First Drive: Renault Kadjar
A fifth of Renault's sales in Ireland last year came from its Kadjar crossover. And around 450,000 have been sold globally since the model was launched in 2015. That's business well worth Renault minding. So they've just introduced a revised version - and more importantly some new engines.
Sheet-metal enhancements make the car look a bit wider, a little more rugged. Fancier lights too, front and rear. They've upscaled the interior with some satin chrome-style edging on the instruments and dash.
A more integrated central control panel and reworked air con operation are worthwhile.
Small but useful details include backlighting the electric windows controls ('we listened to our customers') and more storage in the doors.
They made improvements to the seats. The base of the front ones can be extended. There's a new 3D-type pattern for those in the top-spec Kadjar. And one-button folding the rear ones make it easier to provide extra luggage space they claim is class leading. All good.
But maybe the best is the option of a brace of new petrol engines to go along with upgraded versions of the previous diesels.
With the market sales mix of diesel/petrol now at 54pc/46pc, this is an essential. The turbo petrols are 140hp/160hp, both with automatic options.
The smaller output one has 30pc more pulling power at 1,500rpm than the previous petrol. That gives it almost diesel traction. Only quieter.
The previous 110hp diesel now pumps 115hp and has an overboost for a temporary extra five horses.
There's a 150hp new 1.7 diesel, available with 4WD. But only 2pc of Kadjars sold here are AWD. (So much for going down to the beach house during the divorce negotiations, as per the cheeky TV ad.)
Though, jokes aside, I did drive the FWD version on some grotty terrain in Sardinia and it would have no trouble making that beach trip. The route included rutted sections of dirt and gravel, and some flooded lengths from rains which had been heavy in preceding days.
There was nary a rattle or squeak, and at no stage did the cars balk, skid or grumble.
The car proved that a highish ride height is all that's needed for most journeys in any terrain that Kadjar owners are likely to attempt.
I also drove 4WD versions across a hardier course, but I'd have been quite happy to do that even in the 2WD versions. In latest form, the car takes on the trim names and specifications already rolled out in other Renault models in the Irish and British markets.
There are four for the Kadjar - Play, Iconic, S-Edition and GT-Line. Prices starting at €26,995 are up somewhat. That is thanks to tax changes in the new-regime WLTP fuel economy reckoning . . . as well as a bump in VRT for the diesels of course.
The latter may well further move potential owners towards the petrol versions, especially where the work is family mobility in more urban environments.
This is a crowded market. Kadjar now has around 40 competitors - that's an increase of 60pc in just five years. It reflects also a quadrupling of SUVs in the small-family segment since 2007. The latest changes were needed to keep it in this most competitive space.
Whether enough, only time and the market will tell.