The coming month will witness a relative newcomer throwing its hat in the toughest, segment in the Indian car market - the entry-level sub compact ruled by Maruti Suzuki. The success of Duster in the compact SUV market has buoyed sentiment sufficiently for the French carmaker, Renault, to coincide its aggressive expansion plans in India with the introduction of its hatchback-based crossover, the Kwid, in the A-segment.

The introduction of this five-seater crossover is billed as a “game-changer” by the Renault brass which has simultaneously announced plans to add 34 more sales outlets to its existing strength of 166 showrooms across most third and fourth tier cities besides all the metros in the country.

High expectations are riding on the new product, aimed at delivering an “SUVish” feel for the A-Segment through creative interventions in design and manufacturing by the company’s resources and staff in France, Japan, Korea and India. For example, vehicle testing took advantage of the company’s different establishments to put the product through its paces – the body and chassis were tested in Japan, body equipment was evaluated in Korea and endurance tests were carried out in France, while India was the backdrop for overall and assembly testing.

Locally made

The vehicle was developed close to its market; supplier sourcing in India has been raised to 98 per cent, including 60 per cent in the Chennai region to ensure that the car would be in phase with market needs and meet pricing targets. It makes Renault the only car manufacturer to launch a mini car with close to 98 per cent localisation in India, on the day of the launch.

The Kwid thus comes with a new 800 CC, three-cylinder engine designed specifically for the CMF-A platform, the first Renault-Nissan Alliance model to use this platform. Features new to the A-mini segment include a modern, intuitive interior that includes a piano black centre console with a chrome-surround and houses the Media-Nav multimedia navigation system with a seven-inch display.

Priced between ₹3-4 lakhs as a challenger to entry-level products from the market leader Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai such as Alto K10, WagonR. Hyundai i10 and EON, the Kwid is a result in automotive innovation as much as a careful study of the Indian customers’ choices over a period of time.

According to Sumit Sawhney, Country CEO and Managing Director of Renault in India, the company is depending on innovation to intrude on the territory of a giant market leader and already entrenched players in this segment. “It is a tough segment but we also see it as a huge opportunity. What we have discovered about the Indian customer is that he is extremely cautious but also wants value for money. For this price range, a car that gives the feel of an SUV will hopefully break new ground,” Sawhney said.

Milestone launch

“Happily for us, there has not been much innovation in this segment. There is a status quo since most of the innovations and launches have happened in the premium hatch category. This is where Kwid comes in with its stylish, digitalised interiors and avant garde looks teamed with a three-cylinder engine with a modern DOHC setup. We hope to improve upon the success of Duster,” he added. The aim is clearly to address the aspirations of the middle class which sees mobility as a means of displaying their social status.

The Kwid’s design and stylish features are thus part of Renault’s aggressive expansion in India, a priority market along with Russia, Brazil and China. It is an important milestone in the process of growth that witnessed Renault expanding its network of dealers, setting up a production plant in Chennai along with the Renault-Nissan engineering and purchasing centre and the Technical Business Centre India (RNTBCI). The company brass is now holding its breath for Kwid to increase its share in the Indian market from two per cent to a mid-term five per cent.