Renault is on a roll in India. The upward trend that started with the Duster SUV has carried on with the Kwid hatchback, and the French car maker is now looking to continue it by launching a raft of fresh models, many of them tailor-made for India.
The Renault we see today is a far cry from the company that first took the covers off cars like the Koleos and the Fluence, which didn’t really set the Indian car market alight in their respective segments. It now knows that if it has to score here, it has to come equipped to take on the most demanding customer in the world: you, the Indian consumer.
And the next big thing it’s offering is the all-new Kaptur SUV.
But wait a moment. There are two outwardly similar cars with similar-sounding names. The first is a compact crossover called the Captur—designed, engineered and produced for Europe. Roughly the size of a Ford EcoSport, it stretches the tape at just 4.12m and comes with all the safety features expected of a European car, which makes it expensive. Expensive and small don’t go too well together, though, for cars, especially in emerging markets such as India.
So Renault has taken a different route and come up with a Kaptur with a “K”. The Kaptur looks similar to the Captur from the outside and the interiors have more or less the same layout as the European version. But unlike its European cousin, this one shares its platform with the more robust Duster. It is wider on the inside, longer, several times tougher and, importantly, comes with a more affordable sticker price.
The crossover styling looks stunning. There’s a freshness that has not been seen on an off-roader in a long time. The Kaptur is clearly automotive haute couture for the masses.
The car has been engineered to take on the roughest of terrains, the coldest of winters and years and years of abuse. All Kapturs also get a more powerful alternator, extra battery capacity and something you’ll get to use in India only if you drive across some Himalayan passes—the ability to start at minus 30 degrees Celsius temperatures, at the first crank of the starter.
Renault says the Kaptur thrives in challenging conditions, and to prove it, the company arranged for a test drive during a ferocious deluge in Moscow. It had been pouring for hours. So my first impression of this car was how well it took to Moscow’s flooded backstreets. The training back in Mumbai came in handy, and the Kaptur simply waltzed through the water on the roads.
The 143hp, 2-litre petrol isn’t the most modern engine around, and the four-speed automatic gearbox is positively lethargic, but we were soon doing very respectable speeds. The Kaptur has 205mm ground clearance and there was probably a gale force wind blowing us from one lane to the next, but the Renault still felt “locked” on to the tarmac. We were relaxed behind the wheel, looking out just for standing water. The Kaptur also impressed as the highway got tighter in terms of turns and bends
After a bit, we got to some rural roads that weren’t paved as well as Moscow’s highways. There were large rutted sections and the tarmac was frayed in parts. The Kaptur took a few medium-sized knocks. But the suspension soaked them up surprisingly well due to an initial layer of suppleness. There was a bit of deflection as we went over larger bumps and a hint of firmness too, but the ride in general was flat and well cushioned—we soon learnt to simply power over most intrusions, something that most people want an SUV for in the first place.
In terms of power delivery, the 2-litre petrol unit is quite sufficient for city as well as highway driving. This SUV weighs around 1.4 tonnes and with 143hp, there’s enough power and torque to accelerate well. The engine is smooth and there’s plenty of torque in the mid-range, but the four-speed automatic tends to spoil the experience. I would stick to the 110hp, 1.5 DCi diesel version that Renault is expected to come to India with at the end of 2017. The Kaptur is expected to be priced at around Rs16 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi).