Earlier in the year Renault cut back on its UK range quite brutally making some people wonder in the French car maker was thinking about ducking out of the British market altogether. Not a chance. What La Reggie is doing is focusing in what it does best, small cars like the Megane and excellent new Clio, the electric Zoe, the budget Dacia range and now its funky looking entry into the small MPV/SUV/hatchback arena, the Captur (pronounced Capture).
Based on the chassis and running gear of the new Clio the Captur is not a bad looker. Renault reckons the design reflects the best visual traits of the an MPV, SUV and small family hatch. The designers under the leadership Laurens van den Acker, the man behind the new Renault family 'look', have done a pretty good job and unlike the visually challenging Mini Countryman and Nissan Juke the Captur is quite easy on the eye, attractive even.
The plastic cladding on the sides and manly bumpers give the Captur a rugged look though it should be made clear it's not a four-wheel drive vehicle. In mud and snow it's no more mechanically at home or competent than a Clio. It does have a slightly higher ground clearance though and a higher driving position to give you the feeling of off-road lite motoring.
Inside the Captur is full of clever ideas like seat covers, which zip off so you can wash them and a boot floor cover which is reversible – on one side it’s got a rubber-like material rather than carpet - and a sliding rear bench to make the boot bigger or give you more legroom. There are also some playful but still handy features like bungee-chord seat-back pockets.
The driver environment can best be described as slightly-ruggedised Clio. The basic design is familiar but everything is just a little more robust.
On the whole the spacious and well-laid out cabin is a nice place to spend time and you get Renault's new Android-based Media-Nav and R-Link connected communication system which can be used to hook you up to your to social network sites and check email as well as more mundane but more relevant motoring stuff like connecting your smartphone and navigating between A and B with the help of TomTom.
My test car was the base TCe 90 model with a 90bhp 3-cylinder turbo petrol engine, a Stop Star system and conventional five-speed gearbox which arrives in British Renault dealers next month. This new model means that the Captur range now starts at under £12,500 which is pretty good value with even the base version having alloy wheels, electric windows and USB audio.
I think Renault’s smooth and torquey 1.5 dCi turbo-diesel would be a better option for most potential customers though it does carry a £1400 premium but the little turbo motor revs sweetly and will get you to 62mph in 13 seconds and onto 103mph which is pretty impressive for a motor so small.
It's a very efficient engine too so you should see around 50mpg unless you drive like a twit while CO2 emissions are pegged at a pretty impressive 113g/km. As you'd expect from a modern car the Captur has a full five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.
On the road the Captur rides and handles with traditional French suppleness. It's not as sharp or as agile as the Clio but the extra compliance in the suspension makes for a very composed ride even over very bumpy tarmac.
Picking up a trick from Citroen and Mini you can pimp your Capture up from of substantial list of personalisation options presented as three "collections" - Manhattan is a black and while affair, Arizona is orange based while Miami is all blue and white.
Each collection offers a different colour scheme both inside and out with the roof, alloy wheel highlights, body decoration and trim detail all up for change. I've no idea how many combinations there actually are, but it's A Lot.
Verdict: I've never been convinced by the SUV-meets-MPV-meets-small-hatchback class of car typified by the Nissan Juke and Mini Countryman but the new Captur is cheaper, prettier and more spacious and practical than either the Mini or the Nissan and for my money that makes it the pick of the crop at the moment.
Price: From £12,495