PARIS – Renault believes its Captur cross/utility vehicle, to be presented at the Geneva auto show in March, will stanch the flow of red ink in the B-segment.

“It is clear that we are going through difficult times, and the segment of small cars is the most exposed to the economic crisis and competition,” Ali Kassaï, director of Renault’s A and B segments, says in an online chat with WardsAuto.

“However, with Captur, Renault is returning to a strategy of bringing new clients to the brand, thanks to a seductive design and a car perfectly adapted to daily life.

“We are going to target the downsizers, the people who are looking for the features of bigger segments in a compact vehicle. Captur clearly is going to change the landscape.”

The B-segment, comprising cars the size of the Renault Clio or Volkswagen Polo, is Europe’s largest and has seen intense price competition in recent years.

Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said at the 2012 North American International Auto Show that no auto maker in Europe was making money in the B-segment, and competition only has intensified since then.

Nissan has responded with its small Juke CUV, which has sold well and need not be heavily discounted as are standard hatchbacks. The Captur represents Renault’s bid for success in the segment. The 13.5-ft.-long (4.1-m) CUV shares the Nissan Juke platform and will offer both Renault 4-cyl. diesel and 3-cyl. gasoline engines.

“Captur was developed based on the needs of the customers,” says Kassai, “and therefore, it is very different from the Juke as much in the functionality of the interior as in the exterior design.”

Renault plans a family of CUVs, says Laurens van den Acker, director-industrial design, “but it is too early to talk about precise dates.”

Whereas the Juke has a radical design, the Captur’s is more straightforward, but van den Acker defends its look. “We have a new entry in a segment that is exploding,” he says. “It has a very emotional style that can be personalized, a dynamic profile and a 2-tone roof.”

The 2-tone paint job, an option on the Captur, is a recent fashion trend in Europe and is a key part of the design of the upscale BMW Mini and Citroen DS3. Kassai says the Captur’s roof will be the first 2-tone in its segment.

“Two-tone has been part of the history of the automobile, starting before World War II,” says van den Acker. “More recently, there were production problems for high-volume cars, which limited the number of 2-tones. However, new paint technology now permits larger volumes, which fits the Renault philosophy of offering innovation to everyone.”

He says the design is aimed at global markets.

“Today’s trends are basically worldwide. Only the means are not. The challenge for us is to create cars with our Renault values – human, sensual and emotional – and to offer them at the right price for each market.”

Captur production is under way at Nissan’s Vallodolid, Spain, plant, where it replaces the Renault Modus.

Van den Acker says consumer research indicates a large range of potential customers, from families with young children to younger professionals seeing the Captur as “a trendy tool for exploring the world” to seniors drawn to both its practicality and the young image it projects.

The car goes on sale this spring in Europe and eventually will migrate to global markets and other factories, including Brazil.