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Renault Captur Petrol Review: Road Test

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Dec 15, 2018
Renault Captur Petrol Review: Road Test

At last! We’ve driven the petrol Renault Captur a full year after it was launched. Dark secrets unveiled or is this the ray of sunshine Renault should’ve pushed in the first place?

Yeah, it feels strange reviewing a car a full year after it’s been available in the market. So why are we reviewing the petrol Captur now? It’s been on sale since November 2017, so what’s changed? Well, nothing. But it’s been very clear that Renault hasn’t been interested in pushing the petrol Captur.

We’re driving it now, simply because the car just entered the media fleet. It still isn’t available in the top-spec Platine variant, and the Duster with the same engine gets an automatic transmission while this doesn’t. It seems like Renault offers it mainly to give it a strong price hook. Our birdies say the petrol Captur won’t get Renault the same sales margin-per-unit as the diesel.

But enough chatter, we’re driving the Captur petrol to see what it’s like to use and understand one thing - did Renault place its bets on the wrong Captur?

Cut To The Chase

The ride quality and handling characteristics are just as good as they are in the diesel version. But what you notice immediately is that this feels so much nicer as a city car. Delivering 106PS of power and 142Nm of torque, this engine sets no benchmarks when it comes to raw output. Alternatives like the Hyundai Creta petrol (123PS/151Nm) and Ford EcoSport S (125PS/170Nm) offer more grunt and, on first impressions, they feel livelier too.

But it takes a kilometre or two to fall in love with how relaxed and easy going the Captur petrol is as a city car. The sheer refinement is what gets you first. Think Honda City i-VTEC but better. How? There’s barely any sound at start up but on the move, it’s the cabin insulation that makes it feel even more polished than the fabled Honda engine. Barely any vibes either and altogether, a stark contrast to the experience in the diesel.

What makes this an even better city car is the low-rev driveability. On paper, the diesel motor makes more torque than this and earlier in the rev range. But the H4K petrol engine is naturally-aspirated and doesn’t have to deal with the crippling turbo-lag of the 110PS DCi. Go over a speed breaker at 15kmph in third gear, lightly tap the throttle and it picks up speed nice and easy. In a similar scenario, the diesel would shudder and revolt to get you to downshift. And when you do press the clutch before said downshift, the diesel’s pedal feels far too heavy. In comparison, the lighter weight of the Captur petrol’s pedal makes it easy to use in heavy traffic.

 The mid-range performance is usable too. Say you hit some highway traffic and drop down from 80kmph to 50kmph while staying in 5th gear (the top ratio). Press the throttle and you gain the next 25-30kmph with ease. Not in a manner you’d call impatient or exciting but adequate. 30-80kmph in third gear takes 11.38 seconds; 3.6 seconds slower than the diesel. The difference isn’t as stark in the 0-100kmph sprint, with the petrol taking 14.33 seconds versus the diesel Captur’s 13.24 seconds. Blame it on the latter’s turbo-lag.

But it’s not all roses and hugs. There are some drawbacks. First, there’s no CVT. So, automatically (pun intended) it loses an edge when it comes to urban commutes. The next issue pinches your pocket, as it isn’t particularly fuel efficient. We managed to eke out 10.73kmpl in the city (expect this to drop to single digits in peak hour traffic) and 15.79kmpl on the highway, which is a fair bit lower than the diesel (city/highway = 15.50kmpl/21.10kmpl).

 Importantly, this cannot hold a candle to the diesel when it come to touring. For one, it only gets a 5-speed manual gearbox. This is fine in the city but on the highway, it’s revving quite high - 3100rpm in fifth gear at 100kph. For reference, the 1.2-litre Honda Jazz petrol does the same speed at 3250rpm in top gear. The Captur petrol deserves a 6-speed gearbox. Not only to make highway drives more relaxed, but also more efficient.

Finally, the diesel engine’s lag is annoying, but that’s until you’ve adapted to it. Once you do, much like it is in the S-Cross 1.6, you start enjoying the turbo kick. Post the boost, the Captur diesel feels like a rocket and high speed overtakes are a blink of the eye affair. It’s a truly exciting car and indeed, gives you some serious punch for the money. So while the Captur petrol isn't lacking for power, it isn't nearly as thrilling to drive as the diesel either.

Unwise Compromise

 Since the Captur petrol isn’t available in the top-spec Platine grade, the fully-loaded version is the RxT. What do you miss out on and does it look incomplete? Answering the second question first: no. Even the base Renault Captur looks good enough to drive straight home and the RxT does get some nice features.

These include projector headlamps and DRLs, LED front fog lights, 17-inch alloys, a touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, auto AC with rear AC vents, and more. Safety tech like dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, ISOFIX child seat anchors and rear washer/wiper/defogger come as standard too.

So what do you miss out on? The smaller things include the diesel-exclusive ECO mode, leather for the driver’s armrest, floating indicators and other touches like cornering fog lights and illuminated front cupholders. The bigger misses are the Platine-exclusive side airbags, ESC, hill-start assist, full-LED headlights and leather upholstery.   

Final Call

 It’s not that Renault placed its bets on the wrong Captur. However, Renault could’ve targeted different kinds of buyers by promoting both engine options on an equal standing. As a city car, the petrol is easier to live with than the diesel. So much so that the efficiency penalty seems like a very reasonable trade-off. No doubt, the CVT really should be an option too and we have a hunch that it will cut the mileage concerns further. The diesel makes more sense for those with extensive highway usage and those who like to go touring.

When you consider the price - Rs 9.99 lakh - Rs 11.46 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) - the discounts you can push for on top of that, the number of features you get for the money, the hassle free drive and how attention grabbing this thing’s styling is, the Renault Captur petrol does make a lot of sense. It’s a car we’d gladly recommend buying.