Oh good, another pair of me-too crossover SUVs?
Yup, it’s finally Renault’s turn to have a go at the family crossover. But this big-badged contender, the Kadjar is more than a Qashqai rival. Because Renault and Nissan are alliance bedfellows, the Kadjar is, in fact, heavily based on Nissan’s genre-defining tall hatch. Same engines, similar cabin, but bigger and cheaper. In this value-for-money rules segment, this stuff puts the Kadjar into the lead.
Speaking of ‘cheaper’, the Kadjar is certainly spec-for-spec a lot less dear than the Honda HR-V, but Hondas do have a habit of clawing that back with a greater depth of engineering. The HR-V’s actually based on, and shares many bits with, the Jazz mini-MPV. So if you like, the HR-V is a Jazz for people who wouldn’t be seen dead in a Jazz.
Photography by Mark Riccioni
Which gets the family hauler vote?
The Kadjar is 122mm longer even than a Qashqai. This means you have wider doors, a huge 472-litre boot with a pleasingly low sill, which swells to 1,478 litres with the rear seats dropped. It is, however, a less ‘clever space’ than the Honda…
…because though the sub-Qashqai-sized HR-V’s chopped roofline badly limits rear headroom and the boot offers ‘just’ 448 litres, it has the Jazz’s ‘magic seats’, and all of the extra storage options under the unlocking squabs. So, if you’re not fully loaded with people most of the time, the Honda’s a tad more useful at picking up things.
Any treats for the grown-ups?
Renault’s touchscreen effort here isn’t the latest version from the new Megane, so it still looks pretty Fisher-Price, but the usablity isn’t too shabby, and this top-spec Qash-jar’s seven-inch job is fairly intuitive. As a top-spec model, this version has a posh Bose stereo with badges on the wings and sills. Feels a lot more solid than a Clio or Captur.
Inside is where you spot the Honda’s price premium being spent. Not-terrible touch-sensitive heater controls combine with clearer instruments and a slightly aftermarket but responsive seven-inch touchscreen. It also feels mighty well made, if mildly dour in ambience for usually spaceship-aping Honda.
Which one’s better to drive?
The HR-V is a sweeter steer, but the Kadjar has its merits. The 1.6-litre diesel is extremely well insulated and lugs the Kadjar’s bulk around smartly enough. It’s fine to drive but not the Renault’s strong suit.
Being smaller, with faster steering, the HR-V feels like a puppy running rings around the old Renault. Its 1.6 turbodiesel is also healthier of boost, if not as politely subdued as the Renault’s. The ride is firmer too, but it doesn’t lose composure in town due to sensible wheels.
The Kadjar’s a handsome, well-priced alternative to the Ford and Nissan crossovers. Renault’s also made a big, welcome effort to banish the feeling that switches will fall off in your hands. Many of them are from Nissan, mind…
If generous cabin versatility and smarter handling are your thing, the HR-V takes the win. It comes across as the cleverer car, but with prices starting at over £20k for a basic diesel, it really ought to be. The Kadjar probably makes more sense for more people, on that basis.