Renault Kadjar (2018 - 2022) used car review

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

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Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

By Jonathan Crouch

Introduction

First launched in 2015, Renault's Kadjar mid-sized SUV got a substantial upgrade four years on that makes the post-facelift version worth seeking out if you're after this French family crossover. As part of the upgrade, this SUV became better primed for petrol power, plus it got smarter, both inside and out. It's certainly a more interesting family choice than that Focus-class hatch you might have been considering from the 2018-2021 period and there's the option of a 4WD version if you want some substance to go with the style.

Models

5dr SUV (1.2 TCe petrol / 1.5 dCi / 1.7 dCi diesel)

History

Renault's Kadjar was in first generation form a family-sized SUV that was smart, sensible and, in its way, quite aspirational. Mindful of the close competition in this segment, the French brand revised it significantly in late 2018 and it's that improved version we're going to look at here.

It took Renault a long time to get on board with a properly class-competitive mid-sized family SUV. This Kadjar model, the brand's first such contender, was introduced in 2015, when it was launched as the family hatch-based big brother to the French maker's popular supermini-based Captur crossover. Prior to that, the French maker's attempts to make real inroads in the family section of the SUV segment had proved notably unsuccessful. We had various off road-orientated versions of the Scenic MPV, plus there was the unloved first generation Koleos SUV, launched in 2007, but soon withdrawn from sale.

That year, 2007, was when Renault were shown what that Koleos model ought to have been. Their Alliance partner Nissan launched a Crossover called the Qashqai that quickly came to define family SUV motoring and when that car was re-designed in 2014, Renault had another go at creating their own version of it: the Kadjar was the result. This time, the Gallic maker managed to deliver a contender much closer to what the market wanted and as a result, over 450,000 Kadjars were sold in over 50 countries in this model's first four years on sale.

Buyers were particularly taken by the smart looks, the comfort-orientated demeanour and the fact that a 4WD option was much more affordable than it was on a Qashqai. They weren't quite so enamoured by the relative inefficiency of the aging 1.2-litre TCe turbo unit provided to power petrol versions - which was a problem given the market's increasing militant preference against diesels. On top of that, by 2018 improvements were also needed to match more recently launched segment rivals in areas like cabin quality, media connectivity and safety provision. Renault claimed to have addressed all of these things with this much improved Kadjar model, plus there were upgraded diesel engines and smarter exterior looks. The car sold in this form until 2021.

What You Get

So. What do we have here? A Nissan Qashqai with a Renault re-style? Or something more? This Kadjar certainly shared much with the MK2 version of its Japanese design stablemate, primarily its 'CMF' 'Common Module Family' platform and most of its engine technology. Renault admitted that 60% of this car's parts were shared with its Nissan cousin but claimed that 95% of what you saw and felt with this Kadjar was unique to this model. Visually, as you might expect, it shares quite a lot with the French brand's smaller Captur SUV, especially at the front where the two cars are very similar indeed. Changes were made here with this revised post-'18 Kadjar, though you'd probably have to be a sales person or a real brand enthusiast to notice them. The grille was slightly wider and could feature chrome slats on top variants, plus there were new cut-out sections for re-shaped fog lamps that could feature full-LED technology. All this meant the need for a re-styled bumper, which features a larger area of body-coloured paintwork.

Behind the wheel, there's certainly a higher quality ambiance in this facelift version, thanks to a fascia re-design that brought us a smarter flush-fitting 7-inch infotainment screen and sophisticated circular climate control dials with incorporated digital read-outs. 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring became standard across the range, the seats offered greater support, the door panels were re-designed, a sliding centre armrest was added and the door bins were bigger. Otherwise, things were much as before, with a relatively commanding driving position and a configurable 7-inch TFT instrument display replacing conventional dials

And the rear? Well as usual in a car of this kind, it's comfortable for two adults but a little bit of a squash for three. Headroom though, is fine, unless you've a top model fitted with Renault's fixed panoramic roof, in which case really tall folk might be a touch restricted. If you really do need to take three adults in the back, it's easier than is the case in some rivals, thanks to a low centre transmission tunnel and the fact that the middle part of the bench doesn't force you to sit on an uncomfortably raised section of foam. Compared to a MK2 Qashqai, you get a slightly longer body length with this Kadjar and that pays dividends when it comes to boot space, which is rated at 472-litres, 42-litres more than you'd get in that Nissan. Useful touches include a Multi-positional adjustable-height boot floor. And 'Easy Life' cargo sidewall catches that allow you to more easily retract the 60:40-split rear seatback to free up 1,478-litres of total space.

What You Pay

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What to Look For

Most Kadjar owners we came across were pretty satisfied, but inevitably, some issues were thrown up by our survey. We came across problems that ranged from issues with the remote locking, to engine and transmission problems. First, check the Renault key card and make sure it locks and unlocks the doors properly. If it doesn't, then the key battery might be flat. Then get in and make sure that the starter activates and lights up the dashboard. If it doesn't then the car battery may be at fault. If the engine can't be switched off once activated, then try pressing the starter button 5 times in quick succession and see if that solves it.

As for driving issues, well look for vibrations, smoke from the exhaust and warning lights on the dash. If vibrations are the problem, check tyre pressure and the condition of the tyres. We've known the diesel engines to display white exhaust smoke occasionally. This might only be due to the particulate filter, which is easy to solve, but if the problem persists, then more severe measures will be needed. Check the steering: if it feels very heavy, then the assistance motor may be faulty. Engine overheating can occur if the coolant hasn't been kept properly topped up. You might also want to check the engine cooling fan and see if there are any coolant leaks. If the engine is lacking power, the coolant is boiling or the engine oil is frothing up, then the cylinder head gasket might need replacing. We've also come across reports of issues with electricals, ranging from faulty wipers to cars that wouldn't start. There have also been issues with faulty bulbs that stop the indicators from correctly working.

There was a recall for 2019 models due to non-functioning catalytic converters. If your car you're looking at is affected, make sure this has been attended to. If you're looking at a car fitted with the automatic gearbox and gearbox changes feel sluggish or there's a grinding sound, then walk away; an expensive trip to the dealer will be needed. On all diesel models, make sure there is no diesel injection fault light on the dashboard because that indicates that the high pressure system needs checking, the first step being to renew the fuel filter. We've also come across issues with engines cutting out or stalling, which may indicate the need for cleaning the throttle body. Other engine running faults may come from the ignition coil, which might need replacing. Rattling noises from the engine could indicate a faulty inlet camshaft position actuator. To rectify that, the ECU may need reprogramming. The diesel exhaust filter needs checking intermittently and timing belts on all models will need changing after four years of use. We also come across reports of faulty cruise control due to a break in the wire harness, so check that on your test drive.

We came across a number of glitches with the R-Link2 infotainment and sat nav system - things like out-of-date maps and issues with DAB drop-out. Another owner complained of dashboard rattles and window whistles. Whatever variant you're looking at, check tyres, exhausts and front suspension alignment carefully and try to establish if the previous keeper was diligent in the car's upkeep. Look for parking scratches on the alloys and evidence of child damage on the interior plastics and upholstery. All of these issues are common and could give you scope for price negotiation.

Replacement Parts

(approx based on a 2018 Kadjar 1.5 dCi) Day to day consumables for the Kadjar are in line with what you'd expect. An air filter is around £20. An oil filter is around £5-£11. A fuel filter is around £28. Front brake discs sit in the £74-£102 bracket; rear discs cost from around £63-£85. Front brake pads sit in the £27 to £46 bracket for a set; a set of rear pads sits in the £23-£38 bracket. A water pump is around £65-£143. A rear lamp retails in the £110-£138 bracket. A wiper blade will cost around £2-£12. An alternator is around £237. Starter motor is around £183.

On the Road

Like all the best family mid-sized SUV models, this Kadjar requires very little acclimatisation once you set off behind the wheel. Unless you really start to throw the thing around, you'll find that it handles just like any ordinary family hatchback and rides probably better than most of them. Under the bonnet, Renault took the opportunity with this improved model line-up to revise the entire engine range, principally with the introduction of a far more class-competitive volume petrol engine, a 1.3-litre TCe powerplant, offered in either 140 or 160hp guises. The lesser unit could be had with the option of 7-speed EDC auto transmission.

We can't help thinking though, that the sweet spot in the range might be the 1.5-litre dCi diesel unit, upgraded in this facelift model with better sound insulation and an AdBlue selective catalyst to reduce particulate emissions, plus there was also a fraction more power, hence the 'Blue dCi 115' badging. Diesel buyers also got offered a 1.7-litre dCi 150 engine, which is the one you have to have if you want to get your Kadjar with 4WD. That's a set-up which can instantly react to a loss of traction and send up to 50% of drive to the rear wheels when necessary. The dCi 150 variants get more sophisticated independent rear suspension, but even the more conventional set-up fitted to lesser Kadjars is very adept and cushioning away poorly tarmacked surfaces. So yes, you'll like this car on the school run. Which of course, for all the 'urban adventurer' marketing, is actually its preferred habitat.

Overall

The one thing we haven't talked about is that name. North African tribe? Middle Eastern trade wind? Wrong - and wrong. Apparently, it's one of those portmanteau French words where 'Kad' is inspired by the word 'quad' (the casual term for a four-wheeled all-terrain vehicle) and 'Jar' is a reference to the French words 'agile' and 'jaillir,' which means to 'emerge quickly'. A touch ironic that, given that this French brand took so long to establish itself in this profitable family Crossover segment.

Still, there are advantages to turning up late to any party and the Kadjar made the very most of them, especially in this improved form. Building on the market credibility the brand had already earned with its smaller Captur Crossover model, it took pretty much everything that was good about the segment-leading Nissan Qashqai and clothed those elements in a sleek, slightly more spacious package that was a little more affordably priced. Other competitors from this period aren't as easy on the eye and many struggle to match this Renault when it comes to issues like running costs and practicality.

As for the changes made to this revised version, well the important news was that the petrol power, previously a weak link in this model range, became very much a strength. Perhaps just as importantly from a showroom point of view, the cabin, which had previously struggled to justify the price of upper-spec models, now felt wholly appropriate to this car's price point. Are there issues? Well, it's true that this car could certainly be a little sharper to drive, but that's partly down to the fact that, rather refreshingly, Renault tuned the handling for comfort rather than some misguided sense of perceived 'sportiness'. Families will appreciate that, we think. This Kadjar may not be the 'ultimate urban adventurer' the ads claimed, but it's the kind of car that really could add a more appealing dimension to family travel.

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