Home / Reviews / First Drive / Renault Kiger Turbo First Drive Review: Little but Fierce

 

There is a stylish new compact SUV in town, all the way from the land of wine and love. These are our first impressions of the Renault Kiger.

Story: Anosh Khumbatta
Photography: Sanjay Raikar

The sub-four-metre compact SUV segment has blown up over the last few years, with manufacturers doing all they can to offer the best experience at the lowest price. All this has to be wrapped in an attractive-looking package to catch the fancy of buyers and, consequently, this space features some of the most innovative and outrageous designs of recent times. The Renault Kiger is no exception, and it is plainly apparent that a great deal of time and effort has been spent ensuring that this new car won’t be lost in the crowd. The striking design was further enhanced by the Caspian Blue of our test car and the Kiger is sure to turn heads from just about every angle.

The front end of the car is dominated by the chrome-embellished black grille which tapers and flows into the narrow DLRs and turn signals that are located just below the bonnet. The LED headlight cluster is incorporated lower, into the bumper, and features three square projectors on either side, two for low beam and one for high. The sculpted bonnet is an attempt to add further flair up front but is a bit too much for my personal taste, especially considering how the central swell looks a bit like a power dome, when under there is a tiny three-cylinder motor. The Renault Kiger’s rugged stance gets highlighted when viewed from the side, and is further enhanced by the black cladding on the flared wheel-arches and on the deeply sculpted doors. Moving to the rear, the bodywork around the distinctive tail-lamps is aggressively flared upwards and outwards over the wheel-arches to exaggerate the car’s haunches, while the lower part of the bumper is designed to look like a splitter for a sporty touch.

This compact SUV is based on the Renault-Nissan coalition’s CMF-A+ platform that underpins the Lodgy and the Magnite, the latter of which this car also goes up against. With prices starting at Rs 5.45 lakh (ex-showroom), the Renault Kiger successfully undercuts everything else in the segment, including the Magnite. It is also slightly shorter and narrower than its Japanese cousin, yet boasts of impressive cabin space; rear-seat passengers have ample knee-room even with a six-foot tall occupant sitting comfortably up front.

The cabin is typically what you would expect from a car built to a cost, with moulded plastic all around and no soft-touch materials to speak of. It must be mentioned that the plastics definitely did not feel cheap, and the interior is intelligently designed with several cubbyholes and storage spaces. The dashboard is neat and straightforward, and features an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment display, while the driver’s interface is a seven-inch colour screen flanked by bar-type gauges for coolant temperature and fuel level. The steering wheel has the requisite buttons and is ergonomically shaped; however, the stitching on it is rather coarse and can feel quite abrasive when quickly spinning the wheel around to make a U-turn.

The Renault Kiger is equipped with three driving modes — Eco, Normal, and Sport — and the driver’s display changes with each of these, highlighting the most fuel-efficient speed and revs in Eco, throwing up a simple analogue-style speedo with a digital speed readout within in Normal, and taking on a red hue and bringing in a tachometer in Sport. The driver also gets small bar-type displays for G force, power, and torque in Sport mode, but these are too small to really pay attention to and seem more like a gimmick to me, while the graphic of a car within the round virtual dial just felt like a waste of real estate.

Under the hood, our test car was endowed with the 999-cc turbocharged petrol motor that we already know from the Magnite. It is mated to a five-speed manual transmission. Although this motor makes only 100 hp, it is a free-revving unit and the well-thought-out gear ratios allow you to properly exploit the available power.

The motor is also extremely flexible, refusing to knock even at just over 1,000 rpm and smoothly accelerating when the throttle is depressed. It starts pulling at just over 2,000 rpm, while the bulk of the 160 Nm of peak torque makes itself known approaching 3,000 rpm. Put your right foot down and the Renault Kiger accelerates surprisingly quickly, the tacho spinning past its 6,000-rpm red-line before being reined in by the limiter at 6,500 rpm. I saw just short of an indicated 100 km/h in second gear, which is very impressive for a car like this.

In a first for the segment, the Renault Kiger’s drive modes not only change the display and affect throttle response, Sport mode also weighs up the steering wheel for an involving drive. I found myself in this mode most of the time, taking advantage of the sharper throttle response to effortlessly overtake slower cars and enjoying the heavier steering through South Goa’s flowing twisties.

In terms of ride quality, the Renault Kiger feels somewhat stiffly sprung at city speeds, occasionally jarring occupants over sharp-edged road undulations. Once speeds increase, the suspension comes into its own, smoothing out bad roads and bumps without fuss. Body-roll when attacking corners isn’t too bad and the Kiger feels ideally set up for quick progress over bad roads.

With its excellent pricing and head-turning looks, the Renault Kiger seems poised to shake up the sub-four-metre compact SUV segment. It delivers on most counts, including driver involvement and passenger comfort, doesn’t seem fazed by bad roads, and its diminutive proportions give it an edge during rush hour. If you’re shopping in this segment and want to stand out with a car that looks like nothing else on Indian roads, the Renault Kiger is definitely worth a good long look.

 

About the author: Anosh Khumbatta

 

 

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