First drive: 2019 Renault Kadjar launch review

Moving Well | Greg Hill | Posted on 06 December 2019

Greg Hill takes the sporty new Renault Kadjar SUV for a first drive.

Renault’s Kadjar is a new player in Australia’s popular small to medium SUV category. This compact, front-wheel-drive crossover sits neatly in Renault’s SUV line-up between the baby Captur and the larger Koleos.

The Kadjar is built on the same platform as the successful Qashqai, from Renault’s Alliance partner Nissan, but its engine, transmission/driveline and suspension, as well as the body styling, are distinctly different. Kadjar brings its own inviting charm and user-friendly ability to the segment.  

What do you get for the price?

Smartly styled and neatly trimmed, the Kadjar line-up comprises three model grades, starting with the Life at $29,990 before on-road costs, followed by the Zen at $32,990 and topping the range is the $37,990 Intens variant.

Mechanically all three models follow the same formula. The base-model Life is reasonably well equipped for its position in the range, but the extra dollars for the Zen’s additional comfort and convenience features appears to be money well spent, while the top-of-the-line Intens is dressed to impress. The R-Link 2 multimedia system is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto-compatible, while the Zen and Intens also feature voice control and built-in navigation. (More: Australia's best cars for 2019 revealed)

How safe is it?

When first launched in Europe in 2015, the Kadjar achieved a five-star Euro-NCAP safety rating, but it hasn’t been ANCAP-rated yet. Australian versions come with standard safety features including low-speed automatic emergency braking with distance warning, front and rear parking sensors, rear-view camera, tyre-pressure monitoring and rain-sensing wipers.  The Zen grade adds lane-departure warning, blind-spot warning and side parking sensors, while the Intens also gets LED headlights and easy park assist. Cruise control with speed limiter is standard across the range but active cruise control is not available.

Renault Kadjar driver's seat interior
Close up of Renault Kadjar dashboard


What’s it like inside?

Renault has taken an uncluttered, functional approach to the cabin layout. Clear instrumentation and generally well-placed switches help make the Kadjar smart-looking and easy to drive. It wouldn’t be a Renault, however, if there weren’t a couple of unconventionally located items, such as the on-off button for the cruise-control tucked away on the centre console behind the electric park-brake switch, and the radio controls hidden behind the steering wheel. The seats use double-density foam for extra comfort and the front seats’ side bolstering provides good lateral support. The Intens is leather trimmed, its front seats are power-adjustable, heated and have cushion extensions for additional leg support. In the rear, leg and head room are good for a vehicle of this size and it will comfortably seat two adults or three with a squeeze. Occupants in the rear will appreciate the air vents and USB ports in the back of the centre console. A big luggage compartment with easy-folding rear seats to extend the carrying capacity rounds out the package.

What’s under the bonnet?

For the Australian market, Renault has employed a new-generation 1.3-litre turbo-charged petrol engine which was developed in partnership with Daimler. This smooth, free-revving four-cylinder engine produces a useful 117kW of power at 5500rpm with strong maximum torque of 260Nm arriving at 1750rpm. This teams well with Renault’s seven-speed dual-clutch-style automatic.

Renault Kadjar gears
Renault Kadjar gearstick

Is it efficient?

Complying with Euro 6 emission standards, the Kadjar’s official ADR fuel consumption is 6.3L/100km, which places it among the better cars in its class, but this is offset to some degree by the need to run on premium-grade 95 RON petrol. The CO2 emissions are a respectable 143g/km.

How does it drive?

Punchy performance, ride comfort and driving ease are key ingredients of the Kadjar’s appeal. Renault engineers have done a good job tailoring the engine and transmission characteristics to the everyday use a vehicle of this type is likely to encounter. While the suspension tuning favours ride comfort, and it is a noticeably quiet, comfortable-riding car, it is still a relatively well-mannered handler. The steering is light for easy manoeuvrability around town, but it doesn’t have a lot of road feel at higher speeds. On coarse bitumen a little tyre noise can be heard in what is otherwise a quiet cabin. Accelerate hard out of a corner and the slight tug on the steering is a subtle reminder of the front-wheel-drive configuration.

For most owners the service intervals will be governed by time as the requirements are every 12 months or up to 30,000 kilometres, whichever comes first..

Should I buy one?

With the Kadjar’s body dimensions sitting between the small and medium SUV categories, it will attract buyers from both classes. As a comfortable, family-friendly compact SUV, it has a lot to offer and deserves to be on your shortlist of models for serious consideration..