For most people, the biggest perk of being an automotive journalist is the opportunity to drive all sorts of big, flashy cars. While that may sound attractive, anyone who has to negotiate bumper-to-bumper city traffic on a daily basis knows that in these conditions, driving big cars, especially when parking is limited, isn’t really all that fun. So, for daily commute, I advocate using a vehicle that has a small footprint, making it easy to navigate in the city. Small dimensions are also a huge help when you want to take that crucial shortcut through a narrow by-lane. I absolutely loved my stints with the Nano and the diesel Celerio for these very reasons. So, when the new Renault Kwid was inducted into our long-term fleet, I snapped up the keys very happily.
When launched, Renault shocked the industry with the pricing of the Kwid. Yes, you can see it’s made to a cost, but there’s been no stinting on certain features that even cars a class higher don’t offer. Naturally, I was curious to sample this baby Renault for myself. As I found out within just a couple of days of using the car, it draws a lot of attention. I was regularly asked at traffic light stops about mileage, ride comfort, handling manners by fellow commuters. Once, when I was pulled over by a cop, it turned out that he was simply interested in finding out about the waiting period.
All this attention was well-warranted – this car is truly impressive in many ways. The steering wheel is chunky and feels nice to hold whilst the digital speedometer, with the red-on-black theme, looks cool. The touchscreen infotainment system is a first in this segment (it’s the same unit as on some top-spec Dusters and the big Lodgy MPV) and features satellite navigation, Bluetooth, aux-in and USB connectivity. The light steering makes manoeuvring easy although the number of rotations lock-to-lock are slightly more than a normal power steering-equipped car like the Alto. The seats are comfy and provide adequate support. However, my grandmother did find them to be a bit on the firmer side. Also, seating three passengers in the back will require some squeezing in. But what’s surprising is the massive-for-the-size, 300-litre boot. It swallows all the luggage for a weekend getaway and then some. All these factors break away from the perception of what a budget car should look and feel like.
But there are some nasty bits. First of all, the glovebox on the top half of the dash has a very flimsy build and keeps popping open because of the poorly-engineered latch mechanism that gave way after just a few days making the lid completely unusable. The Kwid, even in our top-spec RXT (O) trim, does not come with internally adjustable mirrors. Besides, the mirrors aren’t very sturdy and get loose, forcing you to adjust them frequently. I would have preferred a quieter engine too. The Kwid’s 800cc three-cylinder sounds thrashy and intrudes into the cabin.
What really stands out in the Kwid is the ride quality. It is superb and absorbs most surface imperfections with ease, quite an accomplishment for a car shod with puny 155/80R13 tyres. As for fuel economy, it delivers 15.3kpl overall but I’m yet to get an idea of how frugal it is in real-world bumper-to-bumper traffic. More on that in the next report. Stay tuned!