Renault Captur E-TECH hybrid review

Despite a lack of rivals, Renault thinks there’s a market for a small plug-in hybrid SUV; the Captur E-TECH promises a 30-mile electric range

Renault Captur E-TECH Plug-in Hybrid
£30,495 - £30,995
Plug-in hybrid

Pros

  • Low emissions
  • High-tech cabin
  • Smooth electric running

Cons

  • Expensive to buy
  • Some cheap materials
  • Hybrid system can feel jerky
Car type Electric range Fuel economy CO2 emissions
Plug-in hybrid 30 miles 188mpg 34g/km

While demand and availability for pure-electric small cars has rocketed, the idea of fitting a plug-in hybrid powertrain to a supermini or compact SUV has, for some, been deemed too expensive to justify.

But Renault – maker of the hugely-successful ZOE electric car – has found a way. Along with its new Clio E-TECH hybrid, it has launched this: the Captur E-TECH plug-in hybrid SUV. Using many of the same parts as the Clio, the Captur can manage up to 30 miles on electric power, with CO2 emissions of just 34g/km.

Based on the same mechanical platform as the Clio, the Captur gets an identical 1.6-litre petrol engine mated to a much bigger 9.8kWh battery for a vastly improved pure-electric range. There are two electric motors – one that directly drives the wheels, and another, more compact unit that acts a bit like a mild-hybrid system, powering a starter-generator that should, in theory, help the engine kick in quickly when needed.

In reality, however, the electric motor and petrol engine feel constantly in competition, rather than working seamlessly for a smooth, efficient driving experience. The Captur is a quiet and relaxing car to drive when running on electricity, and yet when the batteries run dry the transition to petrol power feels somewhat stunted.

It’s a shame, because the conventional hybrid system in the Clio E-TECH is well integrated – the switch between the electric motor and the petrol engine is smooth and, at times, almost imperceptible. The switch is more noticeable in the Captur, despite the bigger battery and second electric motor.

Of course, this shouldn't be an issue for those using the Captur Plug-in Hybrid as intended. If your commute is less than 30 miles (a largely realistic range estimate, in our experience) and you can charge at the end of each day, you’ll be able to run the small SUV almost entirely on electricity. Topping up the Captur E-TECH’s batteries via a home wallbox will take around three hours; easily achievable on an overnight off-peak electricity tariff.

Elsewhere, however, the Captur hybrid’s driving experience is as accomplished as its petrol and diesel counterparts, with good body control, accurate steering and a largely comfortable ride. It doesn’t feel quite as fast as you might imagine an SUV with almost 160bhp might, but that’s down to the added weight: the E-TECH is almost 400kg heavier than the lightest petrol models.

The plug-in Captur will be of great interest to company-car drivers, thanks to its low Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax rating of just 10%. Compare that with a like-for-like TCe 155 Auto EDC (31% BiK) and the savings are tangible. The Captur E-TECH also benefits from a £10 road tax discount, as well as exemption from the London Congestion Charge.

The financial case will be harder to justify for private buyers. A top-spec Renault Captur TCe 155 in S Edition trim costs £25,295 – representing a saving of more than £5,000 compared with a similarly-specified hybrid. The equally capable TCe 100 (with a manual gearbox) is cheaper still. Either way, you’ll need to do a lot of electric miles in your Captur Plug-in Hybrid to recoup the costs.

Furthermore, if your driving habits allow you to make the most of the Captur’s zero-emissions range, then it’s worth considering whether one of the Renault’s pure-electric rivals might make more sense – especially when you take the government’s plug-in car grant (PiCG) into account. The Peugeot e-2008 starts from £29,065, while a Hyundai Kona Electric costs from £30,150. Both offer a range of around 200 miles, as well as even more attractive running costs.

Regardless, pretty much everything we love about the conventional Captur’s interior applies to this hybrid version. The 9.3-inch portrait touchscreen looks great and comes with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for seamless smartphone integration. The 10-inch digital dials are simple yet effective, while the chunky digital climate controls are easy to operate on the fly.

Fit and finish, on the whole, is fantastic and superior to many cars in the class above. The only thing we don’t like about the Captur’s interior is the flimsy-feeling gearlever, which almost bounces back in your hand when putting the car into drive. This springy action comes with an audible vibration, which doesn’t tally with the rest of the Captur’s high-quality cabin. There’s little compromise to be made when it comes to practicality, however, with the plug-in boasting a spacious 379-litre boot – just 25 litres down on the petrol car.

Initially available only in S Edition and E-TECH Launch Edition trims, every model gets that portrait infotainment screen, a reversing camera and 17-inch alloy wheels, as well as cables for home and public charging. The Launch Edition model costs just £500 more, bringing larger 18-inch wheels and blue detailing inside and out.