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Kiger on the prowl!

S Muralidhar | Updated on February 25, 2021

As you like it: You can choose from a range of curated accessory packs to personalise the Kiger, including Attractive, Essential, Smart and Smart Plus. - Pics: S Muralidhar

Renault’s new sub-compact SUV packs in quite a bite with aggressive pricing and a feature-rich cabin. Yet, it will need to earn its stripes in the market

Renault’s India portfolio has been ‘SUV-heavy’ for years. The vehicle that made the lozenge logo famous in smaller cities and towns of the country — the Duster — and the brief flicker of success it had in the premium SUV segment with the Koleos set the tone for the bias. But even its other vehicles — the Captur, Kwid and the Triber — were amongst the first to sport the SUV body style. Now, the French car brand has just added the Kiger to this list, making its portfolio the widest and most affordable for an SUV-hungry market.

Design

The Kiger, as we all know by now, has been built on the same CMF-A+ platform, the architecture on which the Nissan Magnite and the Renault’s own Triber have also been built on. The Kiger’s wheelbase is identical to the Magnite’s, and the other dimensions are also just a few millimetres plus or minus. But in terms of design, the two are very different. The Kiger’s design is a little more upright with more prominent, angular edges. Its stronger SUV flavour is complemented by its design carrying forward the language set by the Kwid. In fact, viewed straight up and from a distance, you’d have to blink to recognise the Kiger. Its LED DRLs and the main headlamps lower down are framed with large housings in the front fender just like in the Kwid. But getting up close with the Kiger reveals the differences, of course, as does the larger size of this sub-compact SUV.

The chrome garnishes to the grille, the layered airdam in the fender, the carved bonnet slab and the cubed headlamp elements give the Kiger a smart front design.

Rear design makes it even more interesting and unique. C-shaped tail-lamps sit on the outer edges of very prominent haunches that are already raised above the shoulder line. The curved door panels with their grab handles, and the squared wheel arches marked out by black cladding, give the Kiger’s SUV flavour a boost. The ground clearance is a good 205mm and even though the 16-inch alloys in my test mule didn’t quite fill out the arches, they didn’t make the Kiger’s side profile look too weak either. Faux aluminium skid plate protector lends more character to the rear fender. The only part of the Kiger that resembles the Magnite is the roofline past the B-pillar and the rear spoiler. The new vehicle is available in four trim variants, six body colours and for an extra ₹17,000 you can get a dual tone (roof in different contrast colour) paint finish across all variants.

 

Cabin

The Kiger’s cabin has similar design references to Renaults of the past. The vertical centre stack is topped by a 8-inch infotainment screen, and right below, in layers, are other controls, the auto aircon’s circular knobs, and, in my top-trim test mule, a wireless charger slot and a push start/stop button. The dashboard layout is clean with a focus on functionality and ergonomics. There are panels and glovebox doors that have been fashioned out of hard plastics, but they feature clean shut lines and are not out of place in an affordable sub-compact SUV. In fact, the centre console, while offering even more storage options (in addition to the second glovebox and door panel bottle holders), also features an aesthetically pleasing rolling panel for closing the cup holders.

The Kiger’s seats have been constructed to mimic a sporty build. The front two seats a tad narrow overall, but offer good support. Multi-function steering wheel offers all the controls in the two side spokes. Digital instrument cluster which changes the layout based on driving mode chosen with some nifty and intuitive portrayal of key info is a good differentiator. Boot space offered is 405-litres. The rear legroom and headroom in the Kiger is really good; certainly more than some of the other sub-compact SUVs.

Performance

Renault’s move to retire the K9K diesel engine and choose only petrol powertrains for its portfolio of vehicles means that the new Kiger will also be on a diet of gasoline only. The choice of engine are the 999cc, 3-cylinder mills that are also offered in the Magnite. These include a naturally-aspirated (NA) unit developing 72PS of power and 96Nm of torque, and the turbocharged one-litre mill with an output of 100PS and 160Nm.

The NA version is paired with 5-speed manual and 5-speed Easy-R AMT (automated manual) gearboxes. The turbocharged version gets a 5-speed manual and X-TRONIC CVT transmissions.

The test mule I was driving in Goa last week was the top-trim of the turbocharged version. The CVT was not yet available for test drives. The engine doesn’t manage to hide the raspy, vibey nature that is endemic to most 3-cylinder mills, when the door is open. Strap up, shift into gear and get the Kiger’s engine into a steady boil, the mild thrum and gruffness born off the inevitably uneven 1-3-2 firing sequence of the engine fades. The manual gearbox shifts clean, but the throws are a bit longer than I would’ve liked. Also, the ratios for the first and second gears are a tad too short, making the Kiger feel a bit lurchy at first. Sports mode changes the powertrain’s character with changes to the throttle response and surprisingly also stiffens up the steering wheel a bit. A rotary knob in the centre console can be used to choose between Eco, Sport and Normal modes.

Engine response is good, of course, it is best in sport mode. Quick overtakes in the narrow lanes of Goa was easy. Renault officials also claim that the Kiger is more fuel efficient than sister brand Nissan’s Magnite. I got about 11.5kmpl after driving nearly 100 km over different road conditions in all three driving modes.

Bottom line

The ride quality of the Kiger is not bad at all. Though it is not a very heavy vehicle, it feels quite planted and there is enough body control even at highway speeds. Depending on the surface, the suspension feels a tad firm, but on really bad roads it feels confident and like a vehicle above its segment. The steering felt over-assisted at slow speeds.

Overall, the Kiger offers a good package at an approachable price, it misses a few auto features and even the option of a sunroof. But it is still one of the few vehicles that offers stuff like drive modes, a unique instrument cluster and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Prices for the new Kiger start at ₹5.45 lakh and go up to about ₹9 lakh for the top trim manual gearbox variant. These are said to be introductory prices and there is no news about what they might be after the initial offer.

But for now, the Kiger offers excellent value for buyers in the sub-compact SUV segment.

 

Published on February 25, 2021

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