We find out if new hybrid technology is a winner in our favourite small SUV


  • 4.5 out of 5

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    Verdict

    The E-Tech Hybrid is another impressive version of our top small SUV, offering plenty of scope for comfortable electric-only driving around town, without the extra cost and complexity of a plug-in system. It’s not quite as practical as regular Capturs, but it’s still one of the few small SUVs that can conceivably stand up to use as a family car – and in this guise, it’s an efficient one to boot.

    The Renault Captur is our favourite small SUV, thanks to its practicality, solid driving dynamics and nicely finished cabin. It’s been offered with a choice of petrol or plug-in hybrid power, but now there’s a fresh hybrid model to occupy the middle ground.

    Called the Captur E-Tech Hybrid, the new arrival uses a 1.6-litre engine combined with two electric motors. The first can drive the wheels outright, while the second – effectively an integrated starter-generator – helps to smooth the gaps between gearchanges. It’s the same set-up that has already impressed us in the Clio. The engine produces 138bhp and 144Nm on its own, but the electric motor delivers 250Nm, and their combined efforts take the car from 0-62mph in 10.6 seconds, while emitting 114g/km of CO2 in S Edition trim tested here.

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    • It feels just like any other automatic Captur inside, which is to say that it’s comfy and nicely finished, with standard Renault instrumentation and good infotainment.
      But switch the E-Tech Hybrid on and you will be able to pull away in complete silence – or rather, you would, were the car not programmed to emit a low-pitched “EV hum” when it’s running on electricity alone.

      The battery at the heart of the system is just 1.2kWh, so don’t think you’re going to be completing entire morning commutes without a bit of combustion-engine activity. Around town the E-Tech Hybrid does a solid job of behaving like a full EV (or at least, a decent fully charged PHEV). You can try to force its hand on the source of power by selecting “Pure” mode, but it’s best to just leave the car to read your driving style and then adopt a smooth, unhurried approach.

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      Do that and you’re likely to be surprised at how much of its time the petrol engine spends turned off. And you should see north of 50mpg on urban trips as a result; this is definitely one of those cars that, in contrast to conventional models, will get closer to its official fuel consumption (56.5mpg) around town than it will on the open road.

      The transmission, and its ability to manage the switches between electric and petrol power, isn’t flawless, but again, the E-Tech Hybrid is more likely to get flustered if you do. Make a sudden, dramatic request for acceleration and you’ll notice a little judder as the engine kicks in, although once that’s over and done with, the motor itself is very smooth. But if you learn the system then you’ll find the transition between pure-electric and ICE power hard to detect.

      As a package, the Captur hybrid doesn’t really come unstuck on faster routes. There’s enough shove from the engine itself to maintain reasonably swift progress on A-roads and motorways, and the Renault’s comfortable set-up hasn’t been compromised by the more complex powertrain. The steering has a pleasing heft to it, and in general there’s a solid balance between comfort and control. It’s not as agile as a Ford Puma, but in some ways it’s perhaps a little more accomplished overall.

      The Captur’s practicality, one of its key qualities, doesn’t quite emerge unscathed from the transfer to hybrid power, but it’s still very capable. The boot is a decent 326 litres, and if you’re willing to sacrifice a bit of rear legroom you can slide the second row forwards to extend that to 440 litres.

      The E-Tech is available in all three of the Captur’s trim levels: Iconic, S Edition and RS Line. We’d choose the S Edition, which has a seven-inch screen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, 18-inch alloys, auto lights and wipers, front and rear parking sensors, a rear-view camera and cruise control.

      Model: Renault CapturE-Tech Hybrid 145 S Edition
      Price: £26,000
      Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl petrol hybrid
      Power/torque: 143bhp/N/A
      Transmission: Six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive 
      0-62mph: 10.6 seconds
      Top speed: 106mph
      Econ./CO2: 56.5mpg/114g/km
      On sale: Now
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