Johannesburg over the festive period is never a bad place to be. With every man and his dog taking part in the annual migration to the coast, it’s often a pleasure to stay behind and enjoy the relative peace of this sprawling metropolis.
And from a motoring journalist’s perspective, deciding on one’s wheels of choice for this period of empty roads and festive outings is always an interesting exercise.
Ample space and comfort are always prerequisites; a navigation system for finding those little out-of-town hideaways often comes in handy; a good entertainment system with Bluetooth and a USB port is always a must; while the ability to tackle a bit of light off-roading often comes in handy.
But top of the list of requirements is a vehicle that provides excellent fuel consumption figures — keeping in mind that the belt-tightening of January is always just around the corner.
Which is why this year I opted for the Renault Kadjar.
Launched in the first quarter of 2016, the SUV-crossover Kadjar’s range was recently expanded with the addition of a 1.5 dCi engine — also found in the Duster and Captur range — along with an EDC (efficient dual-clutch) automatic transmission. And it was this particular model that we had on loan for four weeks.
Built on the same platform as the Nissan Qashqai — which can’t be a bad thing considering how well this vehicle has done — the Kadjar is part of the rather crowded SUV-crossover segment.
With its modern look, the Kadjar fits in with the new design language that Renault has started speaking in recent years.
Looking at it from the outside, the Kadjar has a certain presence, and the usual French flair makes it stand out rather more.
Both the front and rear have some interesting design characteristics. The LED headlights merge with the attractive grille — dominated by the hallmark diamond-shaped logo — giving the car something of a smiley face.
The rear also has a nice look to it, with smooth lines that flow down from the spoiler to the rear skid plates.
But it is perhaps inside the cabin that you can appreciate just how far Renault has come these past few years.
Opt for the Dynamique package and you are spoilt with the number of features that come standard: auto dual-zone airconditioning, leather seats, soft-touch dashboard, a seven-inch touchscreen with four speakers, two USB ports, voice command for phone and navigation, cruise control with speed limiter and parking sensors both front and rear.
Optional extras we were given included an electric sun blind that reveals a panoramic glass roof — nice in Europe, perhaps, but not so friendly in the African heat — a reversing camera and blind-spot warning.
And a strong feature with this particular vehicle are its safety credentials. A combination of six airbags, ABS coupled with emergency brake assist and electronic stability programme helps earn it a valued 5-Star Euro NCAP rating which, considering the horrendous death toll on our roads, gives some cold comfort.
The Kadjar is a particularly easy vehicle to drive — and I don’t mean that simply because of the automatic gearbox.
One quickly learns where all the controls and buttons are positioned and the ride itself is pretty smooth with little engine noise — despite it being a diesel — filtering through to the cabin.
One thing that is noticeable though, is that at low rpms, the power delivery takes a second or two to kick in.
A very handy feature — and one that I used frequently — is how easily the rear seats can be reclined with the simple push of a button. Once these seats are down, your boot space suddenly grows from a modest 370l to a commendable 1478l.
I also rather enjoyed the novel idea of the vehicle constantly measuring one’s driving habits and style and providing you with a score out of 100.
Perhaps it is a bit of a gimmick, but follow the list of eco tips that are displayed on your touchscreen, drive with a light foot and the impressive figure of 6l/100km is easily attainable.
The fact that this vehicle can easily seat five adults, pushes out a credible 81kW and 250Nm, and is backed by a five-year warranty and service plan makes the Kadjar a pretty impressive option.
It is no surprise, then, that it is a finalist in this year’s Car of the Year competition. – Bruce Fraser
Fast Facts: Renault Kadjar 1.5 dCi EDC
Engine: 1461cc four-cylinder turbodiesel
Power: 81kW at 4000rpm
Torque: 250Nm at 1750rpm
Transmission: six-speed EDC
Top speed: 179km/h (claimed)
Fuel: 4.7l/100km (claimed combined)
CO2: 124g/km (claimed)
Price: From R414 900