The general assumption among car companies, is that the burgeoning market for cyclist-centric cars is focused on the SUV category. While we at Cycling Plus Malaysia feel this is somewhat of a misconception, there is no denying that this largely depends on the driver’s preferred way transport bicycles.
One of the most secure options is a roof rack, but this leaves the bikes exposed to the elements and gives a height limit for the vehicle. Others prefer to store bikes inside instead, but this can prove tricky in spatially challenged vehicles like sedans and hatchbacks. There is also the option of a rear rack, the most risky if the bikes are not secured properly and fall off, or get damaged easily in collisions.
For the purpose of this review, I was handed the keys to the Renault Captur, widely known as Europe’s best selling SUV. Since a 4WD or SUV has higher ground clearance, the unintended side effect is that a roof rack is out of the question for transporting bikes in this car.
Many a cyclist have had heart attacks after absentmindedly driving through a toll booth with low height clearance or heading straight into parking with a low ceiling. For the Captur, our goal was to transport a minimum of two bikes folded inside the trunk, or unfolded normal road bike style, with extra plus points for a third bike if at all possible.
For the sake of argument, my husband and I may be extremely partial to folding bikes, though we don’t quite fit the bill of the normal foldie rider. After having tried and tested a number of different models and configurations, our preferred folding bikes are of full sized geometry and have 700c wheels, since we spend more time covering long distances as part of our frequent travels locally and abroad. Having the ability to fold our bikes in half thanks to a clever swivel folding mechanism, the Captur looked like the perfect car for our needs.
The Captur kick-started Renault’s range of popular SUVs and crossovers in 2013, and is somewhat of a baby crossover considering its compact size. I have to admit that I remained a bit sceptical upon being passed the electronic key, a neatly designed key card that had its own little designated slot at the dashboard so that you won’t misplace it. The car I was given to test was the updated Flame Red with diamond black roof, featuring a deliciously rich colour that reminded me of juicy cherries abundant in the summer fruit season.
The new variant for the Malaysian market comes with front and rear door kicking plates as well as a luggage tray that is useful for ensuring loose items stay put when you are driving. The genius in this tray is the fact that it segregates the trunk space into two, meaning the front tyres can also be stored underneath with helmets and other smaller items away from the bicycles themselves. By taking the tray out I could store two folding bikes in the trunk with the back seats pushed all the way forward without sacrificing legroom for passengers sitting in the backseat. Pretty clever indeed.
For those who aren’t fans of folding bikes, standard road bike frames and similarly sized bikes will fit upright in the Captur with the backseat folded flat. This is provided the front tyres are tucked away underneath the luggage tray, since the cargo space is large enough despite being a fairly compact vehicle. However, you do need to take the seatposts off to ensure the bikes will fit. In this manner, you could fit at least three bikes side-by-side safely, with some form of padding in between to ensure no damage during transportation.
Besides the ability to shift the seats forward for more trunk space, the Captur’s interior has a few more tricks up its sleeve. The leather upholstery is a good option that cyclists may want to consider if they don’t want the seats to get dirty easily, from dirt, grime, sweat and other things they come in contact with on their weekly excursions.
If you aren’t keen to pay for the upgrade, the fabric seats also have a feature that I’m sure many will find handy even if you’re not a cyclist. The fabric covers of the seats are held in place by zippers and strong velcro, meaning they can be removed with minimal effort to be laundered: major WIN.
Inside, the cockpit is compact but still roomy enough to be comfortable with plenty of legroom in the front and rear, although the backseat looks a little narrow and may only be comfy enough for two adults. The good news is that the sitting position is high, giving the driver a good view of the streets or ground ahead.
In the back however, the headroom may not be enough for people who are approaching six feet in height, particularly if the backseat has been slid all the way back. This sloping roofline is also why conventional non-folding bicycle seatposts and saddles will have to come off to fit inside. Lifting a bike in is easier however, thanks to the sizeable trunk opening that sits lower above the rear bumper than its peers in the same compact SUV category.
When you’re at the wheel you’ll feel that the Captur is a fairly sprightly machine, while the suspension is nice and soft, ensuring your bikes and loose parts don’t rattle against each other enough to cause any damage. This may sound like an oxymoron, but is this a good vehicle for pedal powered people? All things considered, the Captur is a pretty good choice for cyclists who want a car that is comfortable and roomy enough for at least two bikes and the cyclists riding them.
Engine: 1198cc 4-cylinder inline turbo
Fuel economy: 5.4L/100km
Performance: 0-100: 10.9 secs
Price: RM109,000 OTR without insurance
Verdict: One of the best small crossovers in the market; compact size and clever features.