Renault Captur First Drive

The new Renault Captur – pronounced ‘capture’ – isn’t an obviously green car. It isn’t powered by a battery pack and electric motor, nor is it predominantly constructed from recycled or technologically advanced materials. Renault’s ‘urban crossover’ does give us an idea of where mass production car manufacturing is currently at in terms of ecology, however, and Renault is also showing an increased awareness of design and it’s effects on buyers.

The Captur is surprisingly light for its size, weighing almost exactly the same as the previous, third-generation Clio despite a considerably larger footprint and much more interior space. Assembled at the Valladolid plant in northwestern Spain, an unusually high proportion - 16%, to be precise - of the car’s plastics are sourced from recycling, and low rolling resistance tyres further reduce the negative consequences of weight on the road.

Another interesting environmental asset are the automated flaps that sit behind the front grille. Normally required for cooling the engine, when the Captur has no need to ‘cool off’ they close to channel air around to the sides, reducing aerodynamic drag. Whilst Renault hasn’t released any empirical evidence on the effects of these powered flaps, the negative effects of drag – in this case where air trapped in a car’s various orifices is accelerated to the car’s overall speed, requiring more energy – is often overlooked on road cars, despite garnering enormous attention and resources on the track.

All of this means nothing if the engines are inherently inefficient, which, luckily, they’re not. Far from it. The cleanest unit in terms of carbon dioxide is the dCi 90, which is used to great effect in the new Clio. It emits just 95g/km of carbon dioxide--a barely credible statistic given the Captur’s size and overall practicality. For those who value downsizing, the lesser TCe 90 petrol engine makes use of just three cylinders, although carbon dioxide emissions are slightly higher than the diesel at 113g/km. If you want a congestion charge-dodging SUV – something that was previously inconceivable – then it has to be the diesel.

It’s often said that edges are an indication of poor car design, and if that’s true then the Captur must be one of the prettiest cars ever built. This is, of course, hard to justify, but there’s no doubt that the Captur is remarkably easy on the eye for a B-segment pseudo-SUV. It’s immediately likeable, too, which will prove crucial given that it will compete against (big breath) the MINI Countryman, Peugeot 2008, Vauxhall Mokka, Nissan Juke, Chevrolet Trax, Ford EcoSport and possibly the VW Taigun. Yes, this market is growing.

The Captur is the realization of the second stage of Lauren van den Ackers’ life cycle design philosophy. There are six stages in total, culminating in ‘Wisdom’, for which we can expect an electric car. The original Captur Concept car, unveiled early in 2011, presented an automotive expression of ‘explore’ and drew inspiration from natural rock formations and the human desire to travel.

The transition from uninhibited concept car to a production version ruled by the strictest regulations – both self-imposed and industry regulated – has been a success, and the Captur you can buy really captures (sorry) the same sentiment as the Captur you couldn’t.

As is trending, personalization possibilities are extensive, but the most significant feature is the contrasting paint job. Renault has had to devise a new paintshop procedure, involving masking the car in between sprays, to paint the roof white (in this case) and it looks fantastic in the metal. Two-tone cars don’t always work, but the Captur’s fun-loving attitude embraces the contrast well. Sill-inserts, foglight surrounds and wing mirrors can all be customized, too, and the exterior colour scheme can be echoed inside.

Another smaller innovation are the zipped seats covers (a £150 option), which mean owners can replace them for a refreshed interior, or equally if their baby/children/dog fails to keep its lunch down. The Captur is first and foremost a family car, although Renault is predicting that young couples without children will invest in its strengths, too.

Is the Captur good to drive? It’s inoffensive and easy going, and fun to be around if not exactly riveting to drive. Starting at £12,495 it’s also extremely aggressively priced. All in all, it’s a sizeable chunk of good-looking, frugal and practical car for the money.

Renault Captur Energy dCi 90 Expression

Engine: 1,461cc 4-cyl turbodiesel Combined power: 90bhp CO2: 95g/km Economy: 78.4mpg combined 0-62mph: 13.1s Top Speed: 106mph Price: £13,895

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