AS one of the oldest car makers, Renault has fully embraced the latest popular crossover sector with its Kadjar SUV.
It was among the first to put a modern MPV on the market with the Scenic and dallied with the slightly off-the-pavement Avantime and slow selling Koleos, but it is the Kadjar which now carries the Renault name into family motoring.
There are 18 models in the Kadjar range based on four trim levels and a choice of two diesels or one petrol engine with front or selectable four-wheel-drive. Prices go from about £18,000 to £26,800.
This was the Signature Nav 130 which comes with a 1,598cc diesel engine, six-speed manual gearbox and selectable two or four-wheel-drive.
The specification on the Kadjar test model included a sophisticated Bose infotainment system, self-parking technology, automatic parking brake, R-link to phone, various apps and TomTom based sat nav, leather seats and trim adding £2,950 to the basic price.
The Kadjar's turbo-diesel engine was fairly brisk from standstill and really came into its own on the move in lower gears for quick and safe overtaking or towing.
A useful economy meter in the system showed how economically you were driving over a period of time, breaking down to smooth acceleration or braking as well, in addition to the familiar overall fuel consumption readouts.
We averaged over 44mpg despite a mixture of driving conditions from urban crawl to cross country sprint.
The ability to select two-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive and lock the system by a rotary switch behind the gear lever was simple and effective and the ground clearance of the Kadjar meant it could safely and effectively cover rutted tracks and soft ground.
There is no hill descent assist but the anti-locking brakes worked fine on a steep unmetalled road we found.
On surfaced roads the Kadjar was smooth riding, responsive and felt agile, while the self-parking system was useful to have but cost £500. Handling was safe and surefooted with no real vices and little body roll or pitching.
The £1,250 leather covered front and three back seats were nicely shaped and fairly supporting unless you have very long legs while the room was good for five, and the sensibly sized and shaped boot held from 472 litres until the seats were folded and took capacity to 1,478 litres. Underfloor trays are useful but not deep.
Inside the cabin, the oddments room was modest with small door bins and slim seat back pockets but glovebox and lidded central bin were more generous.
Driver and front passenger have a good adjustment range on seats, electric on driver only, and the legroom and headroom is very good. In the back the space would be good for all but the tallest passengers and they also have plenty of headspace and there a big panoramic roof.
Noise levels were low when cruising on good roads, under load the diesel engine was more intrusive but not unpleasant and some surfaces produced a lot of suspension and tyre noises, but wind and other mechanical noises were very low or non-existent.
Visibility was helped by the rear camera but the tail is high and thick rear pillars restrict sightlines when manoeuvring, so the camera in the parking pack becomes an essential aid. To the front the hefty windscreen pillars and mirrors create a small blindspot when leaving a junction, but you quickly adapt to positioning the Kadjar in a safer way.
Safety is important to family buyers and the Renault Kadjar feels well made, its controls are easy yet effective, it handles faithfully and with economy and it really gives any sector rival a run for its money even if its not the quickest car in this category.