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Renault’s burly kid targets entry-level buyers

S Muralidhar | Updated on January 23, 2018

First Look The Kwid’s package has shock value, but the fight will still be a tough one

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But will the Kwid help the carmaker plug the hole in its portfolio?



The Duster has dominated Renault’s Indian portfolio both in terms of numbers and buyer mindshare. The French carmaker, an alliance partner with Nissan, hasn’t been able to make a dent with its more expensive cars such as the Fluence sedan and the Koleos sports utility vehicle.

Neither has it been able to capture the imagination of buyers in the B+ and C segments with cars like the Pulse and the Scala, which are essentially cross-badged models originally introduced by its partner Nissan.

Renault’s portfolio has been missing a strong, original, mass market model (read hatchback) that can bring in the volumes. For a little over three years now, that is exactly what the company’s designers and engineers have been working on. The Renault Kwid, unveiled earlier this week, has been developed specially for the Indian market and will take the fight to market leader Maruti Suzuki Alto and the Hyundai Eon.

Design

Renault has chosen a crossover body style for the Kwid, which is expectedly a mash between a tall-boy hatch design and an ultra-compact SUV. The idea is to woo first-time car buyers and entry B-segment buyers with an aspirational body kit. The surge in sales and interest in the compact SUV segment has lead to a number of carmakers trying to capture the market with quick makeovers on their popular hatches. The Etios Cross, the Hyundai i20Active, the Ford EcoSport, the Fiat Avventura and the soon to be launched Maruti S-Cross were all born out of the need to address this emerging buyer demand.

The Kwid will attempt to milk this opportunity at an even lower price point. In a way, the new car from Renault also attempts to shock the buyer with its combination of B+ segment styling and build, but with an 800cc petrol engine; a size that is usually associated with the entry-level small car segment. Internally, the Kwid was code-named the XBA and is based on the all-new, low-cost Platform A. The Datsun RediGo and another Renault model to be launched next year will also be based on the same platform.

As can be seen from the pictures, the Kwid has the overall over-square stance of a compact SUV. You can see some vague resemblances to the Duster when viewed from the front and the dominating logo, chunky bonnet grille, the wide airdam in the front fender and the dual ridges on the bonnet are all meant to promote its SUV image. Body side panels are also quite upright with only the wheel arches, cladding and side moulding breaking the lines.

The integration of the turn indicators on the arch cladding is an interesting feature. It also means that the plastic side cladding will be part of standard fitment. The cladding is also formed by multiple elements indicating that replacements in the event of accidental damage will be cheaper. Large door mirrors will offer better visibility, but may be a bit oversized for crowded Indian roads.

The gradually-rising shoulder line tapers off past the rear door and merges with the rear spoiler. Aiding its image of being above the average exterior dimensions in the segment, the Kwid also features prominent haunches at the rear. Though the rear is more like an upright, but squat hatchback, some of the other elements such as the large wraparound tail-lamps and chunky rear fender join in to make it look more SUV-like.

The Kwid is said to have been designed to optimise exterior dimensions to internal volume and two features that are clear pointers in that direction are the roofline, which is nearly parallel to the floor, and the curved hatch door. This does translate into comfortable levels of headroom even at the rear and a claimed class-leading level of luggage space at the rear. Overall build quality, including individual elements and shut lines, is nearly at the level of B+ segment cars.

Cabin

Inside, the car features a fairly simple cabin layout. Similar to the exterior build quality, the cabin also seems like it will be close to B+ segment levels, though the amount of plastic all around does remind one of its price positioning. Also, we got to preview the top-end variant of the Kwid; the lower trim variants may lack some of the features such as the touchscreen.

There is a lot of practicality that has been built into the cabin. One of the focuses seems to have been providing a lot of storage space. The large door pockets and centre console slots apart, there are also the two glove boxes and the long recessed space on the dashboard. The centre stack is dominated by the infotainment screen, so we are wondering what the lower trim variants may look like with the empty housing. The chrome lined housing in the centre stack also has the aircon controls. The only other controls below are the power window buttons and the hazard lights button.

The front seats are nicely bolstered and comfy. The large digital speedometer and information gauge behind the steering wheel is a good idea, especially given the target audience who may well be first time car buyers. But it has also possibly helped Renault eliminate the need for more expensive, dual analog dials, including an rpm meter. During the preview session with the car, the rear seat legroom seemed to be a bit more than the segment benchmarks that the car is being pitted against. Luggage space could be in the region of 300+ litres.

Engine

Renault engineers started from a clean sheet of paper for the Kwid’s engine. While more information is awaited, the only powertrain it will be offered with initially is said to include an all-aluminium, three-cylinder, 800cc petrol engine. It is a four-valve unit with dual overhead cams (DOHC). The unit is a relatively square engine and is claimed to be one of the more fuel-efficient mills ever made by Renault. The gearbox is also said to be all-new and our guess is that it will be a 5-speed manual unit. Company officials confirmed that an automated manual transmission may also be under consideration.

With one of the core focuses of the Kwid likely to be class-leading fuel efficiency, the engine could feature a peak power figure which is close to the Alto and the Eon. We expect peak torque to be higher. The Kwid will apparently roll out with one of the highest localisation figures in the industry and the only parts that are imported are in the powertrain – the injectors, the knock-sensor and the connecting rods. Expect top-end variants to come with power-steering.

Bottomline

The Kwid is going to be a disruptor amongst the current entry B-segment cars. But to answer how much of an impact it will make for Renault and the others, you will have to wait for a full-blown test drive. For now, it has the right attributes and with Renault targeting buyers from the hinterland, the Kwid’s crossover body style and the tall 180mm ground clearance should help.

Priced between ₹3-4 lakh, the Kwid will land in showrooms by September this year.

Published on May 21, 2015

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