comfy in the leather seats. Height and reach adjustable steering, and a height adjustable steering wheel create an ideal driving position.

We’ve demonstrated the automated parking feature in the Megane GT here:

It get’s you in to most parking spaces, and even gets you out of a parallel space. It is surprisingly good at what it does, but most times I prefer doing it myself. The instruments are all within easy reach, but the Cruise control/speed limiter switch on the centre console, would be better placed on the steering wheel with the rest of their controls.

That part of the design, while adding a touch of French flair, drives me nuts.

The audio/phone controls are on a flat stalk behind the steering wheel. Although they are easy to use if you know where they are, they are poorly placed if you don’t know which button does what. They’re obscured from view unless you’re going around a corner. It seems silly, unnecessary, and out of step with the rest of the industry.

The centre stack has a high quality LCD touch screen. Although it has many attributes including Android Auto, there is no Apple CarPlay, so Iphone users have no phone mirroring. It is a dreadful oversight in my opinion given how many Apple users there are.

This is because R-Link 1 is not compatible with CarPlay, but models such as Megane and Koleos have R-Link 2 which will mirror both phone platforms. Koleos was upgraded last year to R-Link 2, so fingers crossed the same will happen with Captur.

Our car had an audio upgrade with Bose speakers. The sound was fabulous, and I had to keep reminding myself that I was in a car costing a sensation over $33,000 driveaway.

Driver instruments and readouts are clear and easy to use. There is a neat digital speedo centre stage, flanked by other driver info either side.

The LED cabin lighting creates a discrete and calming ambience at night, and feels incredibly expensive and luxurious.

Mel Cross, Renault’s PR guru and chief spokesperson, says it I all about adding value without increasing the purchase price.

I was surprised to see lots and lots of absolutely no gear paddles on the steering wheel, but they won’t be missed. The gear lever can be moved to the left if manual gear selection is more your style. This isn’t the kind of car where that really matters anyway. It is a sports activity vehicle, not a sports car.

Having said that, the handling, steering, and ride, are superb.

At low speeds, the DCT can be a bit “grabby” as the clutches grab and release, then grab and release again. You get used to it quickly, but it requires a bit of extra concentration. Low speed maneuvering in to car parks takes a little practice. As annoying as it is, it isn’t a deal breaker.

Steering feels delightfully direct. Clever calibrations allow the system to simulate a decent bit of feel, but still manage to transmit fairly accurately what the car, road, and mechanicals, are doing.

If there are a lot of speed and redlight cameras around your place, you might want to investigate how to turn off the bings and bongs. They’ll drive you potty. Meant to protect you against men in smart blue uniforms coming and taking away your driving rights, it only serves to annoy.

I mentioned earlier that there were things in common with Nissan’s Juke, and one of them is the 1.2 engine. It is an absolute peach. It spins happily and freely, and feels like it wants to go harder, such is the smoothness.

I’m glad Renault didn’t go down the 3-cylinder route. The only time I like triples is in a lusty bike where the throaty rasp can be fully appreciated.

We did a short Highway drive, and lots of city chores, and I have to say Captur was just one surprise after another. It was nippy as long as you allowed the turbo to spool up, and the space was amazing.

This car will be required to haul humans and their sundry gear around, and that it does very well. The rear space is completely flat with the seats folded down. I folded my trusty Ebike, which fitted in with lots of room to spare.

With seats up, and the was tons of useable area, with nifty points to hook your shopping bags on to.

My journey started from a point of slight ambivalence, and ended in a mist of admiration.

I judged Captur solely on looks. I was not enraptured, but from the moment I started driving, my misgivings evaporated.

The diminutive size perfectly suits the purpose for which it was designed. I’m reminded of some of the cutsie French cars of the 60’s with their minuscule

engines. They weren’t about racing around like men-possessed. They were about taking a bunch of people and their stuff from place to place in comfort, using as little fuel as possible. They were about fun with lashings of practicality.

Max speed = 192kph, 0-100 = 10.9 seconds

I’m won over, and I’d happily drive Captur, but it has stiff competition:

Also see Holden Equinox, Ford Ecosport, Peugeot 3008.

What I like: walk away locking, lots of tech, engaging drive

What I don’t: Some cheap plastics, no CarPlay, aux audio control stalk

  • Model: Renault Captur
  • Model Price: $28,990 mlp
  • Engine: 1.2L Turbo petrol
  • Drivetrain: FWD 6-speed auto
  • Power: 88kW @4900 rpm
  • Torque: 190Nm @ 2000 rpm
  • Safety:  5 Star ANCAP
  • CO2 Emissions: 130 g/km
  • Economy: 5.8 L/100km (ADR comb)
  • Tow Rating: Max 900 kg
  • Tow Ball Rating: 75 kg
  • Servicing: 3 yrs capped price
  • Warranty: 5yr/ unlimited km
  • Overall Rating     78.5/100
  • Behind the Wheel 9
  • Comfort 8
  • Equipment 8
  • Performance 7
  • Ride and Handling 9
  • Practicality 9
  • Fit for Purpose 9.5
  • Towing Ability 5
  • Off Road Ability 5
  • Value for Money 9