Maybe it was the intense, Mediterranean sunshine that took over every aspect of Irish life over those six-eight glorious weeks during the summer this year, but it would appear that, as a people, we are adopting an altogether more active lifestyle.
This radical development is having a significant effect on the vehicles we use.
Not so long ago dealerships couldn’t keep up with the demand for large, gas-guzzling sports utility vehicles – even though these cars were rarely involved in anything more sporty than the school run with the kids.
So, calmer heads are prevailing, and there are some fun, nicely designed, practical cars with a little more beef to help carry bikes, kayaks, surfboards and the like when we feel the need to get athletic.
Enter the latest urban crossover vehicle to hit the Irish market, the Renault Captur.
We’re not talking about any kind of off-roader here, nor would you want to be fitting a heavy-duty tow hitch – but what we do have is an economical, very cool looking, dynamic car that is a blend of MPV, SUV and family hatchback.
The only real niggle I had in researching this car, was where to get original roofbars or a roofrack.
For me, a foam and strap-style roofrack for carrying a kayak on the top did the job nicely.
Not only that, the back seats could easily accommodate a mountain bike without having to remove the front wheel – that is something I have struggled with in the past, even when dealing with some very high-end German marques.
So, you can fit plenty of gear into and onto the Captur – but the nice people at Renault even went so far as to give the car more ground clearance than most cars in this class, coming in at a useful 200mm.
The interior of the car wouldn’t exactly blow you away, but there are enough glossy black panels on the dash to keep things pretty, and the upholstery more than makes up for what the cockpit lacks.
There is a very cool, two-tone material used, and it really lifts the look.
One aspect of any car that can really affect its after-sale value is shabby upholstery – but the Captur comes with seats draped in customizable, durable fabrics that can be zipped off for cleaning.
And speaking of practical interiors, the boot has a multi-position, removable and reversible floor, with a rubber surface that can be easily cleaned with a sponge.
When raised, the floor hides what you don’t want to show; in its lowered position, it gives a practical boost to loading space.
A total of 1,235 litres of storage is available when the seats are folded and the shelf is removed.
At this point I must admit I hope the suspension carries the car with a full load a little more gingerly than it does while unloaded.
As much as I was enjoying the car, it was rather stiff on the bumpier city streets, and as it is surely aimed at outdoorsy types, you would think a more forgiving ride would have made sense. But on this occasion, I am willing to reserve judgment.
One thing I am sure of is that the looks of this car will go down well in the Irish market.
The two-tone paintwork is eye-catching and very cool, and the design of the alloys available to the car wouldn’t be out of place on the pimpest of pimped out rides in California.
The combination of a metallic orange body with a white roof on the model I drove looked great in the summer sun, and would no doubt lift the mood of any driveway during the dark winter months.
This car looks great, has buckets of clever interior space, and is a fresh addition to the Renault lineup – add to that a price of €20,690 and you have a very attractive proposition indeed.