Thursday 26 April 2018

The crossover now makes the marque

Carmakers view small SUVs as the fastest growing niche market and are falling over each other to fill the gap, reports Geraldine Herbert

SMALL SUVs or urban crossovers are the fastest growing niche market and companies are falling over each other in a rush to produce one.

More hatchback and less SUV, they blend MPV like interior versatility with a high driving position. If you are after practical family transport with a 'go anywhere' appearance outside and a bit more space inside then one of these urban crossovers just might be the car for you.

First to launch is Renault with its Captur. Pronounced "capture", it is essentially a Clio on steroids. It shares styling features with its smaller sibling including a wide black grille and sharper and more aggressive-looking headlights.

Two engines will be available at launch including the Energy TCe 90 S&S three cylinders and 898cc (€200 road tax) and the Energy dCi 90 S&S engine which uses just 78.4mpg and emits just 95g of CO2 per km (€180 road tax). A dCi 90 EDC engine will arrive in 2014.

Inside there is a host of family-friendly features including zip-off seat covers that you can remove and wash and a sliding rear seat. Space is good throughout and the boot takes a decent 377 litres but with the rear seats folded it will swallow up to 1,235 litres.

Two trim options are available – Life and Intense – and standard equipment is good and includes sliding rear seat, reversible boot floor, keycard for locking and starting, Hill Start Assist (HSA), emergency brake assist, Bluetooth and leather steering wheel. The R-Link touch screen infotainment system will be available as an option next year.

The Captur arrives in Ireland next month with a starting price of €19,390.

The most direct competition to the Captur is from fellow French car maker Peugeot in the form of the 2008. Similarly conceived, the Peugeot 2008 is based on the award-winning 208 but is higher, longer and wider than its hatchback sibling.

Inside the chic styling from the 208 is carried over and it is spacious and comfortable. The boot is larger than the 208 with all seats in place but it can stretch to 1,193 litres with the seats folded.

The engine line-up starts with the 1.2 litre petrol unit with 82 bhp output (€200 road tax) and a choice of two 1.4 litre diesel units putting out 68 bhp and 92 bhp (€190 and €180 road tax).

With tougher looks and a higher driving position the 2008 gives the appearance of an off-roader but looks can be deceiving and the 2008 is only offered in front-wheel drive. In contrast to the Captur, however, it comes with an optional new grip control system. This allows the driver to choose from five settings that alter the power and torque that is sent to the front wheels when driving in poor weather conditions like snow and mud. For an extra €350 it would certainly be worth the peace of mind in winter.

Prices for the new Peugeot are unconfirmed but we would expect it to be priced slightly lower than the Captur.

Originally intended only for developing markets like Brazil and India, Ford will launch their version of the urban crossover later this year. The EcoSport SUV, shown at the Geneva Motor Show is based on the Fiesta.

With a small bonnet, higher ground clearance and rugged oversized front grill Ford's new urban crossover will be available in front-wheel drive only. Engine options are likely to include a 1.0-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost and a 1.5-litre diesel. Hi-tech features include Ford's SYNC system developed in conjunction with Microsoft. The system allows you to control your music and phone with simple voice commands, it can even read out your text messages. In the event of an accident the system will automatically call the emergency services and notify them of your exact location.

The EcoSport is not due in Ireland until later in year so exact details of trim and pricing are not yet available.

The foray into urban crossovers is likely to continue into next year with entrants from the Volkswagen group and Honda. Unveiled last year at the Paris Motor Show, Audi's Crosslane Coupe concept hints at what Audi's smallest crossover the Q2 is likely to look like. Smaller in dimensions than the current Q3 but bigger than the A3, this all-in-one coupe, a convertible and a crossover, features a range of weight-saving measures. While the styling previews the look of the next generation of Audi Q models, it's unlikely that much else of this concept will carry over to the production model. Audi has yet to confirm production of this new model.

Volkswagen also unveiled a concept crossover at the 2012 Sao Paulo Motor Show, the Tiguan concept car. Based on Volkswagen's Up, the concept previews the look of a possible small crossover. It is unlikely to make it into production until 2015 but we just may see something in Frankfurt this autumn.

Honda chose Detroit to reveal its take on a small crossover, the Urban SUV Concept. Production has been confirmed for this new model and it will go on sale first in Japan so it will be late 2014 before we see it in Ireland. Smaller than the CR-V, the Urban SUV will have the same Magic Seats as the current Civic and is likely to be powered by Honda's new 1.6iDTEC diesel engine.

Irish Independent

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