When it comes to popular family cars, they don’t come much more popular than the Nissan Qashqai. Taking up the same amount of space as a typical medium hatchback, but boasting the style of a 4×4, the Qashqai truly caught the car buying public’s imagination, selling in greater numbers than any other off-roader. Until now, potentially.

That’s because Renault has launched the Kadjar, which shares all the same engines and underpinnings as the Qashqai, but with sleek, striking styling and impressive comfort levels. Offering strong practicality, the same efficient engines and a more upmarket interior, the Kadjar could be the model to knock the Qashqai off the top of the bestsellers list.

It’s not just the Qashqai the Kadjar has to beat, however, with everything from the Kia Sportage, Hyundai ix35, VW Tiguan and Skoda Yeti to contend with, along with others including the Ford Kuga and Toyota RAV4.

What is it?

Sitting alongside sister model the Nissan Qashqai, the Kadjar is a medium scale off-roader hoping to win over families with its car-like road manners and practical interior. With a focus on comfort over off-roading abilities and its curvaceous shape, the Kadjar offers the high seating position of a 4×4 without the boxy styling or expense of a typical off-roader.

One petrol and two diesel engines are available from launch, with buyers being able to specify four-wheel drive for the more powerful diesel model, while the less powerful diesel is also available with an automatic gearbox. Kicking off the range is a 128bhp turbocharged 1.2-litre model, followed by a 109bhp 1.5-litre diesel – offering impressive claimed economy of up to 74.3mpg and CO2 emissions low enough for free annual car tax for models with 16 or 17-inch alloy wheels with summer tyres.

At the top of the range is a 1.6-litre diesel, which matches the petrol for power – with both capable of hitting 62mph in around 10 seconds – while being capable of approximately 65mpg in two-wheel drive form. The petrol, on the other hand, returns around 50mpg.

What is it like to drive?

The Kadjar does without any pretensions of being a sports car – and it’s all the better for it. Being a machine that will appeal predominantly to families, comfort is top of the agenda. And even with large low-profile 19-inch alloy wheels fitted comfort and refinement levels are very high with smooth suspension and little wind or road noise – potentially making it more refined than the Qashqai, judging on our test drive.

It’s also very easy to drive, with light, precise steering, a slick gear change and well-weighted pedals. We drove the petrol model and the more powerful diesel in four-wheel drive form. Both are very quiet when cruising with just a little noise coming through to the cabin when working the diesel engine hard. Performance is also more than sufficient, though the diesel does have more low down muscle, making it more suited to lugging heavy loads.

What is it like inside?

The Kadjar’s cabin feels a rung above its Nissan rival, too, with high quality materials, a slick design and easy to use controls. We also found the seats particularly comfortable in the front, while the rear seats feel more suited to adults than those in the back of the Qashqai, which don’t offer much leg support from the seat base.

Matching the exterior styling, the interior also feels quite chic, with pared back air conditioning controls and an easy to use media system. All models include a digital radio, Bluetooth, electric windows front and rear, plus a reasonable sound system. All Kadjars, bar the entry-level model also include a touchscreen sat nav system, automatic lights and wipers along with dual-zone climate control. Oddly, however, only the top two trim levels include a heaight adjustable driver’s seat and electric, heated wing mirrors – which would normally be standard on a car of this size and price.

Is it practical?

The Kadjar offers a similarly practical cabin to the Qashqai, making it a wise family choice. Both front and rear seats offer a decent amount of space for children and adults alike, though access to the rear seats could be easier, as the doors don’t open particularly wide.

Likewise, boot space is more than adequate for most buyers. Another plus point, is that strong claimed residual values mean that when owners come to sell their Kadjar they’re likely to get back more of their money than with rivals – or pay lower leasing costs than with models that lose value more quickly.

Should I buy one?

If you’re after a practical, affordable family off-roader, the Kadjar is an extremely competitive option, offering striking looks, a comfortable, upmarket interior and refined petrol and diesel motors. As a result, the Kadjar should give the established Qashqai a run for its money in the sales charts.

The engines all offer a strong combination of economy and performance, while class-leading residual values make the Kadjar a sensible option to those buying or leasing one. The only thing to bear in mind, is that the diesel engines that are expected to make up the majority of Kadjar sales weigh in around £3,000 more expensive when comparing the petrol with the similarly-powerful dCi 130 diesel.

Don't want to buy new? You can browse for a used Renault Kadjar in our classifieds here.

The facts

Renault Kadjar TCe 130 Signature Nav

Price: £21,695
Engine: 1.2-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Power: 128bhp, 205Nm
Max speed: 119mph
0-62mph: 10.1 seconds
MPG: 48.7
Emissions: 130g/km

Pictures: Renault