Cape Town - So, if Nissan can name its crossover after a nomadic tribe from southwest Iran, then surely it is apt that brand partner Renault name its same-sized (well, almost) sibling after another Turkic tribe from the northwest of the same area?
That explains both unpronounceable names from the above mentioned automakers; Qashqai and Kadjar - the Renault model’s name derived from Qajar (spelt Kadjar in French).
The Kadjar started off as project HFE, like its Nissan sibling based on Renault-Nissan’s CMF-CD platform, but it had a longer gestation period, and is now set not only to take on its Japanese counterpart locally.
New Renault SUV
But, it must also to fill the tyre-tracks of the bigger Korean-built Koleos, which was recently discontinued here.
Renault would want you to believe the Kadjar combines the best of three motoring worlds - a SUV, hatch and sports wagon rolled into one.
It is reflected in its styling; Laurens van den Acker and his design team penning an athletic and dynamic looking vehicle; solid, yet sleek and muscular in appearance. A diamond-shaped centrepiece dominates the Kadjar’s front grille and distinctive C-shaped LEDs on its daytime running lights make a bold visual statement.
It also makes it stand out in the highly competitive compact SUV market, and is further emphasised by its size – being 72mm longer, 30mm wider and 23mm higher than the Qashqai, while sharing the same wheelbase (2 644mm).
It also means it has plenty more boot capacity - nearly 100-litres more with the rear seats up, and the difference is 35L with the seats folded down.
READ: 10 things you need to know about Renault’s new Kadjar in SA
Also interesting to mention is that while the Frenchman is shorter and lower than the Nissan X-Trail (which also utilises the same platform), it is 16mm wider than its bigger alliance partner.
Its SUV-styling is further emphasised by an integrated roof spoiler and skid plates front and rear, while our test model - with Dynamique trim and signature Flame Red coloured skin (the metallic paint is a R2000 option) - also sported LED headlights, roof rails and good looking, optional 19-inch alloy wheels (for R8000 extra).
As its tribal kinsman from Japan the Kadjar is generously appointed inside, and its bigger cabin feel stylish and refined. The trim elements with double stitching, comfortable seats (our test car had optional leather seats with electric adjustment and heat control) and soft touch dashboard with chrome-bordered instruments are elegant, but the touchscreen multimedia touchscreen system and digital instrument cluster not so much so.
However, it has good connectivity systems, as well as driving assistance features such as tyre pressure monitoring, eco scoring and coaching and air quality monitoring.
The modular cabin has 30-litres of storage space apportioned between the doors, glove box and central armrest, and the Easy Break System makes it easy to fold the rear bench seat down. Also included on the test car was a Self-Parking with Blind Spot Detection system and Park Distance Control with rear camera (a R10 000 option).
In Kadjar form the Renault-Nissan developed petrol-driven four-cylinder Energy 1.2-litre turbo engine delivers 96kW/205Nm compared to 85kW/190Nm in the Qashqai.
While the small mill, mated to a slick six-speed transmission, is quite tractable at lower revs, it does run out of steam at higher engine speeds, necessitating gearing down – particularly on inclines.
Gallery: 2016 Renault Kadjar in SA
Due to the Kadjar’s bulk and a kerb weight of 1320kg it also struggles to overcome initial inertia resistance, and acceleration is leisurely (nearly 11 seconds from 0-100km/h).
The small four-cylinder is slightly buzzy under duress, but at speed it is quiet and unobtrusive, and with stop/start it’s efficient too, sipping just over 6 litres/100km of juice in Eco mode, and emitting a lowly 131 g/km of carbon-dioxide.
However, trying to play Renault’s version of Eco Scoring (it scores your driving style out of 100 and measures acceleration, gear change and brake anticipation over distance) proved to be quite infuriating, as it seemed impossible to attain any decent score, but maybe it’s just my lead foot.
The Kadjar feels solid and composed on the road, and it handles well for a SUV. It also has a full set of safety systems (including electronic stability control and hill descent control), but with those 19” wheels I’ll loathe taking it off-road (by that I mean rough dirt roads) - even with a ground clearance of 200mm.
At R389 900 (including a five-year or 150 000km warranty, six-year anti-corrosion warranty and 5-year or 90 000km service plan) the Kadjar 1.2 Turbo Dynamique, while well-equipped, is quite pricey.
With the extras on our test model, it will retail for R409 900, compared to R338 900 for the smaller, lower specced Qashqai Turbo Acenta, R363 800 for the Mazda CX-5 (without options), R359 900 for the Hyundai Tucson 2.0 Premium (on special), R415 189 for Kia’s Sportage 2.0, and R354 500 for the RAV4 2.0 GX. And you can also get the bigger Nissan X-Trail for less…
READ: Here's how much you'll pay for Renault's new Kadjar in SA
Is this latest French SUV/crossover offering worth it? Yes, it’s certainly an improvement over the Qashqai, and weighs up nicely against its other class competitors.
But, for my money I’d prefer the more torquey and dynamic 1.6 dCi diesel derivative, locally available only in 4WD. The two-wheel drive derivative should be a sure-fire seller. So, c’mon, Renault, bring it!
Key figures: Renault Kadjar 1.2 Turbo 96kW Dynamique
Engine: 4-cylinder, in-line, turbocharged
Displacement: 1 197cc
Power output: 96kW at 5 500 rpm
Torque output: 205Nm at 2 000 rpm
Consumption (combined): 5.8 litres/100km*
Combined CO2 emissions: 131g/km*
Acceleration 0-100 km/h: 10.4 sec*
Top speed: 189km/h
Price (no options): R389 900