YOU wouldnít 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 thereís no replacement for displacement. Itís an easy way of gaining performance.
Whatís 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, Renaultís 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 thisÖ 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 Iíve been driving a Dynamique-spec Captur that not only has the bigger engine, but also a dualclutch transmission because itís not available with a manual. And, because itís an auto, it goes without the idle-stop function. As far as Iím concerned thatís 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. Whatís more, the four-pot does it much more quietly, so itís 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, itís 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 Capturís ride, making it settle better and feel less choppy. Even the fuel consumption is a all 2000rpm. h. match Ė 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 youíre in heavy traffic toddling along in second.
But I donít 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.
Date acquired: March 2015 Price as tested: $25,540 This month: 622km @ 6.9L/100km Overall 7164km @ 6.8L/100km Dat Pri Thi Ove
ALL Capturs are available in the base Expression level (to which our regular blue long-termer adds $800 of metallic paint, an $1800 two-tone exterior treatment with a black roof, and the $750 ĎParisí interior pack that includes washable seat covers).
But buyers choosing the four-pot TCe120 can also opt for a Dynamique spec that, for $2K more than Expression, includes the two-tone paint and seat covers, as well as 17-inch alloys, a few extra internal and external sparkles, and handy cornering lights.
My Ďshort-termí Captur not only goes harder than the longtermer but arguably looks better in its cream livery