Renault Kadjar: Style over substance

The Renault Kadjar looks stylish and comes with a number of premium features.
The Renault Kadjar looks stylish and comes with a number of premium features.ST PHOTOS: SEAH KWANG PENG
The Renault Kadjar looks stylish and comes with a number of premium features.
The Renault Kadjar looks stylish and comes with a number of premium features.ST PHOTOS: SEAH KWANG PENG
The Renault Kadjar looks stylish and comes with a number of premium features.
The Renault Kadjar looks stylish and comes with a number of premium features.ST PHOTOS: SEAH KWANG PENG

Renault's Kadjar has size and style on its side, but something in the way it moves just leaves you cold

Driving the new Renault Kadjar is like having a soggy baguette. Or sipping on flat champagne. Or watching a can-can performance without the rousing music.

It is not only devoid of pleasure, but it is also actually a little unpleasant.

The car is bestowed with a turbodiesel engine which looks lovely on paper, with the kind of torque available only to truck drivers until recently. But mated to a clueless transmission and an unresponsive throttle, the car's real-world behaviour is probably something a tractor driver is more accustomed to.

It is not an unfamiliar drivetrain. Renault has applied it to the Captur crossover as well as the Fluence sedan. While not exactly brilliant before, it was never unpleasant.

But in the Kadjar, its weaknesses seem amplified. At the wheel, you would have to prod the accelerator pedal like a cowboy coaxing an uncooperative, old mare.

Power delivery is stodgy and, worse, unpredictable. In a fit of anger, you stomp on the throttle, only to have the car hightailing frightfully.

  • SPECS/RENAULT KADJAR

    Price: From $119,999 with COE

    Engine: 1,461cc 16-valve inline-4 turbodiesel

    Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual override

    Power: 110bhp at 4,000rpm

    Torque: 250Nm at 1,750rpm

    0-100kmh: 11.7 seconds

    Top speed: 181kmh

    Fuel consumption: 3.9 litres/ 100km

    Agent: Wearnes Automotive

Most times, the transmission lingers unnecessarily in first and second gears, making each drive a strained affair for both your ears and nerves. Thankfully, the car comes with cruise control, which you can access via convenient switches on the steering. If you are a keen observer of traffic, you can probably drive the Renault crossover without tearing your hair out.

Besides its insipid drivetrain, the car has a chassis which is hard to love. Show the car the slightest curve and it shows you more body roll than Chubby Checker, Elvis and Sean Kingston combined.

If you are prone to motion sickness, there are few worse places to be than in the second row of this French car.

It is a real shame because the Kadjar has so much going for it. It shares the same platform as the successful Nissan Qashqai, but packs more presence, space and utility.

Its boot, for instance, has 472 litres of cargo space and comes with a split floorboard.

The car looks one size bigger than the Nissan and is a lot more stylish. It also has a lot more premium features, especially in the Bose variant ($12,000 costlier).

Goodies in the Bose car include full LED headlights with self- levelling, sportier-looking rims, an expansive moonroof and, of course, a seven-speaker Bose hi-fi sound system that might just mask the car's whiny drivetrain.

The Kadjar also comes with lane departure warning, blind spot warning, traffic sign recognition, reverse camera and a self-parking system which can tackle parallel, perpendicular and diagonal parking spaces.

It has other modern-day conveniences such as keyless access and ignition, electronic parking brake and stop-start system too.

Its cabin ambience is pretty premium as well. You find double- stitched leather upholstery (including on steering wheel, door handles and instrument binnacle).

Now, if this car had the Qashqai's sweet 1.2-litre turbo drivetrain, it would be a winner. As it is, the Renault-Nissan group is making you choose among function, form and fun. The Kadjar scores well in the first two attributes, but fails miserably in the last.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2016, with the headline 'Style over substance'. Print Edition | Subscribe