A good starter

| | in Automobile
A good starter

The Renault Kwid has been a surprising success on the sales front. We spend some time with the ‘Easy-R’ AMT version to see why

All the vehicle models that regularly sell more than 10,000 units a month have either the stylised ‘S’ of Suzuki or the stylised ‘H’ of Hyundai on their noses. All but one model. That is the Renault Kwid. A car that seems to have saved the French carmaker’s venture into India. Renault Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said in recent interviews that the Kwid is now helping the French carmaker make money in India. But Renault has always had a limited media fleet in India and it is only finally that one got to spend some time with the Renault Kwid.

The variant of the Kwid that we reviewed is the top-spec RXT version equipped with a driver side airbag and the AMT gearbox. This variant costs almost exactly four lakhs ex-showroom Delhi; even though the Kwid starts at a more reasonable Rs2.65 lakh for the basic 800cc model. The Kwid with its 800cc and 1000cc variants is positioned against the Alto 800 and Alto K10 from Maruti Suzuki, still the dominant models in this segment, each variant alone selling over 20,000 units monthly.

But the Renault Kwid has carved a niche of its own, and one has to put that in large part down to the Kwid’s looks. The Kwid looks like a baby Duster. You see one approaching in the rear-view mirror and it does have a positively SUV feel to it. The raised look is backed up by 180mm of ground clearance and plastic cladding in every variant bulks up the car. But are the looks backed up by performance?

Well, keep in mind one thing, the Kwid is what I describe as a “Starter Car”; this is clearly first-car territory. And one has attempted to review the car keeping that fact in mind as the expectations you have as a first-time car owner are quite different from later purchases. Fuel economy much higher than comfort, sure you also want a good music system and a zippy car but it should be easy to drive and park and cheap to repair and maintain. And frankly, the Kwid delivers on all those attributes.

As India gets better roads and more powerful cars, the 67 horsepower of the Kwid’s 999cc engine doesn’t seem like much. But in start-stop traffic in the city coupled with the AMT gearbox, it does a good enough job. The raised suspension means that the Kwid doesn’t handle as well as a late-90s Maruti 800, the starter car my generation grew up on, but you do get used to the little foibles of the Kwid.

It isn’t a car built for someone almost hitting 40. The seats, for example, have less padding than the ridiculous slimline seats used by low-cost airlines (yes, you IndiGo), and I am not a fan of the rotary gear knob for the AMT as well as the lack of a manual shifting option. Many of the fittings seem to have been built to a cost, the air-conditioner is wheezy and the instrument cluster is painfully basic. Yes, you get a touch-screen  infotainment system with a navigation system (I’d stick to Google Maps after trying it though) and surprisingly good speakers. Sure, it lacks anti-lock brakes (ABS) and a passenger airbag, but then again a few years ago none but luxury cars had those.

But this is a basic starter car, and if I was 25 and needed something to get me to work and back but could also double-up as being able to show off to my friends a bit, the Kwid ticks all the boxes. This is cheap and cheerful motoring and  it also demonstrates that if a manufacturer sticks it out and develops a product for the Indian market, it can make it work.  

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