Captur from Renault could be a serious rival to Nissan's Juke.
Nissan and Renault are partners and, as such, they co-develop and share a lot of components - like engines and platforms - yet somehow they manage to retain their brand identities. Captur is the French firm's answer to the critically acclaimed Juke.
The compact Juke was born out of Nissan's desire to replicate the huge success it enjoys with Qashqai. Juke was launched to critical acclaim in 2010 and was crowned IMWA Irish Car of the Year 2011. Unlike Juke, which is based on the Micra's platform, Captur uses the latest Renault Clio as its base, albeit with a slightly wider track. The fourth-generation Clio is an impressive machine and superior to the value-for-money Micra. So, Captur is off to a good start.
Captur's exterior ticks a lot of boxes for fashion conscious, youthful buyers. The four-door's body shell conforms to most crossover urban vehicles (CUVs). There are design features clearly carried over from the Clio that add a bit of drama, especially the side-on view.
The key exterior feature isn't really seen in the metal but rather in the clever use of paint. By simply painting the 'A' pillars and roof a contrasting colour to the body, Renault makes the Captur stand out from the crowd. This visual trickery can also be seen on other stylish cars like the Citroen DS, MINI and Opel Adam.
Inside, standard specification is surprisingly high and there are a few party tricks that buyers will love, like the variable load area, Bluetooth and USB connectivity. The removable and washable (zipped) seat covers on the top spec version is an inspired feature. At a push, Captur can seat five, but there is plenty of legroom, thanks to the long wheelbase.
Up front, it is spacious and not the worst place to be, despite a lot of hard plastic trim. The tall driving position is good, too. Rear visibility when parking is hampered a little by the large C pillars. The boot holds between 309 and 404 litres - with the rear seats fully forward. The 60/40 split rear seats can be moved fore and aft from inside the cabin or from the boot area. With the rear seats up, there are 1,235 litres of load space. The boot has quite a high sill but the adjustable floor shelf adds versatility to the cargo area.
Two engines are available: one diesel (tax band 'A2') and one petrol (tax band 'A4'). The 'Tce' petrol engine available in Ireland is a tiny 0.9-litre: yes, 0.9! The three-cylinder, turbo-charged unit features stop/start and despite its tiny 898cc, pushes out a credible 90hp. The diesel 'dCi' is capable of delivering up to 78.4mpg. The turbo-diesel also delivers 90hp but from a more conventional 1.5-litre engine. LIFE and INTENSE are the two trim options and prices start at a very competitive €19,390 (Tce LIFE).
On the road Captur fails to excite. The driving experience is dull and uninspiring at best, but for most users dynamism is not that high on their shopping list.
There is a growing appetite among car buyers for machines that have street presence and character. Captur, while dynamically average, has personality, and that is a good thing.