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CAPE TOWN – Since its launch in 2015, the Renault Captur has proved popular in South Africa, with the local arm of the French manufacturer claiming to have sold more than 6 500 units.

Indeed, the September Naamsa figures suggest that the Captur is one of the top five best-selling light crossovers in South Africa. This is no mean feat considering the fierce competition within the segment.

Now with an updated interior and refreshed exterior, the Captur offers a new powertrain configuration that we think may just be the pick of the revised Captur line-up.

Updated styling

The exterior updates may be subtle, but the Captur now closer resembles its bigger sibling, the Kadjar. The new full-LED headlamps do a great job of illuminating the road ahead, something that was greatly appreciated while traversing the Cape's Overberg region after dark, and the new signature C-shaped daytime running lights – now nestling within the foglamps – are a nice touch.

The redesigned upper grille sports a chrome-look outline while new skid-plates are built into the front and rear bumpers for a more muscular appearance. Stylish two-tone 17-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels are now standard on all Dynamique derivatives and add an extra dimension to the refreshed look.

Dynamique variants also feature two-tone paintwork as standard (monochrome Capturs may seem rather plain in comparison), which certainly allows the Captur to stand out from the crowd. That said, certain rivals also offer this bi-colour look and upcoming light crossovers such as the Hyundai Kona and Kia Stonic will adopt this method of styling, too.

A practical interior with a quality feel

Climb inside and you’ll notice a cabin with a fairly upmarket feel. One of our testers who had run a Captur as a long-termer mentioned a remarkable improvement in perceived interior quality over the pre-facelift model. Soft touch surfaces are found in most of the necessary tactile areas, although the hard and shiny plastic of the lower facia surrounding the start-key holder and stop/start button detracts somewhat from the overall quality of the interior.

Other positive changes include the leather trim for the steering wheel and a gear-lever redesigned to comfortably fit the palm of one’s hand. In addition, the front seats have been redesigned and are said to be more supportive than before. Interestingly, the perches fore and aft are fitted with Renault’s patented “Zip Collection” seat covers, a thoughtful addition for anyone with young children as the covers are easily removable and washable.

Not all of the additions are positive, though. The interior also sees the inclusion of a front centre arm-rest-cum-storage-compartment. This is often a much appreciated comfort feature that can conveniently store one’s house keys and phone. It seems, however, that the arm rest was positioned as an afterthought, fitting awkwardly in place and obscuring the front seat recline adjuster. In addition, it tends to creak against the seat once folded away.

In terms of practicality, the Captur is a good proposition for small families. The boot space is divided into two compartments by a reversible boot board, while claimed storage figures are impressive at 377 to 455 litres (with utility volume at 1235 litres).

The maximum boot volume of 455 litres with the rear bench in place is made possible by a sliding function for the rear seats. And with the bench pushed back to its rearmost position, one of our testers at 1,87m sat comfortably behind his own driving position thanks to the Captur's MPV-like proportions.

In terms of technology, the familiar and easy-to-operate 7-inch Renault MediaNav infotainment system comes standard. Other niceties include Bluetooth connectivity, a navigation system, hill-start assist, stop/start technology, rear parking sensors, keyless entry, automatic headlamps, cruise control and climate control. Media controls are also conveniently placed behind the steering wheel on a separate operating stalk.

The driving experience

The familiar Euro 6-compliant four-cylinder 1,2-litre turbo-petrol engine put to use in this Captur model is a smooth and punchy unit. Developing 88 kW at 5 000 r/min and 190 N.m at 2 000 r/min, the motor has enough useable torque, making pull-aways a smooth procedure. The mid-range grunt courtesy of the pint-sized turbocharger makes overtaking manoeuvres fairly simple and adds an element of driving engagement. If you listen carefully, you can even hear the whistle and whoosh of the turbo.

Further engagement, however, and possibly the characteristic that defines this particular derivative, is the slick six-speed transmission. The analogue, mechanical feel of each shift is a pleasure to experience. Together with a smooth clutch action and a refined engine, the gearbox forms part a well-resolved powertrain that balances power delivery and comfort far better than the same engine mated to Renault’s somewhat flawed dual-clutch transmission.

On the road, ride quality is commendable considering the 17-inch alloy wheels shod in 55-profile rubber, which makes for relaxed highway cruising. The suspension is suitably supple, however when laden with four large occupants the rear setup became somewhat unsettled on faster sections of poorly maintained tarmac.

Potentially frugal

On a 400 km round trip, the Captur performed almost faultlessly, taking a few rough gravel paths in its stride while offering an appreciated level of comfort. But it returned an average fuel consumption of 7,1 L/100 km on the trip, which is a touch high considering the open-road driving environment as well as Renault’s claimed combined cycle fuel consumption figure of 5,5 L/100 km.

This model is, however, fitted with an Eco mode. Once engaged, the engine management regulates acceleration by managing torque and power delivery, theoretically for better fuel consumption. This system is also accompanied by an "eco coaching" function similar to that seen on CAR's Kadjar long-termer. The climate control system is also regulated in Eco mode, with the mode deactivating the air conditioning to conserve fuel and reactivating it to maintain the interior temperature. In combination with an adjustment in driving style, the Captur certainly has the potential to be a frugal offering.

Summary

The Renault Captur 88 kW turbo Dynamique is a well-rounded product in a highly competitive segment. It offers suitable performance, practicality and comes fitted with all of the technology one would expect for R294 900.

For someone in the market for a manual-shifting light crossover, this is indeed a compelling proposition. The addition of this variant should ensure that the Captur continues to sell well locally.

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