Making a budget car for the masses is not at all a mean task, especially in a price conscious country like ours. For years, the Alto has ruled this segment and other car manufacturers have tried with varying degree of success but none has quite been able to match the small Maruti. But now there is a new Kwid on the block with ex-showroom prices starting around Rs.2.5 lakhs, it deserves your attention.
This is the budget end of the spectrum we are talking about, with cars like the Tata Nano, Maruti Alto, Hyundai Eon and Datsun Go –all priced within half a lakh of each other. Designing an entry level car is challenging enough and competing with this lot is even harder. Renault however, has a great trick up its sleeve. While other cars in the segment look like weedy bare-bone hatchbacks, Renault has given the Kwid quite a manlier, crossover styling. Many associate Renault with the rather successful Duster and the Kwid looks like a smaller version of its big brother. The chunky details, the plastic cladding all over the body and the raised suspension all scream ruggedness. In essence, they have managed to capture the macho image of the compact SUV segment and delivered that life style to a class of buyers to whom it would have otherwise been inaccessible. Now, that is a stroke of genius!
Inside, it is quite spacious for its class, thanks to the generous 2422mm wheelbase. The front seats have decent support and the view out is almost like that of a mini SUV. The rear seats have good space too, though we feel they could have been shaped for better thigh support. The dashboard feels modern and well put together, with the centre console sporting a segment-first touch screen audio system in the top models. The instrumentation, though looks basic, is all digital. The boot at 300litres is massive for any hatchback, let alone a budget hatchback like this one. Of course, it isn’t all perfect. You can tell this is a budget car from the way the wheels are secured with only three nuts instead of the usual four, the door feels tinny when you close and the interior plastics feeling low rent in most areas; but on the whole, the Kwid delivers a lot more than you’d expect from a car of this segment.
The engine is a 799cc three cylinder producing 53bhp and 7.34kgm torque. Though the ARAI figures tell that it is the most fuel efficient engine right now, it won’t leave you that impressed with its power delivery or refinement. It takes a bit of extra throttle to get it moving from standstill and revving it hard does make it feel coarse and strained. It chugs along nicely in mid revs, but has a bit of hesitation when you press the accelerator pedal. Renault is planning to offer a 1.0 litre engine on the Kwid with an AMT transmission soon, and that would make it a better city car.
What would impress you is the ride quality, like the Duster and Lodgy, it’s in a class of its own. The Kwid rides over potholes and bad roads like cars from several segments above. The suspension has loads of travel, but this setup doesn’t come at the expense of body roll. And although the steering lacks consistency and precision, the car feels well planted through the corners. It only weighs 660kg and that is 50-60kgs lighter than its competitors from Hyundai or Maruti.
It must be noted that the basic models don’t come with AC or power steering, so you might want to spend almost up to Rs.4lakhs (on road) for a decently equipped Kwid. Still, at this price, the Kwid has a lot going for it. It looks funky and the detailing around the headlamps and grille make it look more expensive than it is. The raised crossover like body, plastic cladding and 180mm ground clearance give it a butch look and ready to take on anything the worst Indian roads can throw at it. While the engine isn’t the best, we love the amount of space offered and the appeal of the whole pimesackage is hard to deny. It is a fresh take on the budget car and one that has serious potential to make Renault a household brand like Maruti or Hyundai.
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