By Guillaume Séguin – May 17th, 2021
The first generation of Renault Captur has been the most popular SUV of the last decade in Europe, and relatively popular in Ireland thanks to a very attractive looks, popular 2-tone exterior colours while surfing on the SUV wave… the second generation was launched late 2019, with a more mature yet sportier looks. Renault has been offering (depending on markets) an impressive variety of engine choices : diesel (now discontinued) and petrol of course, but also LPG, mild Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid (tested today) and soon a “regular” full hybrid. This Plug-in Hybrid version isn’t the first PHEV from Renault since it was actually the first manufacturer to release one, the Kangoo Elect’road … back in 2003 ! In this modern day, the Captur (as well as the Mégane Estate equipped with the same powertrain) is Renault’s €30K PHEV alternative to the fully electric similar-sized Zoé Z.E.50.
So what is the Renault Captur E-Tech Plug-in Hybrid ?
The Renault Captur is a B-segment crossover, based on the CMF-B platform, shared with the latest Clio and Nissan Juke but also the upcoming (also hybrid) Arkana Coupé-SUV. This platform will soon host fully electric Renault 5 and Alpine hot hatch. At 4.28m long the Captur II can be considered as a small family car and this plug-in electric variant gets the most powerful powertrain of the range, with 160hp. The 1.6 naturally aspirated petrol engine is joined by 2 electric motors (one of which is only used to regenerate, and start the petrol engine) mated with an innovative clutch-less gearbox (mixing 4 gears for the engine with 2 to the motor for a total of “15 driving combinations”). The performance is more than adequate but not groundbreaking with a 10.1 seconds to go from 0 to 100kph.
Range, Charging and driving modes
The battery has a total capacity of 9.8kWh (7.5kWh useable) and is located below the boot. It delivers a WLTP range of 50km (65km WLTP City). I could drive 48km on our Cork test loop before the petrol engine kicked in. From that moment the system keeps the low 10-20% unused, and serves as buffer for the car to operate like a regular hybrid. On a dual-carrigeway with the battery depleted I returned 5.8 litres per100km and on a more mixed route with city driving a very reasonable 5.2 litres. That’s as bad as it gets. And of course as for all PHEVs, it’s as good as how often you can plug it ! If you think the motorway range would be really degraded, like most EVs, it won’t. On a 30km motorway loop, cruising at 100kph with rain by 10°C I used 60% of the battery, witch means you can do close to 40km, so not too far from WLTP range. The reason for that relatively good performance is the second gear. Indeed, like a Porsche Taycan or a BMW i8, the electric motor runs on no less than 2 gears. The second gear shifts at around 75kph : You can feel it when you’re strongly accelerating.
The Captur has 3 driving modes : Pure EV, My Sense and Sport. Pure EV will keep the car in 100% electric mode, but if you require full power and floor it, the engine will come to the rescue. A gauge shows you when the engine will kick in so you can make sure you don’t use dino-juice. The second mode is My Sense, and this simply lets the system decide what to do. It switches between petrol and electric modes, depending on many criteria, and to be honest, it’s actually difficult to figure out this logic. On this mode I could do around 60km before the battery was emptied so you can see that it uses petrol a fair bit. This is the mode you need to choose if you’re doing a long distance trip without recharging. The last mode named “Sport” is not very convincing : it will engage the petrol engine systematically but if the power is there, and the chassis quite willing, it’s the gearbox that shows that it’s not made for it, with lots of noise and gear shifting that is disturbing. Mind you, it’s only in this more extreme situations, all PHEVs behave this way and it’s way better than a Toyota hybrid. Both Sport and My Sense modes have an E-Save function that allows to the battery to be kept topped-up, if you need to drive in 100% electric mode later during your journey. Note that in all modes you can adjust a few elements like the steering response or the ambient lightning. Finally a B mode is present (by actioning the e-shifter down), but like for all Renault EVs, the regen is not very strong, so driving in B mode should be favored over the D mode. The good thing is that when you start the car, it will use the regen mode you’ve been choosing last, no need to set it each time like on a Nissan Leaf for example. The central display shows clearly both petrol and EV range, and one of my favorite is, along with the instant fuel consumption, the power gauge (numerical, in kW) showing instantly how much power the motor generates (or recharges). It is cool to see these 2 information on the same screen, showing how hard both the motor and the engine are working together. I wish all BEVs (and PHEVs) had such display. In terms of charging, we have a Type 2 connector, that can get 3.7kW. It’s not impressive but the battery is small, so in 3 hours you will get your full charge. With a 3-pin granny-cable, allow a bit over 4 hours.
How is it as an everyday car ?
When you step in you will feel like in an upmarket Zoé. If the dashboard is very similar, the seats, door panels and more generous width will make you feel like you’re sitted in a larger car. Along with generous soft plastics, very nice switches, it also has a 10 inches driver display (customizable, and showing different elements depending on the driving mode) and the 9.3 inches central portrait display you saw in the Zoé ZE 50. And it has over the air updates for navigation (and unlike with Tesla, you don’t need wifi connection to perform that). Neat! On the Tech side, you also have app support where you can check your battery level, launch preconditioning or your charge, you get the full EV experience. Despite the 18” wheels of this version (17” are standard on the S-Edition, the comfort is good, with great front seat, with a very cool fabric and vegan leather on the sides. The customizable interior lightning and available dark headliner make the interior very upmarket. I like the floating center console where the shifter is located. Below you will find a wireless charging pad, just like on a Zoé.
When you step onto the second row, you will find good space for a B segment car, with door bins and pocket on the back of the front seat. The central tunnel is small enough to comfortably accomodate the 5th passenger’s feet and the occupants will enjoy a 12v socket, 2 air vents and 2 USB sockets! Not many vehicles of that segment offer so much. On top of this the rear bench slides forwards allowing you to get a bigger boot space should you have children (or no-one) on these rear seats. It’s a great feature because the boot is unfortunately smaller (265 to 379 litres depending on seats position) than on the best-in-class ICE version (406 to 520!) because of the batteries and underfloor storage for the cables. For comparison, the large boot of the Zoé is measures 338 litres, and VW ID3 is at 385 litres. In general is very well equipped, there are not many option available : Heated leather seats and steeting wheel, adaptive cruise control with lane assist, 360 camera and handsfree parking or a Bose sound system. Of course, because it’s a Captur you have many interior and exterior customization options.
Should I buy one ?
The real question is : Should you buy a PHEV ? Do the maths, consider your daily commute, charging patterns and the higher ICE maintenance of a PHEV. If the answer is yes, this one is really a good choice, should you not need a huge boot. It’s stylish, reasonably priced, comfortable, pleasant to drive, does a great job everywhere really. If the answer is no, look at its sister, the Zoé Z.E.50, as it offer most of the interior and functionalities, bigger boot, better performance and one of the biggest battery for that same price range. If you want it, order it now, as PHEV incentives are soon going away.
Renault Captur E-Tech Plug in 160 S-Edition : €30,170
Renault Captur E-Tech Plug in Launch Edition: €31,170
Version tested : Captur E-Tech Launch Edition with optional Highland grey metallic paint and pearl black roof.
Prices exclude delivery charges, include 23% VAT, VRT, VRT rebate and SEAI grant, as of 21st May, 2021.
Many thanks to Kearys Renault Cork for lending us this Captur.