Why would I buy it?
- Sprightly performance
- Feature-packed cabin
- Good-looking, affordable, compact SUV
Why would I avoid it?
- Tight space for three in the second row
- Boot has a high loading lip
- Cost-cutting evident at places
Renault India has set its sight firmly on the sub-four metre SUV segment, and also targeted the hatchback buyers with the Kiger's aggressive price. And that's a good thing, not just for the carmaker. The price point is attractive for prospective small car buyers to jump to a segment above and still not burn a hole in their pocket. After all, it's a good-looking car with a practical and feature-packed cabin, friendly road manners for an SUV, a peppy performance from the turbo, and availability in multiple options with a manual, AMT, or CVT gearboxes. Lest we forget, plenty of customisation options to give it a unique look are available too!
Engine and Performance
The Renault Kiger is based on the same CMFA+ platform as the Nissan Magnite, and yet differentiates itself with not just looks, but even in the powertrain department. Here you have four trims and multiple petrol engine and gearbox options. There's the combination of a 1.0-litre Energy series naturally-aspirated (NA) three-cylinder mill mated to a five-speed manual or AMT. Its power is rated at 71bhp and 96Nm of torque. Then, there's this more powerful 1.0-litre turbocharged unit that produces 99bhp and 160Nm of torque. Apart from the manual version that we are reviewing here, it will come with a CVT option later as well.
Start this engine and you have the typical three-cylinder thrum, which interestingly feels nicely muted within the cabin. We were in quite a surprise to have no unwanted vibrations felt on the gear lever, which are otherwise quite apparent in three-cylinder engines. Renault has done a commendable job in curtailing these, and even the NVH levels are quite low for a budget car. Another fascinating thing is, it gets three driving modes (Eco, Normal, and Sport) as standard. The Eco mode turns the driver display green, suggests you to shift early, and extracts the most fuel efficiency. It feels sufficient enough till you click on Normal and can immediately feel the difference in throttle inputs. Here, the instrument cluster changes to blue and only shows you the speed in analog and digital. It's only when you shift the dial to Sport mode that you get the analog rev counter in red along with the bhp and Nm counter while displaying the number of g's as well.
And in any mode, the engine revs freely and only gets audible post 3,000rpm. It does make steady progress at 1,500rpm, but you see the engine come alive post 2,000rpm. And even if you can rev it till its redline at 6,000rpm, the strong surge feels best till 5,000rpm. Its throttle is most responsive in Sport mode and helps the car make quick progress. You can quickly overtake and fit into a gap in traffic. It's a no brainer that I preferred to stay in the Sport mode most of the time. It never feels dead and the peppy engine ensures good performance within the city and smooth sailing on the highway as well. The gearshifts are not the smoothest in its segment though. The notchy feel is quite evident and it could have been more refined. Thankfully, the throws are short and managed to slot in without any glitch any time. Yes, the reverse gear as well.
Even the clutch for that matter doesn't have a long pedal travel and is light. Meaning it will ease things for you in traffic when you might have to do more gear shifts. Interestingly, the latter might not be needed constantly as the car easily ambles along in the second/third gear at slow speeds. Turbo petrol owners will benefit from its higher amount of torque. This is also where this variant will shine with better drivability as compared to its NA one. In fact, with a kerb weight of just about a ton, this one might be the fastest to sprint from 0-100kmph in its segment. Well, that we will ascertain through our V-Box tests another day when it comes to us for a longer duration.
Ride and Handling
When it came to testing the ride quality and handling of the Kiger, we had a good mix of road conditions in Goa. These included narrow by-lanes, country roads, rough patches, and a good stretch of the highway to sprint as well. Over the nicely paved road conditions, it feels good. In fact, I was surprised that despite its tall stance and light weight, it felt calm and composed even at high speeds. Even for the broken stretches, Renault has made it quite capable to deal with small road imperfections and the 205mm of ground clearance helps further. That said, there's some side-to-side movement inside on uneven roads, since the chassis balance is just short of lending it flat manners over all the bumps. But the good part is that it settles down quickly. Its suspension will cushion the blow from small potholes but still does send a jolt over sharp-edged ones. Thankfully, there's no loud crashing noise from the suspension, and there were no particular rattles and squeaks from the panels. Road noise is audible inside, but it doesn't get to a point that it gets uncomfortably noisy.
Now, thanks to the compact footprint of the Kiger, it was quite easy to fit it into a tight parking space, or do a quick round about a narrow lane. Just a little more than three turns lock-to-lock for the steering means your hands have a little more work to do, but it’s quite light and the car boasts a short and tight turning radius. And though it's not very clearly evident, Renault has interestingly mapped the driving modes in such a way that it adds a bit of weight to the steering in the Sport mode. That said, it anyway weighs up nicely with increments in speed. It's quite car-like and fun to drive. And unless you are carrying high speed into a corner, it will not understeer and stick on to its line. It showed off its good agility even in switchbacks and confidently came to a stop with a firm tap on the brake pedal. And that's even when we had loaded the car with occupants and luggage. There's no nervousness as the brakes feel good with enough bite and are easy to get used to.
Interior Space and Quality
Now, inside its cabin, the Renault Kiger adopts a dark black and grey colour scheme while following a neat and simple design theme. Talking points are still the 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system that takes centre stage, and a 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster, both of which are customisable. The seats, though slim to increase space inside, are adequately padded and provide sufficient support.
The driver seat even gets the seat height adjust which along with the steering adjustment lends a nice driving position with an excellent view of the surroundings. All seats are covered with fabric and leather is not even an option on the top-spec trims. Things done on a budget are noticeable with the feel of hard plastics, no soft-touch materials, and some shiny black surfaces that attract dust and will get scratched easily. Parts and component sharing becomes evident as we've seen many of them, like the door handles, start-stop button, gear lever, power window controls, steering wheel etc., on the Triber. The feel, fit and finish inside could have been better, but is acceptable and, in fact, commendable for a car on a budget.
The Kiger is 3,991mm long, 1,750mm wide, and 1,600mm tall, and has a 2,500mm long wheelbase. Yes, it's not larger than its rivals, but Renault has managed to offer good space inside. You can easily get in and out of the SUV and both rows are good to accommodate even the healthiest of occupants. Though the roofline descends towards the rear section, there's enough headroom for average size individuals like me. It feels quite spacious for four people on-board with more than sufficient legroom and shoulder room.
Even the footboard in the second row is nice and flat, and a third passenger can fit in, but at the cost of shoulder room. Then, there are plenty of storage compartments including two glove-boxes, a deep covered stowage slot in the centre console with a few more, and even one-litre bottle holders in all doors. At 405litre, it's a big boot with no intrusions and a 60:40 split backrest adds to the versatility of luggage needs. The only thing that might be of concern is that it has a high loading lip, so placing in heavy bags is going to be a bit of an effort.
Features and Safety
In terms of features, the Kiger is nicely equipped across its trims. Even the entry-level versions get DRLs, LED tail lamps, and the quirky design elements that make the Kiger stand out from the crowd. This RXZ variant is the top-of-the-line trim and rides on 16-inch alloy wheels shod in 195/60-section tyres. Inside, there's auto climate control, a PM 2.5 filter, backlit steering controls, and an eight-speaker Arkamys sound system. Also, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a reverse camera with sensors, apart from all the basic features on the other trims.
There's no cruise control and there’s not exactly ambient lighting with different colours as such, but white light that can light up the centre storage, foot-wells, and more with the touch of a button next to the driving mode knob. Then, apart from its in-built air-filter, customers can additionally have an air purifier, wireless phone charging, and more. The only in-demand thing these days that it lacks with regard to its competition is a sunroof. Otherwise, on the safety front, the fully-loaded Renault Kiger gets four airbags (front and side), front disc brakes, ABS as well as EBD, speed-sensing door locks, engine immobiliser, and a seatbelt reminder system.
Some might say the Kiger looks like the Kwid which is true as this is now the Renault family look with all its cars getting this similar design language. And it looks nice, sporty, and appealing amongst its competition. Further, as we speak about its rivals in the sub-four metre or compact SUV segment, it's the most affordable amongst the Maruti Suzuki Brezza, Tata Nexon, Hyundai Venue, Kia Sonet, Ford EcoSport, Toyota Urban Cruiser, Mahindra XUV300, Honda WR-V, and even its cousin the Nissan Magnite.
Though the Kiger might not have top-notch quality of materials and a very robust feel, it's easy to live with. And then its practicality, lucrative features, capable drivetrains make it a potent package. To add to it, there's the easy-to-drive experience while having an SUV feel that too without having to spend too much. Furthermore, driving modes in an affordable car, so many features, and even with the added convenience from its two-pedal offerings, Renault has stepped up the game with so many options to choose from by bringing in an enticing product with the Kiger.
Pictures by Kapil Angane