Renault aim for shootout with Qashqai as new kid-on-block Kadjar arrives
* First drive in Spain: Renault Kadjar
* Both crossovers share platform and engines but will battle it out for buyers
CONSIDERING the area is famous for its spaghetti westerns, it was appropriate that Renault should choose the Navarra district in Spain to start a shootout with Nissan.
They fired the first shots in what could be a fascinating high-noon over their new Qashqai-based Kadjar compact crossover.
The strange thing is the two cars share so many underpinnings. But blood isn't thicker than water when it comes to winning buyers.
Renault are saying their car is better, has a bigger boot for example, and claim its looks are way ahead - especially in Flame Red (not in brown please).
And they claim its starting price is €255 lower (from €24,990 ex-works) - not sure that means so much any more because starting prices are merely pitching, as opposed to purchasing, points.
No doubt Nissan will have their views on all that and will, most especially, return fire by pointing to the thousands of Irish buyers/families who swear by their car and repeatedly purchase it.
Anyway we'll have to wait til September to see how the new kid on the block takes proper aim at the seasoned gunslinger.
The former will be armed with 15 different versions, three engines, two gearboxes, four trim levels and either 2WD or 4WD.
I drove the latter first, for the best part of two hours, on gravel roads and dust track against jaw-dropping backgrounds straight from a western movie.
And powering us was the 1.6-litre diesel 130bhp.
It was an unusual but, I thought, appropriate sort of route and trail.
One that, I'd have to say, didn't uncover any twitches or glitches with the test car.
Indeed, considering we were dusting along at a nice rate of knots, it behaved particularly well.
There was reassuring grip, good balance and a sense of poise. We had a couple of fairly heavy thumps over harsh dips (and I was driving too fast) but it managed to maintain its equilibrium.
Think poorly maintained Irish gravel boreens and you have an idea of what the conditions were like underfoot.
I suppose the logic of letting us loose under those circumstances was that if the Kadjar could handle them, then its tarmac behaviour should be a doddle.
It was logical then that I drove the 1.2-litre petrol (130bhp) on the motorway.
This gave a different side to the story; here we slipped along quietly and easily. It was comfortable to drive and, we agreed, there was a particularly good feel to, and feedback from, the steering. That's a good engine too.
I'll await the overall Irish package but our test cars were comfortable and well decked out. The cabins had a good, well-finished feel to them as well as decent materials and seats. However, I definitely wanted more support for my thighs on the seats.
It is too early to compare like with like at this stage and you can't rule out the familiarity factor the Qashqai has in its holster.
But I suspect not just Qashqai buyers will sit up and pay attention. I feel owners of the many others who dot the crossover landscape will be made aware of the new gunslinger in town.
And I think the petrol will attract some attention. It's well worth a try and probably makes more sense for town driving than the diesel.
Just on the engines: there are three: the 1.2-litre turbocharged TCe 130 direct-injection petrol, the 1.5-litre ENERGY dCi 110 diesel (manual and auto and likely to be a big seller) and the 1.6-litre ENERGY dCi 130 diesel.
You can have 4WD with the latter in the top three trim levels (there are four).
Speaking of which... standard equipment (Expression+) includes cruise control, speed limiter, Hill Start Assist, six airbags, LED daytime running lights, 7ins TFT instrument panel, ISOFIX child-seat points on the two outer rear seats, electronic parking brake, front fogs, electric windows, air con, Bluetooth, 4 x 20W DAB radio.
Dynamique Nav adds dual-zone climate control, automatic lights and wipers, 17ins alloys, cornering light function on front fogs, hands-free key-card, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition, automatic headlight beam adjustment, driver's seat lumbar adjustment, 4 x 35W Arkamys 3D digital audio system and the R-Link 2 multimedia system including navigation.
The Dynamique S Nav has 19ins alloys, folding rear bench, front and rear parking sensors, synthetic leather and cloth upholstery, electric/adjustable/heated door mirrors and multi-position boot floor.
Signature Nav has different 19ins alloys, panoramic sunroof, full LED headlights, front and rear skid plates, side and boot kick plates, 'Signature' cloth and leather upholstery with a Nappa leather steering wheel and 8-speaker BOSE sound system.
There is a five-year warranty (across the range) - and a guarantee of an interesting battle when it arrives.