Crossover journey: 24 hours in Worcester with a Renault Kadjar XP

Worcester - When your beloved lives a 1000km+  away, weekends together become something of an event. There’s an urgency about spending each weekend as if it’s your last - airfare is expensive, petrol even more so (a return trip can easily cost you over R3000), and that’s before you’ve even sunk your teeth into a padstal-pie.

This time, my significant other would have to take a 12-hour trip by bus, instead of a one-and-a-half journey by plane...unless I picked him up in Worcester instead of Cape Town, which would effectively shorten his journey by two hours... but what on earth does one do in Worcester? We were going to find out.

Wine country
The Breede River Valley is rather well-known for its viticulture, and what’s a dirty weekend without a bit of pressed grapes, eh? Once the straws were drawn about who the designated driver would be, I once again took my place behind the steering wheel. The Kadjar XP and I had been active since the early hours, driving the 1.5 hours from Hermanus to Worcester in quiet contemplation, with only the soft whistle of the 1.2-litre turbo-engine  in my ears (and a bit of wind noise coming from the left mirror).

Based on the entry-level Kadjar Expression model, the Kadjar XP Limited Edition has 40K worth of outdoorsy kit added. Renault’s research has shown that people would rather forego the fancy (and pricey) touchscreen infotainment system than they would the soft-roader equipment, and I have to agree. Why buy a Crossover if you can’t cross over anything? The XP comes with nature-lover stuff such as roofracks* and side steps, as well as sensible 215/55 tyres (skinny ones are optional on the more expensive Kadjar-variants). It also gets cornering fog lights and a swan-neck towhitch, fitted as standard.



Nuy on the Hill

I heard from a friend that the Nuy-region between Worcester and Robertson boasts some fantastic wines, and thus we headed to Nuy On The Hill who serve (and sell) the sublime wines from the Nuy Winery at their hilltop-restaurant. Tasting is free, and the wines are surprisingly reasonably priced. I was instantly enamoured with a fruity Chenin Blanc, a harmonious Chardonnay and another blissful white blend, and bought a mixed case to take home. 

The vibey and welcoming ‘On the Hill’ restaurant proved to be the perfect lunch time choice - when our two mouthwatering pizzas arrived, we could kick back and feast our eyes not only on the gourmet fare in front of us, but also on the view of the blue-mauve Langeberg Mountains in the distance. I only have one regret - there was a ravishing-looking carrot cheesecake which I did not sample, as I was too full from the yummy Butter Chicken pizza that I was unable to abandon.



The Karoo National Botanical Garden
The thing with pizza - I love it, but it doesn’t love me back, and left to their own devices my love-handles would consistently creep over the top of my jeans, if not disciplined with regular exercise. Yet, we were feeling very lazy and a two-day hike was not going to happen, so we opted for the Botanical Garden instead.

Quiz: Can you guess which movies these iconic cars are from?

Situated at the foot of the majestic Hex River mountain range, this hidden 154-hectare gem cultivates and displays a mammoth collection of desert and semi-desert plants and vegetation. Only 11 hectares are cultivated, while the remaining 142 hectares of natural vegetation are left to flourish as Mother Nature sees fit.  Once you’re at the top, you can see all the way into next week. We vowed that we’d be back in the springtime when the wildflowers and Vygies are in full bloom - it’s a low-effort, yet highly satisfying way to go flower-hunting without having to drive very far.

The Karoo Botanical Garden also boasts a large collection of glorious succulents. Entrance fee is only R10 - I would have paid a hundred bucks just for the view from the top of the ‘Shale Trail’.


The Habit Guest House

A romantic weekend away warrants pretty accommodation, and after pouring over Tripadvisor the week before, I decided on the historically significant Habit Guest House, because Karoo charm (high pressed ceilings, polished stoeps, wooden floors, real shutters and “broekie”-lace fretwork) is totally my thing. 

The Habit Guest House has been recently restored and refurbished, and is an 1837 Victorian homestead. It was home to the Catholic secular sisters of St Mary for the past 60 years, and forms part of the Worcester Heritage Walking Route.

The rooms are  great value for money (from R445 per person sharing for a double room, with a hot breakfast included) and It was much more elegant than it looked online - the back garden reminded me of Provence in France. By the poolside we drank in the late-afternoon tranquility, along with a well-chilled bottle of my new favourite white blend: Nuy Winery’s ‘Chant de Nuit’, which translates to ‘Song of the Night’. 




Bain’s Kloof Pass
Upon waking up in luxurious cotton bedlinen, we were ready for some laid-back adventure: It was either a game drive at Fairy Glen Game Reserve (the closest reserve to Cape Town where the big five can be seen)or a Zip Slide tour in nearby Ceres, but on our way there, the weather turned nasty, and we were both in summer attire. Olive and olive-oil tasting at Willow Creek was also an option, but we were already on the other side of town. Since the Kadjar XP hadn’t been driven across a hair-raising mountain pass just yet, we took the turn-off to the 27 km Bain’s Kloof Pass. 

Built circa 1849 by Andrew Geddes Bain, this pass was not an easy project. Constructed by convicts, Bain did a stellar job engineering and overseeing the process, and today the pass is a national (albeit vertigo-inducing) monument with stupendous views of the labyrinthine Witte River below. The pass itself is narrow, and my hands felt clammy on the steering wheel, but the rugged, dramatic beauty of the pass served as an effective, nerve-soothing distraction.


The Kadjar XP 

Around the tight corners of the Bain’s Kloof pass, the Kadjar felt secure, but the poor (tar) road surface didn’t bring out her best. The ride was a bit more fidgety than I’d like. When we traversed the Van der Stel Pass in the late afternoon, the ride on gravel felt much smoother and more comfortable, which led me to believe that the Kadjar XP is perhaps at its happiest on softer surfaces. On the curvaceous parts of the smoothly-tarred R43, the Kadjar behaved itself much like a hatchback. 


As for efficiency, the small “low-inertia, F1-inspired” 1.2-litre turbo-engine inside the relatively large body shell is prone to greater thirst, because you unknowingly drive the car harder.  Our combined consumption of 8.5 litres per 100 km was a little disappointing, considering how much further I got on a full tank of diesel in the ultra-economical Kadjar Dynamique 81kW 1.5 dCi (for R 30 000 more), which gave me nearly 1200 km on one tank.  Still, the 750 km we squeezed out of the XP isn’t bad. The small engine encourages you to stir the six-speed gearbox around frequently, and it’s nice and slick.


Ergonomically, there are a few little niggles, such as the position of the central  bottle holders. With a 500 ml bottle or two inside, it gets in the way of you changing gears. The bottle holders in the doors aren’t very big either. But apart from these issues, the Kadjar XP is still a great buy, with a roomy cabin, large 370-litre boot, handsome looks and a generous amount of comfort features. The moms will  say “yaye” to all the safety spec: The Kadjar XP has a 5-star EuroNCAP safety rating, with ABS and EBD with Brake Assist, ESP*(stability control), Hill Start Assist (to ensure no roll-back upon pulling away), and six airbags. 

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