Now and again a car comes along that embodies everything a segment stands for. And with the crossover segment bursting at the seams, with nearly each established manufacturer offering one, a new perspective on an overflowing segment is a refreshing experience.
The crossover in question wears a Renault Kadjar EDC badge. We drove the new Efficient Dual Clutch (EDC) auto version on the local launch through the busy streets of Johannesburg, while also putting it through its paces on the winding country roads outside Magaliesburg, to see how it performs as a lifestyle offering.
According to Renault, the EDC versions are aimed at offering excellent fuel economy and driving comfort. As such, the Kadjar crossover also addresses the demands of urbanites and lifestyle fanatics alike, looking for something more practical than a car, yet not as gargantuous and wallet threatening as a full-blown SUV.
Originally launched on local soil in April, the Kadjar shares a platform with the ever-so-popular Nissan Qashqai. So, in theory, it’s a Nissan Qashqai with some French drama, and a new stylish jacket.
Well, not exactly. It won’t get your blood pumping a higher octane (except if you get your kicks from fuel economy), but neither does the Qashqai. It’s also not so technically advanced that everything else appears to be an average run-of-the-mill crossover in comparison.
Although stylish, especially with the 19-inch alloy wheels fitted to the launch models, it will also not prompt onlookers to arm themselves with their camera phones.
What is does very well, though, is representing a massive leap forward for Renault. It feels like years of experimentation, trial and error coming together to create a crossover that checks most consumers’ boxes.
Stylistically speaking, the Kadjar has not seen major cosmetic changes. Both the budget orientated Expression and more premium Dynamique still comes standard with striking C-shaped LED Daytime Running Lights incorporated into the headlights.
The bodywork features some attention-grabbing lines and creases while sporty wheels are available as an option on all models. This crossover also has an ace up its sleeve since it boasts a best-in-class 200mm ground clearance, decreasing the chances of damaging the undercarriage on an outdoors adventure.
The cabin, though, represents the biggest leap forward for the marque as the refinement and build quality is a noticeable rung higher than other models in the brand’s product portfolio.
Test models were fitted with a 7-inch touchscreen Multimedia system which features the usual gizmos in the form of navigation, USB connectivity and voice command. The system is not the most user-friendly we have used and strangely, the voice command only seemed to recognise a dodgy Italian accent.
Storage space, though, is plentiful with a 370-litre boot and a foldable rear-bench which increases boot space to nearly 1 500 litres.
So far, so good, but in principle, a crossover should also provide a pleasurable driving experience, it is after all a vehicle that should adapt to the lifestyle of a consumer.
The Kadjar ticks that box. Inner-city driving is effortlessly taken care of with the 1.2-litre turbo-petrol seven-speed EDC model with gear ratios well suited to a relaxed urban driving experience. There is, however, a hint of turbo lag on the pull-away, but it’s no surprise considering the small capacity engine.
On the open road, the steering felt nicely balanced with just the right amount of feedback from the front wheels. Even with the larger-than-life 19-inch wheels fitted, the ride quality only suffered minimally, even on bumpy roads, when the suspension has to work overtime.
For a lifestyle application where gravel travel is in the order of the day, it’s recommended to stick to the 16-inch standard wheels on the budget orientated Expression model or the 17-inch alloys fitted as standard on the more premium Dynamique. This will offer a more yielding ride thanks to a larger tyre profile.
On the 1.5 turbo-diesel six-speed EDC model, the gear changes felt crisp and direct, constantly keeping the torquey engine on the boil. This gearbox also adds refinement to the rugged 1.5 DCI which also performs duty in the Renault Duster. According to Renault, the EDC gearbox not only improves fuel efficiency by an impressive 17% but also has a dramatic effect on engine noise.
Renault didn’t compromise on safety since all models come standard with Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS), Electronic Braking Assistance (EBA) and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD). Standard features across the range include; Hill Start Assist, Rear Park Distance Control, Cruise Control and an Eco-mode programme.
Renault also stated that there are currently no plans to add an All-wheel drive version to the Kadjar EDC range.
Renault Kadjar 1.2 TURBO 7-Speed EDC
Price: R399 900
Power: 96kW @ 5 500 r/min
Torque: 2015Nm @ 2 000 r/min
Renault Kadjar 1.5 DCI 6-Speed EDC
Price: R414 900
Power: 81kW @ 4 000 r/min
Torque: 250Nm @ 1 750 r/min