What is it?
Renault has been a true pioneer in the electric car world – primarily with its Zoe EV, but also with a range of battery-powered vans. But for a company so brave with electric cars, it’s been remarkably slow to embrace other kinds of electrification – you know, hybrids and the like.Until now that is, when it’s ushering its new ‘F1-inspired’ E-Tech powertrains into some of its core models – including the Clio, Megane and this, the Captur crossover.
This latter car is now Renault’s best-selling car, clocking up 150,000 registrations since its launch in 2013. So can a new hybrid setup elevate its appeal? Let’s find out.
The second-generation Captur reached showrooms at the start of 2020 and was an enormous leap forward compared to its predecessor – primarily with its interior that represented a big step up the premium ladder compared to its cheap and plasticky predecessor.It’s also built on a new platform called CMF-B, which allows for the hybrid powertrains to be installed.
Though the Clio comes with a broadly similar setup, that supermini is a ‘self-charging’ hybrid, whereas here the Captur is a plug-in – Renault’s first, in fact. Capable of a claimed 31-mile electric range and low running costs, it’s set to prove appealing to a good mix of company car and private buyers.
What’s under the bonnet?
This E-Tech setup is far from Renault bolting on an electric motor to an existing engine. No, the firm has started from scratch, using a new 1.6-litre petrol engine combined with twin electric motors and a 9.8kWh battery. It pushes out 158bhp and allows for 0-60mph time of just under 10 seconds. A new clutchless gearbox is used too, with power sent to the front wheels.
But it’s the 31-mile electric range that allows the most appeal, with the possibility of some impressive efficiency figures if you top the battery up regularly – Renault claiming it will return 188mpg, with CO2 emissions of 34g/km allowing for benefit-in-kind company car tax of 10 per cent.
Charging its battery is a bit slower than other PHEVs, though it can be topped up with a three-pin plug in four hours and 15 minutes, or three hours with a 7kW public charger or wallbox.
What’s it like to drive?
As with plenty of hybrids, the Captur E-Tech is at home around town, where you’ll get the most of that electric range, and where it feels the briskest and refined, too – even if it has a rather intrusive low-speed noise to warn pedestrians glued to their Instagram app not to cross the road.
The powertrain itself, despite its innovation and supposed influence from F1, leaves plenty to be desired, though. The gearbox is the biggest criticism, because it really struggles if you put your foot down, and at times is very reluctant to change ratios – leading to an unpleasant harsh revving noise every now and again.
Strangely, the regular ‘self-charging’ hybrid E-Tech powertrain – currently just found in the Clio, and soon to be available in the Captur as well – is far smoother and a generally more pleasing system to use.
How does it look?
Renault’s current designs are some of the best around, and the firm itself admits its cars’ styling is the key draw for customers. The Captur certainly doesn’t disappoint then, as – to our eyes at least – this is one of the best-looking crossovers on the market today.
With sharp LED lighting at the front and rear, a sleek profile and just the right amount of plastic cladding to assert the ‘SUV’ look, we’re certainly impressed by this crossover’s design. With the E-Tech models only being offered in higher-spec grades, you’re also guaranteed larger alloy wheels, a contrasting-coloured roof and privacy glass on all versions.
What’s it like inside?
As we mentioned earlier, this latest generation of Captur’s key improvement was its cabin, which moved significantly upmarket. It’s a fantastic interior, with a strong focus on quality and striking the right balance between technology and traditional buttons. All E-Tech models feature a large 9.3-inch touchscreen, and though it looks like someone has superglued an iPad onto the dash, it works very well, with some of the cleanest graphics on the market today.
The chunky batteries do put a dent in boot space, though, reducing from 404 litres on the standard car to 265 litres for the E-Tech, though it’s primarily underfloor storage that’s taken up. More pleasingly, the hybrid still comes with a sliding rear bench, allowing you to adjust boot or rear-seat space, depending on your needs.
What’s the spec like?
E-Tech buyers only get a slice of the top-end Captur grades, with either the S Edition (tested here) or an E-Tech Launch Edition to choose from.
A huge list of standard equipment is included, such as 17-inch alloy wheels, a reversing camera, a large touchscreen and LED headlights. If you opt for the Launch Edition, you also get larger 18-inch alloy wheels and a range of blue and copper exterior touches to make it stand out further.
One of the biggest downsides, though, is the price, with the Captur E-Tech range starting from a steep £30,995, or another £500 if you fancy the Launch Edition. It’s a lot of money – almost £6,000 more than the equivalent petrol Captur – and it doesn’t help when Mini’s more accomplished Countryman plug-in hybrid is available for similar money.
Given the standard Renault Captur is such a well-rounded crossover, this French firm should have been on to a winner with the introduction of a far more efficient plug-in hybrid model.
And though it keeps this crossover’s striking design, generous equipment levels and fantastic interior, the E-Tech powertrain here lacks finesse and is also accompanied by a rather steep price increase.
Unless you’re dead-set on a plug-in hybrid, we’d recommend saving a chunk of money and choosing the regular Captur. Or, if you’re set on something electrified, check out Renaut’s excellent electric Zoe hatchback – capable of a 245-mile electric range that is a solid cure for range anxiety – that’s available from a more affordable £27,495.
Model: Renault Captur E-Tech
Model as tested: Captur E-Tech S Edition Plug-in Hybrid 160 Auto
Price as tested: £32,855
Engine: 1.3-litre petrol with electric motor
Torque: 144Nm (engine), 205Nm (electric motor)
Max speed: 107mph
0-60mph: 9.9 seconds