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Renault Kwid review, road test

21st Jan 2016 6:00 am

Read the Renault Kwid review, road test from Autocar India; Can the Kwid be the game changer for Renault India?

  • Make : Renault
  • Model : Kwid

Renault’s ambitions are clear. The company wants to be a big player in the Indian market, and to do that, you simply have to have an affordable small car that’ll sell in big volumes. It may have first tasted success with the Duster, but the made-for-India Kwid is Renault’s first strike at the volume business. This lower end of the market though is very difficult to master, and as a result, currently has only two contenders. The first needs no introduction – more than 3 lakh Indians buy a Maruti Alto each year, while the second car – the stylish Hyundai Eon, comes nowhere close on sales. Maruti has had a stranglehold on this segment for more than three decades now, and it’s a mammoth task to beat a company whose mainstay is affordable hatchbacks. Renault, a relative newbie in India, knows it won’t be easy to take on the brand equity and reach of Maruti, so instead, it has made sure the product itself is very strong. The Kwid debuts a new, modern Common Module Family platform (called CMF-A) and 98 per cent of the car is localised! That’s not all; it looks less like a hatchback and more like a crossover – a more appealing body style for Indian buyers, and it gets best-in-class equipment and space. On top of it all, Renault shook the industry by pricing the Kwid quite close to its arch rival. We already picked it as our favourite in our comparison test a while back, but now it’s time to get under the Kwid’s skin in a full Autocar road test.   

Efficiency is one of the most important factors for a car in this class. Renault’s claimed figure is 25.17 kpl (ARAI) and that makes it the most fuel-efficient petrol car in India. We put this claim to test, and the Kwid returned 15.3kpl in the city and 21.5kpl on the highway; class-best figures and indeed the most fuel-efficient petrol car in India. These good economy figures kind of negate the small 28-litre petrol tank as a realistic range of 515km is possible.

 

 

Practicality and cost-effectiveness tend to trump styling with cars in this segment, and buyers tend to agree, but now Renault has moved the goalposts by shaping the Kwid like a crossover. Indians love SUVs, so why not make a small car look like one? It has a high bonnet, tall waistline and, true to its SUV-like styling, a high ground clearance of 180mm. This does make the 13-inch wheels look a little weedy, but it doesn’t take too much away from the overall look. The muscular bonnet gets two ridges on the edges that go along nicely with the flared wheel arches, and the twin-element headlights, big ‘serrated’ grille and large Renault logo look quite nice. The cladding on the sides lend it a rugged appeal and the nice kink in the shoulder line adds to the bulging muscular rear. The elegant tail-lamps and the tall, black bumper give the rear a neat look, but it doesn’t look quite as dramatic as the front.

Renault has been clever to give the car an upmarket look and instead cut costs in places that aren’t as important to the average buyer in this segment. Things like a single wiper, three wheel nuts rather than four and wing mirrors that aren’t adjustable from inside. It is also one of the lightest cars in its class weighing a measly 669kg, and you can feel it in the lightness with which the doors shut. That draws our attention to crash-worthiness. The Datsun Go, another budget car from the Renault-Nissan Alliance, was criticised for failing miserably in Euro NCAP crash tests, so what about the Kwid? Renault claims it will clear the Indian crash regulations, which are non-existent as of now and will come into play only by 2017. The India-spec Kwid may not pass muster in European crash tests, but Renault claims the car’s CMF-A platform is future-proof and needs just a few tweaks to comply with future crash test norms.

The first thing that’s quite likely to catch your attention on a top-spec Kwid is the 7.0-inch touchscreen placed on the grey dashboard. This feature, otherwise seen only in cars twice the price, is sure to be a huge draw. It’s the same unit used in the Lodgy and Duster, featuring satellite navigation, Bluetooth, aux-in and USB connectivity. The digital speedometer is again a segment first, and is large and easy to read. All four air-con vents can be clicked closed, offering the ability to completely shut one or two when they aren’t needed. Beneath the rotary AC knobs are buttons for the power windows, hazard lights and door lock/unlock. There’s also an interesting disc-shaped ‘blank’ to the right of these buttons. The Kwid will later be ◊ offered with an AMT gearbox, and we hear the gear selector will fill this blank, in the form of a rotary dial. The chunky three-spoke steering wheel is nice to hold, integrates well with the rest of the design, and looks like it belongs to a more expensive car.

The Kwid has plenty of storage spaces by class standards. For a start, there are two gloveboxes, one of which can hold a bottle, and between them is a nice cavity to store odds and ends. Ahead of the gearlever is a recess with two cupholders and a small niche that can hold your wallet or phone. The front doors can take a bottle each and a little more space for small stowage.

The seats at the front are remarkable for a car of this segment; they are reasonably big and have decent bolstering too. Also, the seating position is quite nice, with
the chairs placed at a height that makes ingress and egress a breeze. Space in the back, however, isn’t as much as the car’s SUV-like shape might lead you to believe; kneeroom is a bit tight with a tall passenger sitting in the front, thigh support isn’t great, and though headroom is good, fitting three passengers abreast would be a squeeze. By segment standards, it’s on par if not class-leading, but you can’t help but feel there could have been more. Renault has an explanation for this – most Indian families shopping in this segment usually have only kids in the back seat, and prefer a larger boot instead. Hence, rear legroom gave way to boot space, which is a whopping 300 litres – good enough for two classes above.

Interior quality isn’t great in absolute terms but pretty decent for a car of this price, with only a few rough edges letting it down. In fact, a smattering of chrome accents and the glossy black central console finish really liven things up. On the inside too, costs have been saved in areas that are less important to budget hatchback buyers. For instance, you’ll see a few exposed screws in the cabin, and there’s no tachometer, steering adjustment, internal wing mirror adjustment, ABS or inertia-reel seatbelts for rear passengers (you have to adjust the belt to fit manually each time you sit). Then again, this is par for the course in a budget hatchback, and buyers do at least get the option of a driver airbag, and of course, that touchscreen.

The brand new ‘BR08’ engine in the Kwid was developed in-house at Chennai with inputs from Nissan and Renault’s global R&D centres in Japan. This all-aluminium, three-cylinder motor was built with a strict cost and weight target, employing a plastic oil sump, for example, but it still uses twin camshafts and a four-valve-per-cylinder configuration. The focus has been to balance out power and efficiency – it makes 53.2bhp at 5,678rpm, which isn’t much compared to class standards but in the lightweight body, the power-to-weight ratio is better than usual. However, it does exhibit the usual tantrums of a small-capacity, three-cylinder petrol engine. Start it up, and you can immediately feel the vibrations at idle, with the occasional hiccup, but dial in some revs and it fades away.

There’s ample torque too, 7.34kgm of it, which peaks out at 4,386rpm, but more than 80 per cent of that figure is available from as low as 1,200rpm. In our acceleration test, the Kwid managed to do the 0-100kph sprint in 16.93 seconds and hit a true top speed of 147kph. Performance then is just decent and on par with the competition.

While outright performance is acceptable, this engine isn’t very rev happy and neither does it deliver power in a linear manner, with quite a few flat spots and hiccups all through the rev range. You have to feed in some throttle to move it from a standstill smoothly, but then it gets going smartly enough. The power delivery in the mid-range is frustratingly flat, leaving you second-guessing what gear you need to be in. It does pick up a bit after the bland mid-range, but that’s not ideal in everyday driving. You feel the need to work the gears often in traffic, and on uphill starts, slipping the clutch is the only way to move smoothly ahead or else the engine will stall. This was clearly evident in our in-gear test as the gaps in power delivery reared its ugly head as the Kwid  just managed the 20-80kph run in 3rd gear in 17.13sec and 40-100 kph in 4th gear in 29.45sec. You also get a fair bit of engine noise and gearbox whine in the cabin as you pick up speed. A compact city car like this naturally does not feel at home on the highway, but at least the engine feels comfortable cruising at a constant engine speed. However, step on the gas for an overtake at three-digit speeds and it will feel understandably strained, and again, you will have to go down a gear or two.

The Kwid’s suspension setup is MacPherson struts at the front, and a torsion beam with coil springs at the rear. It is well tuned for Indian roads and Renault, as with most of its cars on sale here, has achieved class-leading ride quality. At low speeds, it doesn’t feel edgy or firm, and increase the pace and you won’t get tossed around over a bad patch of road, which is the norm in cars of this segment. It takes on bad roads with aplomb, crashing only when going over sharper undulations. Renault’s decision to use 80-profile tyres also contribute to this good ride. What’s impressive is that the Kwid feels quite stable even as the speeds rise and imparts surprising amounts

of confidence.

Handling, though, is a disappointment. Make no mistake, the well-configured suspension means body roll, though present, is surprisingly unobtrusive for such a high-riding car, and the level of grip is quite good despite the weedy 155/80 R13 tyres. The limiting factor here is the steering, which robs the handling experience of any joy. You see, the base variants of the Kwid don’t get power-assistance, and so, the steering rack for all cars is tuned to be light and easy to twirl. When power steering is added on top trims, the compounded result is a super-light but lifeless steering that offers almost no feedback. While that’s good for city use and parking, on the highway, this extra lightness makes it feel rather disconcerting, and it suffers heavily from unwillingness to return to centre freely. But perhaps not all those who buy a Kwid would be eager to drive it fast on mountain roads. The Kwid is mainly a city car, and it’s quite well cut out for the urban grind.  

The top-trim RXT (O) Kwids get Renault’s MediaNAV infotainment system. This unit is the same that’s used in the Lodgy and Duster. It is very clear and an intuitive system. It is quite easy to connect your handheld device and what’s even more nice is the host of functions it gets – like Bluetooth audio streaming and hands-free telephony, USB and aux–in ports. The navigation system is quite accurate and easy to use too. It doesn’t get a CD player but  overall, the system is unparalleled in this segment.

Unique budget car that breaks the mould but not your pocket.

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