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Renault Triber review: Clan Warrior!

S Muralidhar | Updated on September 20, 2019 Published on September 20, 2019

Attention to detail in the buttons and controls elevates the cabin quality. - S MURALIDHAR

With so much of the slowdown being at the bottom of the car market, Renault’s Triber could well be the bellwether of a revival

There have been arguments both in favour of and against, so it is still debatable if the sub-four-metre passenger vehicle has delivered any globally competitive advantage to the Indian automobile industry. But, going by the continued popularity of compact sedans and small sports utility vehicles, what started off as the result of an imposition seems to have turned into a segment that is quite unique to India, and could soon be relevant for the rest of the world too.

But, in the meantime, how far can this size limitation be taken in terms of the vehicle form factor? Hatch, sedan and even SUV-styling, we have all of it already. How ‘bout a seven-seater MPV? A sub-compact people’s mover sounds like overkill and even impossible to execute without it seeming like a big compromise. But Renault has done it with the new Triber and after driving the vehicle earlier this week in Goa, my first impressions are extremely positive.

Design

Renault doesn’t want the Triber to identified too much as an MPV, what with the negative connotations that we still tend to associate with vans. That could also be the reason why the Triber doesn’t get sliding doors, though given the tight parking spaces in our country, these would make for the most practical choice. The Triber is a mix of practicality and design appeal. It looks like a large, premium hatch with the front of a MPV and the body of a crossover. While much of its design is meant to deliver a message that this is a sort of crossover with all that side cladding and front and rear skid plates, it also cleverly hides the bits like its curved upwards roof line and considerable width that are meant to enhance cabin space.

 

 

Built on a modified version of the CMF-A platform, the Triber is a feather short of being four-metres and its width, at 1.74 metres, is almost as much as many compact SUVs in the market. With it’s wheels pushed to the extremes, the Triber manages a class-leading wheelbase of 2,636 mm and that is singularly the reason why the cabin almost shocks you with its ability to accommodate three rows of seats. The Triber’s face is quite modern with its headlamps housing LED DRLs and the triple edge chrome detail in the bonnet grille. I was driving the RXZ (top) variant, but I’m not sure what the lower priced ones will feature.

But even the generic design is quite aggressive and modern including stuff like the sculpted bonnet and thick wheel arches. Hints of the Renault design signatures are in the grille, the big lozenge logo and the turn indicator at the top of the front wheel cladding, which we have seen in the Duster and the Captur, are interesting bits in the Triber too. The door mirrors seem a bit large and may be prone to hits and scratches on our crowded streets. The roof rails are mostly cosmetic, though Renault officials tell me that they can carry up to 50 kg of luggage. The rear of the Triber features, what Renault calls Eagle beak, split tail lamps that curve and notionally point to the centre of the tailgate. The orientation of the lamps also visually accentuates the width of the vehicle. The loading height for the boot is ideal, though with the third row seats clicked in place and in use, there is almost no space for luggage.

Cabin

The first thing I noticed after getting behind the wheel of the Triber is the amount of headroom that it offered for all the seats. There is a decent amount of shoulder room available, though three adults sitting abreast in the second row bench seat may be a squeeze.

The flexibility and modularity offered by the removable third row seats and the split bench for the second row makes the Triber extremely practical for users who will not be using it as a seven-seater all the time. Renault also claims that the Triber offers the best in class legroom (200 mm) for second and third row (91 mm). There are also some clever convenience features like armrests on the door panels, and dedicated aircon vents on the B-pillar and the roof moulding for the second and third rows respectively. Though the compressor is only one unit, the rear aircon vents get an independent evaporator and blower.

 

The two independent third row seats can be removed and stored in a bag when not in use. Renault dealers will sell the Triber in a five-seat configuration with the third row seats folded and bagged. Fixing it takes seconds and the spare wheel is also stored under the floor of the boot. With the second row split seat foldable and tumbled forward, and the rear two doors opening wide at a 74-degree angle, getting in and out is relatively easy, though the comparatively low roof height is an issue. Most of the cabin features are very usable including the cooled lower glovebox and the other storage spaces. The cabin features a black and beige dual-tone colour theme. Most panels feature hard plastic, but they are all very neatly finished with clean edges. The door panels get cushioned black polyester inserts which feel good to rest my hands on, but I don’t know how they’ll age.

The RXZ variant I drove also featured a card-like handsfree key with sensors that enable the Triber to lock and unlock itself automatically when I walk away or walk up to it. There is also the start-stop button and an eight-inch multimedia touch screen that offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Most of these features seem to have been carefully selected and are eminently usable. The instrument cluster is also all digital and features a simplistic, but appealing display style for the rpm-meter, fuel gauge and engine temperature.

Performance

The Triber gets a three-cylinder, one-litre petrol engine that is similar in configuration to the one in the Kwid 1.0L. But it is nearly all new, featuring a dual variable valve timing (VVT) system that gives it a lot of usable low-end torque. Paired with a five-speed manual transmission, Renault says that this powertrain is already being used globally in cars like the Clio and the Sandero. But the overriding concern in my head was whether this engine, producing just 4 PS of power and 5 Nm of torque more than the Kwid 1.0L, will be adequate for a people’s mover.

Overall, it certainly behaves like a three-pot engine, though it is not as gruff or as ‘vibey’ as it is in the Kwid, thanks mostly to better NVH packaging. Even though on paper the 72 PS of power and 96 Nm of torque seems less, the Triber still manages to pull clean, though with little to no top-end, I had to plan tight overtakes in advance. The amount of low-end torque available is key and even the peak kicks in quite early at 3,500 rpm. The manual gearbox shift quality is a bit rubbery, though the gating is clean. The ratios have been set to include a short first gear and longer second and third. Cruising along for considerable distances in Goa’s streets and highways while in third and fourth gears was possible without any engine knocking setting in during intermittent slow traffic conditions.

The ride quality is surprisingly good, though while the Triber’s suspension manages to even-out most of the effect of bad roads, the perceived sense of solidity of build is still missing. The steering is over-assisted and lacks any weight, but I’m sure most buyers will like the ease with which U-turns can be taken and the amount of return assistance it offers. Safety kit includes four airbags, of which the two front airbags are standard across variants.

Bottom Line

Company officials say that some of the features like fog lamps, auto headlamps and of course, an AMT or other automatic gearbox could come later as part of the Triber’s product lifecycle. An AMT at the time of launch would have offered more choice to buyers. Like its design, the overall quality of the Triber is also a mix, with some rough edges thrown in.

But the overall impression is good considering its price range of ₹4.95-6.49 lakh (ex-showroom).

Renault has pioneered new segments in the past. With vehicles like the Duster, the French brand managed to bring a lot of excitement into the market. It has often lead to a lot of other manufacturers following suit to bring in similar vehicles.

And, even though it is still early days, the Triber has already led to a lot of murmurings amongst the competition, who are all cautiously waiting to see the market reaction for the new sub-compact MPV. Will it turn the tide for a beleaguered industry?

 

Published on September 20, 2019
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