(Pocket-lint) - The Renault Captur was one of the first true crossovers to grace the roads. Sure, it followed the Nissan Juke - which created this segment - but the Captur has seen success.
It's Renault's best-selling SUV in Europe and the best-selling UK model for Renault too. That's no surprise, with a fusion of high ride and practical space - within a reasonable cost.
So does the second-gen Captur tell a similar story as it mixes hybrid technology into the package?
The new Renault Captur captures the identity of the previous edition, but with a little more bite - with sharper lines and sculpting that's a little more dynamic. It's really around the nose where you see this biggest change, with a lot more definition across all the trim levels.
Fundamentally, it has the same look to it - not like the radical refresh of Nissan's Juke (while we're talking B segment SUVs) - with those side segments giving some form to this car in profile, along with the chunky wheel arches adding some protection from urban scrapes.
The Captur is an urban SUV at heart. Well, it's not really an SUV at all, with no real aims to be sporty or very utility-driven, remaining a front-wheel drive, pumped-up hatch, with no real ambitions of anything more adventurous than parking on the pavement. What it achieves, however, is that clever combination of compact space - especially in the front seats - and we think it looks good too.
It looks and feels spacious, without actually being too large. That sees a rear bench that will accommodate larger kids, perhaps a smaller one in the middle, and a boot that's pretty generous too (at 379 litres), with a floor that lifts to allow for easy stowage of the included cables to charge this plug-in hybrid.
The interior also gets a quality lift, mirroring the design we've seen spreading across the Zoe and the Clio, and it's a lot more modern than the previous version, mixing soft touch and harder plastics. Yes, it's not the pinnacle of luxury, but this is a practical family car.
What's important is that it's comfortable - while also being functional thanks to that big central display - with that soft-touch finish looking great. And while premium models will put leather in these places, the Captur saves that for the steering wheel and the drive selector as key touch points where it really matters.
An interesting hybrid setup
But there's a lot of tech flowing into the new Captur, especially on this E-Tech model. The plug-in hybrid is the more interesting (there's also a non plug-in version, but that doesn't have quite the same appeal) with Renault talking about the tech that's come from Formula 1 in this car.
There's a 1.6-litre petrol engine - with no turbo - mated to an automatic gearbox, with a pair of electric motors and a 9.8kWh battery. The battery is good for around 30 miles of pure electric driving according to Renault's figures - again typical for the plug-in hybrid sector and bringing the advantage of emission free motoring, as long as you take the time to charge it.
Once you're in the car, the technicals of the clutchless dog gearbox and dual motors won't bother you, because you can just get on with driving it just as you would any other automatic.
There's the benefit of some electric range, which means you can coast along in near silence, with the advantage of always pulling away in electric-only mode. It's a low electric range - but that's par for the course for plug-in hybrids - but what's more interesting about the Captur is that it's one of the smaller SUVs with this setup - the Niro PHEV being the notable rival, or the Mini Countryman Cooper S E an alternative.
In reality, you need quite a lot to align for the electric range to be usable. You really need to be able to charge at home so you can do those local journeys in EV mode only, otherwise it's soon drained and unlikely to recharge by any real measure on regeneration alone. You can set the engine to recharge the battery, but that's not really the point of these cars.
The plug-in charging is only rated at 3.6kW, so a garage with a regular socket will probably suffice for many - cables for a domestic plug and a Type 2 for public chargers are included. While regeneration will put charge back into the battery when you lift off the power, that favours stop-start urban driving. Once you're on the motorway, the battery will drain - unless you tell the car not to use the battery at all - and then you're just carrying the additional weight, with little eco benefit for those longer journeys.
In EV mode the Captur is spritely enough and can get up to legal limit speeds on the road (not that you'll have much range driving like this), but around town, it's charming in its abilities.
It remains comfortable, avoiding the harsh suspension that some manufacturers add to boost the sporting credentials. It's better suited to broken roads and speed bumps, better in that urban environment than on twisting country roads, although the steering is also positive enough.
The Captur can be a little unresponsive as you pull up to a roundabout and look to speed away. It seems to pause and think before it delivers the power and that's the most noticeable downside when you're underway: changing pace can sometimes be a little sluggish. It's not hugely fast either, taking 10 seconds to get to 62mph, but that's unlikely to be a concern for this type of car.
Charming interior tech
With an uplift in the interior quality overall, the interior tech puts in a respectable performance too. The system is essentially the same as you'll find in the likes of the Zoe of the Clio, with a nice 9.3-inch display in the centre of the dash and a digital display for the driver. Lower-spec models have a 7-inch display, but if you're looking at the hybrid, the only option is at a higher trim level with this larger display.
The only control you might be left searching for is a physical volume control, which sits on a stalk on the steering column, along with other media controls that you really need to learn to control by feel, as it's not a great place to be looking when you're driving.
The large display gives a modern feel to proceedings and the tech loadout is usable enough, with good navigation and plenty of information when you're driving. We like Renault's solution, but Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are also both supported as standard, so you can plug your phone in to access phone-based apps instead.
The system will give you things like fancy consumption graphs showing the balance of fuel and electric that you've been using, but it's a little baffling. It's well equipped, however, with the only extras you might consider being hands-free parking or adaptive cruise control.
The digital driver display isn't as customisable as some, but it's neat enough, the centre selection letting you switch through major functions to get to the information you want.
The updated Renault Captur has plenty of appeal in this E-Tech hybrid version. This plug-in model gives you a usable range of 30 miles - so long as you charge it - meaning that short journeys could be completed emission free.
This is one of the few plug-in hybrid compact SUVs on the market, too, meaning it retains some appeal by its scarcity - although there is quite a jump in price compared to the petrol and diesel models at similar trim levels.
Overall the Captur's ride, comfort, practicality, and well-considered redesign tick all the right boxes. For those who have the option to charge regularly to take advantage of that plug-in setup, it's a great car.
Alternatives to consider
A hugely popular alternative thanks to good value for money and a strong level of tech, with options for plug-in or pure electric models on offer.
Mini Countryman Cooper S E
Mini's larger model is the closest you'll get to a compact SUV, offering the fun drive that Mini is known for, but ultimately lacking the interior space of the Captur.