First Drive

Renault Captur E-Tech 2020 UK review

Underpinnings aside, the second-generation Captur immediately cuts a rather more dashing figure than its comparatively staid forebear. Slimmer lights at both ends and more overtly muscular body lines bring it into line with its chic Clio and Mégane stablemates, and there’s little of the gratuitous stylistic quirkiness that afflicts some of its rivals – or indeed, siblings (we’re looking at you, Nissan Juke). Nor is there much to tell this electrified version apart from the standard petrol car beyond a subtle badge here and there. 

Automatic versions such as this get a trick new ‘floating’ centre console with a wireless phone charger underneath, and orange soft-touch trim panels (a £350 option) imbue the cabin with a real sense of quality, both perceived and actual. We would bravely suggest the large vertically aligned infotainment touchscreen felt Tesla-esque, but the retention of most of the physical controls means the cabin feels slightly more cluttered than it ought to, while the counter-intuitive control placement (the volume adjuster is hidden behind the steering wheel, and the drive mode selector next to the heated seat switch) will take some getting used to. Overall, though, it’s bright and airy and certainly brings more visual pizzazz than does a Ford Puma. 

The E-Tech has three confusingly named driving modes: Pure, Sport and My Sense, which you’ll know better as ‘Electric’, ‘Combustion’ and ‘Hybrid’. In the last of these, the transition between the two power sources is all but seamless, and at low revs, the petrol motor is barely more discernible than its electric team-mate. It starts to make a bit of a din when you get a hustle on, though, and remains in a low gear for some time after kickdown, making overtakes and motorway merges a noisy experience. However, it belies its unforced induction with decent mid-range grunt and sufficient shove off the line.  

On mixed roads, and with judicious use of the (non-variable) regenerative brakes, it’s possible to top up the traction battery quite quickly, making last-mile EV running a realistic daily proposition, should your commute take you into high-traffic areas. That’s an especially attractive proposition, given the competence of the electric element of this powertrain: pleasingly swift take-up accompanied by a faint background whirring means this doesn’t feel like a functionality that’s been baked in for the sake of compliance, more a welcome injection of future-proofing that will suit – and enhance the ownership experience for – a much wider target market. The silence of the EV motor is a bit of a double-edged sword, though, because tyre roar, wind noise and suspension clunks soon fill the silence. Not unbearably so, but enough to blemish a package that’s otherwise up there with the most refined of them. 

With its 7.5kWh battery mounted under the rear seat, the Captur is claimed to be capable of 30 miles of EV running, and our test suggests that’s a realistic projection. As with all PHEVs, the combined WLTP consumption figures are less easy to replicate in real life – the Captur’s is claimed at an astounding 188.3mpg – but it’s hardly a thirsty old beast, in any case. Once you’ve worked out how to treat the powertrain to maintain the optimal combination of petrol and electricity, you’ll likely find it an agreeable everyday companion, if not one that’s particularly engaging. 

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