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Renault's second-generation Captur strengthens its identity in a crowded but popular sector.
After sampling the new compact SUV in Sardinia, we try a mid-specification model on UK roads for a week.
Full LED headlights, automatic climate control, cruise control and speed limiter, EasyLink multimedia system with 7in touchscreen, FM/DAB tuner, USB and aux-in connection, Bluetooth, smartphone integration including Android Auto and Apple Carplay, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assistance, autonomous emergency braking, traffic sign recognition, 4.2in driver information display, hands-free key card access, electric front and rear windows, 17in alloy wheels, automatic windscreen wipers, synthetic leather steering wheel, driver's seat height adjustment, rear parking sensors, two-tone paint, rear privacy glass, roof bars.
Most people credit the Nissan Juke with creating the compact SUV sector.
And while it might not have been the first (the Kia Soul and Toyota Urban Cruiser appeared before it) the Nissan - designed, engineered and built in the UK - was the first car in the segment to enjoy mass appeal.
Nissan and Renault share vehicle platforms to develop their own vehicle, and Renault's first compact SUV - the Captur - didn't appear until three years after the Juke. Arguably, it wasn't even an SUV when it started.
It followed the Renault Modus, which was more in the mould of a compact MPV, and it wasn't until the Captur's mid-life facelift in 2016 that Renault accentuated some SUV design elements to lend it some SUV credentials.
The strategy appeared to strike a chord, but for the second-generation Captur, Renault has instilled a stronger SUV appearance from the start, and it is clearly part of an SUV family alongside the larger Kadjar and Koleos.
More SUV than before
Its higher waistline combined with front and rear skid-plates below the bumpers make it look more purposeful, even if it is unlikely to venture away from paved road surfaces.
An extra 110mm in length also gives the new Captur greater road presence. Like the Megane and the new Clio, the Captur incorporates a C-shaped signature into the headlight design (only in the highest S Edition grade is this element fully illuminated as a daytime running light signature).
In the entry-level Play, and our mid-specification Iconic, it is a less distinctive, short LED strip at the base of the headlight unit. However, all Capturs come with LED headlights and rear lights, and at the rear the light cluster is a more recognisable feature.
Inside, the quality of the materials and the finish has taken a big step up from the previous generation. However, this is most noticeable with the S Edition, which comes with a 9.3in portrait-orientated dashboard touchscreen angled towards the driver.
The Play and Iconic variants get a 7in screen (with sat-nav) as standard, and the soft-touch materials extending to the door trim in the S Edition are absent from the lower grades.
Perhaps this careful management of upgraded materials helps ensure prices remain competitive.
The interiors are a great improvement across the board, and it would only be from trying a lower grade after coming from the S Edition that you would feel like you were missing out.
One of the strengths of the previous Captur was its versatile interior, and this is enhanced in the new model.
A small amount of the 110mm of extra length in the body has gone into liberating more rear legroom, while the rear seat can slide to vary the amount of luggage volume or passenger space.
It can slide 160mm (with the more forward position), increasing minimum luggage volume to 536 litres from the standard 455 litres. On the road, the Captur's 100hp, turbocharged, three-cylinder engine feels lively, while the car has keen agility in urban areas, with intuitive responses.
Engine refinement is good, although we would have preferred a six-speed manual transmission over the available five-speed gearbox, not least because engine speed would be slightly lower on the motorway, giving an extra boost to fuel economy.
The Captur has renewed appeal in its second generation, standing out more in a sector where drivers feel the car they choose says something about them. Improved quality and modest costs should ensure it is a hit.