Renault insiders have confirmed that the Lodgy has been given the green light for production in India. In fact, production will start at Renault-Nissan’s Oragadam plant near Chennai in December with sales scheduled to begin in early 2015. We drove it way back in 2012 in Europe and here's what we thought of it.
Designing a people-mover that looks appealing is not easy. The very antithesis of something sporty and lithe, an MPV’s block-like dimensions are nothing if not difficult clay. So, it’s quite refreshing to see that Romanian company Dacia and parent Renault have done a stellar job.
Walk up to the Lodgy and initially, you are struck by its aircraft carrier proportions. This car is both tall and very, very long, and there’s no getting around the fact that the profile is positively bus-like. The next thing that hits you is that it really isn’t all that bad-looking; despite the ungainly proportions, there are some attractive features. Continued..
The best-looking bit is the nose. Its wide, smiling grille and neat black overlay blend really well together, and the large, high-mounted headlights look attractive too. The Lodgy also has a neatly executed protruding chin finished in matte black. Also finished in matte black are the pillars that hold up the roof and the pair of roof rails that sits atop it. The sculpted bonnet, subtle wheel-arch flares and descending roofline all contribute to make the Lodgy more palatable, and the tail-lights look pretty neat as well. But it’s not just the details; this car has decent proportions too. Built on a massive 2.8-metre long wheelbase, there are no ungainly overhangs.
When it is launched in India, the Lodgy will initially use the 1.5-litre K9K diesel in its 85bhp avatar with the 108bhp destined for later. It's the latter we drove and it is both smooth and punchy in the mid range. Once past 2000rpm, the torque comes in thick and fast, and it’s difficult to believe that this big MPV is being pushed by only a 1.5-litre motor. You can gather a lot of speed, even when the car is driven in a relaxed manner, and it has more than enough pace for country roads and state highways. The strong mid range also means performance is actually quite good, as long as you are willing to use the gearbox to keep the motor between 2000 and 4000rpm.
There’s a fair bit of turbo lag, though. Be anything but gentle with the throttle initially and the Lodgy will slump instead of taking off smartly from rest. Let the revs fall below 1200rpm and you will have to drop down to a lower gear if you want to get a move on. But that’s the price you pay for using a highly charged small-capacity motor. The upshot is likely to be much better fuel economy. Continued
It’s light and easy to drive, though. The steering does not have too much feel, but it is quite accurate, so driving this ‘mini bus’ is pretty easy. Then the clutch is light and gears slot in without complaint. It is reasonably stable at speed as well and also turns without too much fuss into corners, which makes it quite friendly to drive. Go a bit faster around corners, however, and there is a considerable amount of body roll. This is not a car you want to hustle, but it doesn’t intimidate you, and that’s exactly what is needed.
The Lodgy’s greatest strength, however, is the space on the inside. There’s ample room in the cabin for even large passengers and space in the first two rows is all but unrivalled. Even tall passengers can stretch out and be comfortable on these massive seats. The third row has a surprising amount of room as well, and it’s relatively easy to access.
Dacia is a low-cost brand, and that means luxury takes a back seat. Still, for India, it is likely to receive a reworked cabin with better materials and more features such as rear air-con vents. The fit and finish of the car we are driving is similar to that of the Duster. The buttons and switches feel durable and hard-wearing. The dash is pleasing to look at and Dacia has equipped it with an interesting touchscreen on the centre console.