Renault Kadjar SUV
“The Renault Kadjar is one of our favourite SUVs, thanks to its attractive design, practical interior and affordable running costs”
- Plenty of space
- Stylish design
- Cheap to run
- So-so reliability
- Pricey at the top of the range
- Entry-level model poorly equipped
The Renault Kadjar was updated for 2019 to keep it competitive in the ever-growing SUV segment. It was originally a late entrant to the sector but it certainly made an impression when it arrived, quickly establishing itself as something of an attention-grabber.
Competition between compact SUVs is fiercer than ever before. The field now includes the SEAT Ateca, Ford Kuga, Peugeot 3008 and Skoda Karoq, as well as familiar faces like the Hyundai Tucson, Volkswagen Tiguan, Mazda CX-5 and Kia Sportage. Meanwhile the Nissan Qashqai that started it all is still a popular choice, and one which shares much of its mechanicals with the Kadjar thanks to Renault and Nissan’s corporate links.
While the Qashqai relies on edgy aggression to get noticed, the Kadjar looks rather more approachable, with softer lines that embody Renault's latest corporate look. The headlamps are sleek and incorporate LED daytime running lights, while chrome is used subtly to add interest. Outside, there's a sense of substance and adventure thanks to chunky alloy wheels and curvaceous haunches, but the interior underwhelms on first glance due to its swathes of uninspiring black plastic. However, you soon come to appreciate its stylish touches, including a hi-tech digital dashboard.
Although there's no seven-seat option, families are likely to find the Kadjar a practical car. There's space for three to sit in the rear without clashing shoulders and a useful array of cubbyholes for items needed en route. And what won't fit inside will certainly go in the boot – at 472 litres, it's larger than that of the Qashqai and it'll expand to 1,478 litres if you fold the seats down.
The engine line-up is one of the main changes to the Kadjar and it’s shared with the Qashqai, so fuel economy is respectable across the range. Those who cover less than 12,000 miles or so a year will be best-served by the new 1.3-litre, 138bhp petrol engine. It manages up to 42.8mpg and 0-62mph in 10.4 seconds, while the slightly more powerful TCe 160 brings 158bhp and a half-second 0-62mph reduction with identical economy figures. These petrol engines can be combined with a six-speed manual gearbox or, as an option on the 138bhp version, a seven-speed automatic.
There are now two diesel engines, both of which have Adblue filters to reduce emissions. There’s a 113bhp 1.5-litre that boasts up to 56.5mpg and 0-62mph in 11.5 seconds when equipped with a seven-speed automatic gearbox. A more powerful 148bhp 1.7-litre diesel engine can be chosen in two- or four-wheel-drive guises, with the former capable of up to 54.3mpg, with the latter capable of up to 49.7mpg. The lower-powered car's CO2 emissions are the lowest in the range and have an affordable Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) rating for company-car users. The petrol engines also fall into the lower BiK bands, depending on trim level and wheel size.
While entry-level Renault trims can sometimes be rather spartan, the whole Kadjar range is relatively well equipped, with DAB radio, LED daytime running lights, air-conditioning, Bluetooth and a stereo compatible with MP3 and USB storage. Our pick of the range is the mid-range Iconic, which introduces sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, lane departure warning, a rear parking camera and 19-inch alloy wheels. S Edition adds all-round LED lights, a fixed panoramic sunroof and USB sockets in the rear. The range-topping GT Line is fairly luxurious with its heated leather seats and adds clever features such as blind-spot monitoring, autonomous parking and emergency braking – but it's a little pricey.
Our biggest reservation is the Kadjar's undistinguished reliability record. It placed 55th overall out of 100 cars in our 2020 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey. While many were pleased by its fuel consumption and running costs, there were doubts over build quality, with 15.7% of owners reporting at least one fault in the first year of ownership. Of less concern are the Kadjar's safety credentials, which include a five-star rating from independent crash-test experts Euro NCAP.