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Renault’s updated Kadjar takes on its own cousin

Wednesday, 5th June, 2019 4:01pm

I have to confess that I’ve never seen an episode of ‘Game Of Thrones’. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than five contiguous minutes of it. Basically yer one from ‘Terminator: Geneysis’ stabs Sean Bean with a dragon, right?

The thing is that I don’t really need to see ‘Game Of Thrones’ because I’m currently in the midst of a proper battle royale for the most important throne of them all — the queen of crossovers.

You see, a decade ago, Nissan introduced the original Qashqai and turned the car market on its head. Bit by bit, buyers were tempted out of their hatchbacks and saloons and even their MPVs and into a wannabe 4x4 instead. To the point where the Qashqai is currently (at time of writing, your mileage may vary etc) the best-selling car in Ireland.

The thing is that Nissan is part of the same car-making group as Renault, and indeed in many ways Renault is reckoned to be the senior partner in the group (again, at time of writing, your mileage may vary etc). So surely the French should be taking a major slice of the pie that Nissan created?

Well, it’s sure trying to. The Kadjar, which has just been updated for the 2019 model year, is essentially Renault’s Qashqai. It uses the same CMF-CD platform that you’ll find under the Qashqai, and also uses the same mixture of petrol and diesel engines.

The only thing is that you might struggle, a little, to tell the new, updated Kadjar apart from the old one.

That’s, in fairness, because too much monkeying with the Kadjar’s exterior styling would probably have been a bad idea. After all, ever since it was launched, the Kadjar has been one of the best-looking, possibly the best-looking, family crossover and once you start meddling with things that aren’t broken, well, we all know where that leads.

Sensibly, so Renault has only made the slightest of tweaks to items such as the daytime running lights, the bumpers, and the colour options.

The Kadjar’s trim levels have been changed too. Out go the old Signature and Signature Nav trims, and in come Play, Iconic, S-Edition, and GT-Line models.

Base equipment includes 17 inch alloy wheels, automatic climate control, rain-sensing wipers and dusk-sensor lights, and a seven inch touchscreen with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Our test car was a range-topping GT-Line model, which adds such extras as 19 inch wheels, a Bose sound system, leather upholstery, and automated parking.

It would have been nice to see some bigger updates for the central infotainment screen and the all-digital instruments, both of which look a bit on the cheap side, but they work well enough so I guess they’ll do for now.

Rather better, on the interior front, are the front seats which are wonderfully comfortable and supportive on a long journey, and the sense of space. This brings us to an odd observation. I know, for a fact, that the Qashqai and the Kadjar are identical under the skin, and barely any different dimensionally up top. In fact, the only major difference is that the Kadjar’s 472 litre boot is very slightly larger than that of the Qashqai.

What that doesn’t explain is how the Kadjar manages to feel like a bigger, more substantial car on the inside than its rival for the throne from Nissan. Maybe it’s just down to simple stuff like the shape of the dashboard, or the choices of materials, but for whatever reason, the Renault feels like half a step up from the Nissan.

The two cars drive in a very similar manner, of course. I guess that’s hardly surprising, but there are a few differences here too, notably in the steering — the Renault’s helm is lighter, but doesn’t feel quite as enthusiastic as that of the Nissan.

The 1.5 dCi diesel engine is also shared between the two cars, but it’s been given an update for 2019 too. Power is up to 115hp, but I have to say that you don’t really feel that very much. If anything, the engine feels as if it’s lost a touch of thrust, and never feels quite sparky enough for our tastes.

You might well be better off going for the new 1.33 litre turbo petrol engine, with 140hp. At least the diesel has decent economy on its side — Renault claims 58mpg, and we managed to squeeze 53mpg out of it, which is not bad at all.

The Kadjar’s dynamic trump card is actually its ride quality, which even with the optional 19 inch wheels fitted to our test car was smooth and soothing, and redolent of those great, ultra-comfy Renaults of old.

The only major disappointment, then, is that this Kadjar is just a plain, unvarnished diesel. Given Renault’s expertise in electric cars, it’s a shame that there’s not even a mild-hybrid setup here, to better exploit the engine’s natural economy and make it a bit more lung-friendly around town (Renault has this technology, and it’s already on sale in the Scenic in Europe).

It would be nice if the Kadjar was just a little more forward-looking in that regard.

Still, it certainly goes a long way to proving worthy of unseating its vaunted cousin from the crossover throne. So if you’re feeling GOT withdrawal symptoms, then fret not. Forget the Mother Of Dragons, the crossover wars are only just getting going.

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