So the trend has become more and more about buying down when it comes to purchasing new cars. And what is also becoming the norm is people wanting to pay less and get more for their hard-earned money – and motor manufacturers are obliging them in order to sell cars.
One of the few segments showing growth these days is the small or compact sport utility vehicle (SUV) range. In fact, it is the fastest-growing segment in South Africa and manufacturers are scrambling to play in this sector.
Just a week ago, Citroen launched its interesting-looking Cactus into the market. And now we have Renault, which has just added its equally good-looking Captur into the pool with its more boxy, traditionally styled Duster.
I am sure Renault hopes the Captur does for it what its very good Clio has done for the brand. Eighty-five percent of sales in this compact SUV segment happen in the R210 000 to R290 000 range and the Captur is pitched in this band, with the three models on offer starting at R219 900 and ending at R279 000.
But Renault has to do battle with the likes of the Ford EcoSport that dominates this segment, with about two-thirds share of the sales. It is not going to be easy.
I say this because the cross-over/small SUV segment is not really defined in terms of what these vehicles should look like or offer the customer. Ford’s EcoSport is a real boxy-looking compact SUV and Renault’s Captur is more hatch-looking. Is this, perhaps, Ford’s sales secret?
South African buyers have a huge love for SUVs and perhaps offering a compact SUV that looks just like the bigger version works better than the competition is offering in terms of what could be seen as hatchbacks on steroids. Time, and the sales charts, will reveal all in the coming months.
One thing is certain: Renault offers in its Captur a high level of specs that the competition just can’t come close to. This is mostly done at a price better than that of the competition, except for the top-of-the-range 88kW Dnyamique EDC model that is a bit more pricey when compared with others in this segment.
You get the likes of Bluetooth connectivity, an integrated on-board multimedia system with seven-inch touchscreen that offers satellite navigation, Arkamys radio plus USB port, ECO mode function, hands-free key card, electric side mirrors and electric windows (front and rear), plus automatic climate control, rear parking sensors, automatic headlights and rain-sensitive front wipers all as standard fitment across the range.
Being a family car, safety is not ignored and here you get cruise control plus speed limiter, Anti-Lock Braking System coupled with Emergency Brake Assist and the Electronic Stability Program, along with Hill Start Assist, all complimented by high-efficiency front airbags, head/chest side bags, seatbelts with pretensioners and force limiters (front seats), anti-submarining front seats, anti-whiplash head rests and force limiter function (rear side seats).
The handling and ride quality is good and very hatch-like, but the combination of the new 1.2 litre 88kW/190Nm turbocharged engine and the six-speed EDC double-clutch automatic gearbox on the range-topper resulted in quite a lot of lag off the line, along with a lack of throttle response that actually became quite frustrating in the end.
I would have loved to have sampled one of the 66kW/135Nm Expression or Dynamique models that feature the 900cc turbocharged engine along with a five-speed manual gearbox. But none were available at the launch drive.
The claimed fuel consumption for the models come in at 5.4 litres/100km for the 88kW and 4.9 litres/100km for the two 66kW models. But as we have come to realise, these on-paper figures seldom translate into what you can expect in the real world.
As is the case throughout Renault’s entire product range, the Captur comes standard with a five-year/150 000km mechanical warranty, a three-year/45 000km service plan and a six-year anti-corrosion warranty to wrap up what is a very competitive offering – if you are more into hatch than SUV styling.