You wouldn’t think a cylinder the size of a snack-can of baked beans could be a real game-changer for something as big as a car. But enthusiasts know only too well there’s no replacement for displacement. It’s an easy way of gaining performance.
What’s not so easy is adding cylinders to existing engines. Cosworth put a couple of its four-cylinder engines together and created the legendary DFV V8 that dominated F1 racing for 20 years, while Volkswagen Group made a W12 by mating two V6s. In the same vein, Renault’s 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbo available for the Captur is essentially the 0.9-litre three-pot with an extra cylinder tacked on the end. My apologies to any engineers reading this…
After complaining last month about the slovenly progress of my blue long-termer, I was keen to try the four-cylinder version and Renault was equally happy to provide one for comparison. So for the past few weeks I’ve been driving a Renault Captur Dynamique variant that not only has the bigger engine, but also a dual-clutch transmission because it’s not available with a manual. And, because it’s an auto, it goes without the idle-stop function. As far as I’m concerned that’s a win-win-win.
The extra grunt transforms the car, making it a delight to drive; you can comfortably keep up with traffic, accelerate up hills that stump the three-cylinder, and not have to worry about falling off the power brand and losing all momentum. What’s more, the four-pot does it much more quietly, so it’s less wearing on driver and passengers alike.
In line with the capacity, outputs are similarly up about a third and, importantly, it comes on strong earlier than the three-pot engine. Power goes up from 66kW at 5250rpm to 88kW at 4900rpm, while torque increases from 135Nm at 2500rpm to 190Nm at 2000rpm. Okay, it’s no DFV, but these are significant numbers in context.
Despite carrying an extra 81kg, the bigger engine slashes 2.1sec off the sprint to 100km/h. And that extra weight seems to benefit the Captur’s ride, making it settle better and feel less choppy. Even the fuel consumption is a match – 7.0L/100km on a few tanks versus a four-month average of 6.8 for our three-cylinder.
Less impressive is the Getrag six-speed dual-clutch transmission, which might shift quickly and smoothly once on the move, but is slow on take-off and a bit dithery around town, unsure whether to pre-select first or third when you’re in heavy traffic toddling along in second.
But I don’t care. More power, better flexibility, quieter operation, comparable fuel use, no confounded idle-stop and the convenience of an automatic. For the sake of a few grand, you can keep your thrummy triples.
Read part four of our 2015 Renault Captur long term review here.
This article was originally published in Wheels Magazine October 2015.