Renault's pretty Spanish-built crossover
Nissan-Renault's chief executive Carlos Ghosn must be wondering what he has to do to elicit the same level of success from his home brand, while Nissan, adopted by Regie Renault more than a decade ago, goes from strength to strength.
The main problem is that Nissan has strong sales in the United States, Japan and China on its manifest, while Renault performs poorly outside its native Europe and can no longer even rely on that market with only Britain showing any signs of growth.
So Renault is starting to add a little global relevance to its designs with Laurens Van den Acker, who was acquired from Mazda about three years ago. The latest is the Captur, a so-called sub-compact crossover that will be revealed to the public for the first time at the Geneva car show in March whereupon it will be released first in its native Europe, before being marketed elsewhere.
Just as the Korean-built mid-sized Renault Koleos SUV was based on Nissan's X-trail design, the Capture is designed around the Nissan Juke, the company's quirky and frankly polarising British designed and engineered mini-SUV that entered our New Zealand market in late 2010.
Both cars also share much of their underpinings with the fourth-generation Renault Clio model, and the Captur at 4120mm is about 5mm shorter than the Juke, though it looks larger.
Renault says the Captur combines the "expressive styling and driving position of an SUV, the cabin space and modular interior of an MPV, and the agility and driving enjoyment of a compact hatchback". Whatever. In other words it's an active family hatch in our world.
A key to the car's potential popularity is the fact that the Captur will be able to be personalised, with single and two- tone colour ways available - like the Mini and Range Rover Evoque, while special textures and colourway detailing as well as special wheel options will also be available.
Curiously, though Renault has used the name Captur before, for a three-door concept car, the car we see here owes more to the Clio than that car.
In the cabin area, Renault says its new crossover offers "a large boot, modular interior and innovative stowage solutions", which in ordinary-speak means its roomy and flexible. It also has hands-free - or keyless - entry, hill-start assist and rear parking sensors.
With a view to matching arch home rival Peugeot and its new media screens, features in the Captur will include Renault R-Link touchscreen multimedia tablet in the dash console, plus an Arkamys sound system with six loudspeakers, Bluetooth connectivity, and audio- streaming.
Renault is to furnish the car with three and four-cylinder, diesel and petrol engine options, and for markets like Australia and New Zealand is likely to offer the car with the 1.5-litre plus CVT Juke powertrain. European Captur models will have power units capable of giving CO2 emissions ratings from as low as 96g/km, using triple and four cylinder petrol turbo power plants.
There is no doubt that the pretty Captur is a step in the right direction for Renault, and it is thought that the vehicle will have a ready export market for the brand especially outside Europe, which is a key to generating growth from the brand.
The French public may resent the fact that the Captur will not be built there, but at the Regie's Valladolid plant in Spain.
The Nissan-Renault combine knows that the Spanish plant offers cheap labour from a severely constrained economy, and thus more profit and therefore investment can be created by the model.
Whether that will mean well- positioned pricing for the New Zealand market is a moot point. Let's hope.