The Kadjar has finally landed at Portuguese shores and it’s about time. If I was the Nissan Qashqai, I would be very scared.
Eighteen months. Five hundred and forty days. Twelve thousand, nine hundred and sixty hours. That’s how long we were denied Renault’s new foray into the extremely important – and profitable – C-segment crossover.
Sometimes it is hard to live in this country. Yes, I know Portugal is in fashion, Lisbon is the European capital of cool and the Algarve is attracting more tourists than ever, but for us, those who live here every single day, it’s just frustrating how laws and bureaucracy get in the way of normal daily life.
The application of toll classes is calculated through the height of the bonnet on top of the front axle. If that number is higher than 1.10 metres, then the car is a Class 2. If it is lower, it is a Class 1. Obviously, with so many competitors on the market, the Kadjar – a Class 2 as standard – would never sell in Portugal and Renault decided it was pointless to launch it over here.
Instead, they set about making it viable for it to be homologated as a Class 1 vehicle. Now, usually, as is the case for example with the Kia Carens, a sport suspension is added, which lowers the car enough to dip it under the 1.1m mark.
However, Renault felt that would not be a good enough engineering job and they went another way. A better way, yes, but also a more complex one, thus the 18 months it took to come up with a proper solution, both mechanically and financially.
In the end, the adaptation of the rear axle of the 4x4 version increases the allowed gross vehicle weight to 2305kg, 5kg over the limit for it to be a Class 1 vehicle again, as long as it uses the Via Verde system. Are you confused? Me too. So that’s not about height anymore? Correct. Why? Beats me. Thank our government for that.
Anyway, our stupid laws may have had the first grin, but who’s laughing now? That’s right – the French. And I salute them for turning this thing around.
Everything in place, it was time to show the car to the Portuguese public – and the press. We gathered in Lisbon and in teams of two drove down to Alentejo for a two-day run around some of the most beautiful landscapes the south has to offer, stopping at some spectacular places, like the Amieira Marina on the banks of the Alqueva dam, or the Esporão cellars in Reguengos de Monsaraz, where we learned more about the great wine produced at the region.
But what about the Kadjar? Well, the alliance between Renault and Nissan means the Kadjar is a close cousin to the Qashqai. Incidentally, the Nissan has been sitting at the top of the sales charts since its first iteration and is the natural target for the French model.
At launch, the Kadjar is only available with the long-serving 1.5dCi diesel engine, in a tune of 110 horse power, coupled to a six-speed manual gearbox, but to me that seemed perfectly suited to the car in all the time I was at the wheel.
Fast enough – nobody buys a car like this to impersonate Renault F1 driver Jolyon Palmer – and spectacularly frugal (think less than 6 litres/100km in real world driving), the small oil burner also keeps national taxes in check, allowing the Kadjar to start under the €30,000 mark at €29,710.
Dispatching motorway miles is no trouble to the Kadjar, but the real surprise comes when you show it some corners: it keeps its composure and even throws in some moments of driving pleasure.
Renault even prepared some off-road stretches for us to try the Kadjar’s abilities when the going gets rough and it was really fun. It’s amazing how you can get it sideways in perfect safety when the grip at the back axle is lost.
Inside, the Kadjar is not as attractive as a Mégane Sport Tourer, but that doesn’t mean it is not appealing in its way. Build quality is good, as is the driving position. There is loads of space in the back and a big boot: practicality will surely not be a problem for a family of four.
Be careful with one thing though: the body colour. The Kadjar needs to be a bright one so that its overall design works well. Get it in brown or black and it looks weird. Get it in red or silver and it looks good.
With another model to tackle the market – and such an important one – Renault is likely to leave their rivals trailing by an even longer way in 2017. Last year, it was the French constructor’s best year in Portugal in a quarter of a century, with a market share of 13.8% and overall sales of 33,312 units. That’s not a typo: Renault sells more than 91 cars per day in Portugal. Wow.
The Clio is the market leader, but the Mégane comes in third, the Captur fifth overall, both being segment leaders. When asked what the predictions were for the Kadjar in Portugal, Renault said it expects nothing less than a stellar performance from their new model. And if they say it, believe me, it is quite unlikely they get it wrong. RIP Nissan Qashqai.
By Guilherme Marques