What is it?
The Duster may be the car that brought the right attention to Renault, but the Kwid is the model that catapulted the French carmaker into the big league. Less than a year since launch, and the Kwid has sold over 80,000 units, and has allowed Renault to nudge its way into the monthly list of the ten top-selling carmakers in India. Things that worked in the Kwid’s favour included its SUV-inspired looks, spacious cabin, practicality, class-leading equipment and value. But if there was one area where the Kwid could be better, it was in the engine department. The Kwid’s three-cylinder, 0.8-litre engine, though efficient, was always let-down by a jerky low-speed power delivery. Also, with just 54hp on tap, performance wasn’t exceptional in any way.
And that’s where the Kwid 1.0 steps in. It comes with a larger three-cylinder, 1.0-litre engine that makes 68hp and is targeted at buyers who want a degree of performance from their budget hatchbacks. So, just as the standard Kwid competes with the Maruti Alto 800 and Hyundai Eon, the Kwid 1.0 will vie for the same buyers interested in an Alto K10 or Eon 1.0. The Kwid 1.0 will be available only in the top-spec RxT trim with a driver-side airbag available as an optional extra.
Visually, there isn’t all that much that distinguishes the two versions of the Kwid. The chunky basic design is the same but the 1.0’s silver housings for the outside rear-view mirrors add to the look although there’s still no internal adjust for them There’s also a chequered strip on the sides, perhaps to announce this is the ‘racier’ version of the Kwid, but it looks overdone to our eyes. As with the standard Kwid, buyers will have the option to personalise their cars with a whole host of accessories available at the dealer level.
What is it like on the inside?
The cabin is unchanged from the Kwid 0.8-litre which is no bad thing. It’s a practical space with twin gloveboxes and large door pockets, and it looks contemporary too thanks to the central touchscreen and digital speedometer – the latter two being features that really distinguish the Kwid from its peers. Overall quality is par for the course though still down on the Eon for fit and finish. The single-piece front seats are flat but comfy enough and there’s reasonable room in the back for two average-sized adults too. What continues to impress is the Kwid’s 300-litre boot. It’s genuinely accommodating and there’s more luggage space than what you get in many larger hatchbacks.
As mentioned earlier, the Kwid 1.0 is available with the option of a driver-side airbag. In addition, it also gets what Renault calls ‘Pro-Sense’ front seat belts that are fitted with pre-tensioners and load limiters; firsts for this class of car.
What’s it like to drive?
Renault wanted the Kwid 0.8 to be the most fuel-efficient car in its class and that target meant a few compromises had to be made in terms of drivability and performance. However, maximum fuel economy wasn’t the sole priority number for the Kwid 1.0. Buyers opting for the larger engine version would want more from the driving experience and that’s what Renault has sought to provide with the new motor. The three-cylinder, 1.0-litre engine is new for Renault and finds its first application in the Kwid. Peak power is 68hp at 5,500rpm and max torque is 91Nm at 4,250rpm. For reference, the Kwid 0.8 makes 54hp and 72Nm. The Kwid 1.0 weighs about 700kg (or 40kg more than its smaller-hearted sibling), which is light even by bantamweight class standards. As a result, the Kwid has the best power-to-weight ratio of 97hp per tonne.
You can tell how the large engine has enhanced the Kwid from the moment you fire it up. There are fewer vibrations and less of that low rev uneasiness. Power delivery is still not perfectly fluid in first gear, but things settle down as you build speed. There is noticeably more power, so overtaking traffic in town is that bit easier and, in general, the Kwid feels more sorted. Performance is good enough but the Alto K10 feels zestier. What helps the Kwid in town is the progressiveness of the clutch and that the five-speed gearbox (shared with the 0.8) is light to use. Those looking for the convenience of an automatic will have to wait until the end of the year, which is when the AMT version will be launched.
Thanks to the improved performance, there’s a new-found feeling of confidence out on the highway too. The Kwid 1.0 cruises well enough and you don’t have to work the engine too hard to make your way past trucks either. Noise levels do get high if you stretch the engine but in general it’s not bad. However, at steady speeds, you’ll notice a mechanical whine in the background that you just have to make peace with.
Elsewhere, Renault hasn’t altered the Kwid 1.0 so it drives just like the standard car. There is maturity in the way it rides over bumps and even feels quite planted for what is a really light car. The steering is nice and light but it feels lifeless and lacks self centering.
Should I buy one?
If the 0.8-litre engine was the only thing holding you back from buying the Renault Kwid, the 1.0 is the car for you. The larger engine has improved the way the Kwid drives and has addressed its biggest weakness. Performance is good for city use and acceptable for long out-of-town drives as well. What’s more, the 1.0 promises much by way of fuel economy too. The ARAI-tested fuel economy figure for the Kwid 1.0 is 23.01kpl which is not too far down on the 0.8’s 25.17kpl.
Add the new dimension of performance to all that we like about the Kwid and what you end up with is a rather wholesome budget package. The Kwid 1.0 is priced at Rs 3.82 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) or about Rs 22,000 more than the standard Kwid RXT, (Rs 3.95 lakh for the RXT (O)) which seems pretty reasonable for the upgrade you get. In all, this is the version of the Kwid to buy and quite simply the best budget hatchback around.