The popularity of light, two wheel drive SUV style vehicles shows no sign of abating and with manufacturers looking for their slice of the pie; Renault has launched the all new Captur in Australia. There is no better benchmark than lining it up against the equally new Honda HRV. Buyers drawn to this style of vehicle love their everyday practicality; be it the raised driving position and good vision, ease of manoeuvring or parking and the ability to adapt the cabin to family utilitarian needs.
Sharing its platform with the Renault Cleo and therefore an established reputation for open road ride and handling, Captur is Renault’s first crossover, or blend of MPV, SUV and the hatchback’s practical body design features. Honda’s original HRV was primarily a small urban style wagon that, along with the current model, adopted the more muscular look and feel of a small SUV, and enhanced its city smart manoeuvrability and clever interior packaging.
Renault offers three versions of the Captur. The Expression “TCe 90”, a 0.9L turbo petrol engine with a five speed manual transmission kicks off the range with a list price of $22,990, followed by our test car the Expression “TCe 120” with its 1.2L turbo petrol engine and dual clutch automatic for $25,990 plus on road costs.
Heading the range is the Captur Dynamique at $27,990, which has the same driveline as the TCe 120, but more dress-up items including 17-inch wheels, two-tone paint and optional leather trim. All Captur models feature the same list of airbags, braking and safety features.
Without an entry level manual version, Honda’s three HR-V models start at $24,990 plus on road, for the VTi. All models share a 1.8L naturally aspirated petrol engine and CVT automatic. The better equipped VTi-S which has more useful features such as rain sensing wipers, light sensing headlights and dual zone climate control is $27,990 and top of the range VTi-L at $32,990, adds niceties including a panoramic sun roof, leather appointed trim, parking sensors and active city braking, as well as the option of advanced driver aids like forward collision and lane departure warnings. Again, all expected safety features, airbags, braking and stability control are included in all models; however, there is a difference in occupant head protection between the Renault and Honda. Where Renault provides front seat side airbags that inflate to head height, the Honda has a separate full length roof mounted curtain airbag providing additional head protection for rear seat passengers.
For the majority of buyers in this class, cabin versatility will be high on the list of priorities and Honda’s larger load space and “magic rear seats”, which deliver a multitude of adjustments and load carrying options, will be a major attraction. That said, rear seating remains a better place for children or smaller adults, as despite reasonable leg room, angled side panels intrude on head space. Convenient child seat anchorages and ISOFIX points are provided. We found the front seat comfort better in the base VTi with its soft fabric trim than in the leather trimmed VTi-L which is hard and lacking in leg support. Honda’s overall cabin presentation is notably smart and tidy, with a logical layout of controls and a pleasing blend of materials and finish for this class. That Honda continues to employ a cable linked smart phone for connectivity will frustrate many, the omission of simple parking sensors, and auto sensing lights and wipers is unfathomable while the small space saver spare wheel is risky. Load space in the Renault presents well with neat square walls and an adjustable floor height creating a concealed storage area. Overall space is notably less than in the HRV, and despite similar wheelbase measurements, rear seat legroom and shoulder to shoulder width are tighter. There’s also the dubious space saver spare wheel. Child seat anchorages and ISOFIX mirror the Honda while HRV has considerably more load length with the rear seat folded. Up front Renault’s comfy seats and cosy interior presentation feels more homely, but disastrous positioning of seat angle winders and random identification and positioning of the switch gear is distracting. It works OK once you have worked out where the functions are, and there are more standard features, such as the smart key, rear camera, parking sensors and auto sensing lights and wipers that you pay extra for in the Honda.
What really separates these two cars is the type of driving they are best suited to and, as a result, their fuel economy. With its European chassis set up for open road speeds, the Renault is clearly the better handling car on a twisting country road. Throttle response from the small capacity turbo engine and the slick shifting 6spd dual clutch transmission are ideally suited to flowing cross-country runs. Our average fuel figure of 6.9L/100km under these conditions backs that up. In the suburbs and city traffic it’s another matter. Stop start conditions play havoc with the combination of auto clutch engagement; throttle sensitivity and turbo boost that can leave drivers dealing with either unpleasant hesitations or abrupt driveline snatch. By contrast, the HRV is town car oriented. A linear delivery of power from a larger capacity engine linked to the silky elasticity of a CVT automatic ensures the Honda glides easily through congested suburban traffic. And while we still wince at the whirring pitch of the CVT under full throttle there’s no question of its efficiency in these conditions. An overall fuel consumption figure of 8.1L/100km is reflective of less efficiency on the open road. Likewise, the light feel on the steering and the easy car park manoeuvrability of the HRV around the city tends to make the car more fidgety and less reassuring on a country road. Both cars are easy to live with and very easy to drive, they both perform well; it’s just a matter where the respective companies have focused their attention.
Renault’s all new Captur is an engaging, well-built vehicle with great driving dynamics for those who live in regional areas, but is less convincing around town and lacks the utilitarian function, cabin space, and clinical efficiency of Honda’s HRV. Better targeted to young suburban families, HRV would be our choice.