Renault Kadjar gives Qashqai a run for its money

Kadjar is made in Palencia, north-west Spain, where the factory's main product is the Renault Megane

Kadjar is made in Palencia, north-west Spain, where the factory's main product is the Renault Megane

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KADJAR or Qashqai? The first was launched last year by Renault, based heavily on the latter, which has been a staple product from Nissan Sunderland since 2006.

These non-identical twins are superb family five seaters with plenty of space and with the option of an all-wheel-drive transmission to take advantage of their raised bodies.

The cheapest Renault Kadjar diesel is the 109bhp 1.5

The cheapest Renault Kadjar diesel is the 109bhp 1.5

The majority are sold with front-drive and share engines and gearboxes from the Renault Nissan Alliance. You can debate what comes from where over a snifter in the Camshaft Arms but the inter-marriage is as intricate as that of the marques in the Volkswagen Group.

Qashqai was the surprise “hit” of the last decade, launching Nissan back to big profits, and with the smaller Juke, also from Sunderland, has sold in massive numbers throughout Europe.

Kadjar is made in Palencia, north-west Spain, where the factory’s main product is the Renault Megane and the culture is steeped in the remnants of old Moorish and Roman Spain. It’s not on the common tourist train but is one of those numerous places in Spain which are a delight to find by chance.

Renault likens Kadjar, from the Persian Qajar, to French etymology which gives us “quad” and a go anywhere vehicle. It will be explained in my as yet unwritten book, with the working title “Car Names & Jottings” (Insomnia Press, unpriced).

The Renault Kadjar's air quality monitor will either please you or scare you.

The Renault Kadjar's air quality monitor will either please you or scare you.

I had a good week with the Kadjar. Prices start at £17,995 for the 1.2 litre, 128bhp petrol turbo model in Expression + trim. The cheapest diesel is the 109bhp 1.5 in the same trim, at £19,895. The difference in economy is significant. The petrol records 50.4mpg and 126g, well below the 74.3mpg and 99g rating for the diesel. If you want automatic gears you’ll have to take the diesel, from £21,095 in Expression + trim and with the same mpg and CO2 ratings as the manual version.

On test was Signature Nav dCi 130 which has a 128bhp 1.6 diesel and with manual gears costs from £24,795. It combines (on paper at least) 62.8mpg and 117g with a 0-62mph time of 9.9 seconds and a top speed of 118mph. Core features on the Kadjar include cruise control and a speed limiter, air con, an electronic parking brake, tinted glass, steel wheels and, setting it apart from the Qashqai, digital instruments with a global image telling you if the air quality outside is “good” or polluted or very polluted (as when you are behind a diesel car in need of servicing).

Externally the Kadjar has a more adventurous version of the Qashqai’s body. It exudes current Renaultesque swoops and curves, introduced by the Clio and Kadjar’s smaller sibling, the Captur. The factory demo car was painted a lustrous, deep “flame red” which adds £625 to the bill. Helped by lashings of chrome on the face, it catches the eye more than the Qashqai.

In everyday use the trip computer showed 48 miles a gallon and the same on a single “commuter” journey using motorway, rural and ring roads. The car has a stop-start system which I fluffed on restarting too many times. The gear change mechanism felt loose too, and you’ll feel some joggling on poorer roads.

Nissan’s pricing structure starts slightly cheaper. It offers the 1.2 petrol in 114bhp tune from £18,545 and the 109bhp 1.5 diesel from £20,295. I had a long A to B to A journey down the A1 in the 109bhp 1.5 diesel n-tec+. With £550 for metallic paint it cost £24,280.

Its economy on the motorway trip was 52mpg while on the familiar commuter run was a cheery 55mpg.

This is where I need to decide whether I’d have the Kadjar or the Nissan. Throughout, you get a feeling that Renault has, courtesy of the groundwork by Nissan, given us an updated Qashqai. It looks “brighter” inside and out. This is helped by the electronic instruments, very French (viz the rival Citroën Grand Picasso’s display) which are more exciting than those in the Qashqai. The Kadjar’s air quality monitor will either please you or scare you.

At least it may keep you away from city centres.

The Kadjar comes out cheaper too and has a larger boot but both haver versatile load floors with sliding bases that can be erected upright.

And yet... there’s something about the more conservative exterior of the Qashqai which appeals – showing both my age and personality. The Kadjar exudes a joie de vivre and I’m sure if the kids have a vote will win the purchase.

Running costs will be similar but you may get more for your Qashqai when you change it. The Kadjar’s four-year/ 100,000-mile warranty trumps the three years/60,000 miles on the Qashqai which could be a clincher for the private buyer.

Verdict: Either will suit the average family. The weaker diesel engine gave better economy. The other contenders include Honda’s CR-V, a confident town and country SUV with a solid following and a quality image.

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