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Renault Captur E-TECH: new PHEV tested

First launched in 2013, more than 1.5 million sold worldwide, making the Captur Renault’s best-selling model in the UK – could a plug-in version elevate its popularity even further? We get behind the wheel of what is now the most powerful model in the range

At first glance

Based on the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance’s CMF-B platform, the second generation Captur benefits from dynamic exterior styling, a more premium interior, best-in-class 9.3 inch touchscreen infotainment system and 10 inch TFT instrument cluster, new EASY LINK multimedia platform, advanced driver assistance systems, and a choice of six powertrains, although we’re only interested in the plug-in hybrid. The Renault Captur E-TECH comes in two high-specification trim levels, is priced start from £30,495 OTR and available to order now, with first customer deliveries in October.

What are the pros and cons of the Captur E-TECH Plug-in hybrid?

We at Discover EV obviously prefer a car with no exhaust emissions, but there is an argument (based on plenty of research) that PHEVs are a stepping stone to a full electric vehicle. With people still put off by range anxiety and the lack of charging infrastructure, the beauty of a PHEV is that they still make an immediate impact on climate change and air quality, especially in urban areas, and speed up the acceptance of electrified vehicles.

The other advantage of the E-TECH version is it’s the fastest in the Captur range. Like all E-TECH powertrains, the Captur Plug-in hybrid starts up in all-electric mode making it a perfect compact SUV for use in town and if charged regularly, the 30 miles of electric power is enough for most urban every day journeys.

It also comes with a complimentary wallbox courtesy of BP Chargemaster, which can top up the battery from 0-100% capacity in around three hours. Both a domestic charging cable and Type 2 charger cable are provided on all Captur models, with a 40 litre storage space beneath the boot floor to tidy them away out of sight.

The E-TECH powertrain is available in two trim levels and both are well equipped. S Edition comes with a range of driving assistance features such as LED lighting, automatic high beam headlights, front and rear parking sensors with rear view camera, blind spot warning, electronic parking brake with auto-hold function and auto-dimming rear view mirror. Communication and on-board technology includes Easy Link connected multimedia services (with Bluetooth, DAB radio, USB ports and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) and a wireless phone charger.

A smartly packaged battery allow for a generous boot capacity of 379 litres (43 litres less than the ICE cars), and it’s very roomy inside (thanks to the new car now being 110mm longer, 20mm wider and marginally taller than before).

What’s powering the Renault Captur E-TECH Plug-in hybrid?

Renault’s revolutionary hybrid drive with 150 patents is the result of its Formula 1 and e-mobility expertise. To that end it includes a 1.6-litre four-cylinder combustion engine (with 106lb-ft of torque), specially optimised for use in hybrids, and two electric motors coupled in a parallel-series configuration. This means that the system can use both energy sources (combustion or electric power) either separately or together. Combined the powertrain delivers 160hp propelling the car in a not so compelling 10.1 seconds and on to a top speed of 108mph (84mph in electric mode). 

The more powerful of the two electric motors (151lb-ft) works on its own in phases of all-electric driving, while the other electric motor is an advanced starter and generator for the internal combustion engine. When starting the car, as long as the battery has enough charge left, the main electric motor is the first to kick in. When more of a boost is needed, the combustion engine and electric motors work together to deliver maximum output.

There are three driving modes that are specifically programmed to suit hybrid power. MySense optimises the hybrid mode for lower running costs; Sport gives you maximum performance by combining the power of the two motors; and Pure allows you to switch to all-electric driving when the battery has enough charge. The “E-Save” feature allows you to keep a charge reserve (no less than 40 per cent of battery power) for later use. This is a very practical option if the end of your trip is through a town.

Does it still drive like a Renault Captur?

It feels every bit as accomplished as its petrol and diesel counterparts. The steering is well weighted, and there’s a linear feel to the brake pedal despite its regenerative properties with good body control and light but accurate steering. It’s firmer compared to the first-generation model, but that’s not a bad thing – with a decent amount of grip and stability. We like the higher seating position that obviously comes with being a crossover.

What about that 30 mile range?

I only managed to do 24 miles averaging 18.2 kWh/100 (slightly better than what I achieved in the Mégane Sport Tourer). I then carried on for a further 16 miles in MySense mode averaging a more economical 13.8 kWh/100, but I wasn’t able to claw back any range. Again, I wasn’t driving like Miss Daisy and I was still well off Renault’s estimate of 8 kWh/100km.

It dos at least emit less between 34 (S Edition) and 36g/km (Launch Edition) of CO2 emissions meaning it falls in the 10% Benefit in kind group for company car drivers.

Like the new Mégane E-TECH Plug-in, charging times, heating and ventilation (while the car is plugged in) can be scheduled via the MY Renault app or Easy Link touchscreen.

How does it differ visually?

Specific exterior design enhancements include E-TECH plug-in hybrid badges located on the boot-lid and B-pillar to let people know you’re more environmentally friendly than the average motorist, along with the charging flap on the left-hand side of the car. Inside, the 10-inch Smart Cockpit features specific details and personalisation options to display eco features, and while it’s not as premium as the Mégane Sport Tourer, with a lot more plastics on the dash and doors, overall fit and finish is superior to many cars in the same class. 

On the S Edition, exterior details include 17 inch ‘Bahamas’ diamond cut alloy wheels with grey inserts, while inside you can expect black and grey cloth upholstery with synthetic leather and grey stitching. The Launch Edition has 18 inch ‘Pasadena’ alloy wheels with grey inserts and copper and blue detailing which extends to the front bumper, front wing and c-pillar, while inside it gets blue stitching and a white and blue dashboard insert.

Optionally available on S Edition models are a range of exterior and interior colour packs or a Luxury Pack with black heated leather seats and steering wheel. A useful Parking Pack Premium composed of 360-degree around view monitor and hands-free parking is also available. The Launch Edition can be enhanced further with a BOSE audio upgrade.

Should I buy one?

The plug-in hybrid versions of Captur and Megane will apparently account for 10 per cent of Europe’s registrations and with slightly cheaper road tax and reduced company car tax due to their low CO2 emissions (30g/km), most of those purchases will be for company fleets.

For private buyers, the price tag will be harder to justify. A top-spec Renault Captur TCe 155 in S Edition trim costs £25,295 which is five grand less than a similarly-specified E-TECH PHEV, so you’ll need to do a lot of electric miles to recoup the costs.

So, if your commute (or indeed school run) is less than 30 miles and you can charge at the end of each day, you’ll be able to run the small SUV almost entirely on electricity if you can charge at home.

With the plug-in compact crossover market still relatively untapped there aren’t many other choices – there’s the Kia Niro PHEV and Mini’s plug-in Countryman. The former costs £230 less and has more range (36 miles) while the latter costs £2485 more and has less range (25 miles), so the Renault isn’t a bad choice with a smoother powertrain and more visual appeal than its South Korean rival.

If you want to be more responsible, ecological and economical, the Renault Captur E-TECH Plug-in Hybrid is a good choice and will hopefully warm you up to the idea of owning an EV further down the line

Key Specs

2020 Renault Captur E-TECH Plug-in hybrid

Price (OTR RRP): From £30,495
Top speed: 107mph
0-62mph: 10.1 seconds
Power: 160hp
Torque: 151lb-ft
Driving range (WLTP): 30 miles
CO2 emission: 34g/km (S Edition), 36g/km (Launch Edition)
Fuel consumption: 188.3mpg (S Edition), 176.6 (Launch Edition)
Home charging: 3 hours (7.4kW wall box), 4 hours 15 minutes (2.3kW three pin)
Insurance group: TBC
Warranty: Five-year/unlimited-mileage (in first two years) eight-year/100,000 mile battery warranty

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