2021 Renault Kiger road test review
Renault's newest launch the Kiger was finally handed over to us in Goa to be reviewed. The Renault Kiger is a compact SUV, based on the CMF-A+ modular platform. The first product we saw on the same platform was the Renault Triber, a compact (sub 4-metre) multi-utility vehicle and that received much acclaim finding its way to several homes. So what does the Renault Kiger, an SUV, have to offer that's different, unique and could find similar appeal? Let's find out.
Renault Kiger design
The Renault Kiger is handsome. It grabs attention and is one of Renault's stand out designs, and surprised us at the global reveal much like the Renault Kwid, its micro hatchback did years ago. It cleverly uses a mix of sculpted body panels and plastics to lend a sense of strength and solidity, and the raciness leans more towards a sporty crossover visual than a proper SUV.
Remember the VW Polo Cross, the Toyota Etios Cross, and others like them, and how they cleverly utilised plastic surrounds and accents to provide a visual strength to the hatchbacks they were based on? The Renault Kiger makes good use of similar chunky elements to visually appear larger, dominant and attractive. Elements like the blacked out plastic inserts on the bumpers, the lower apron at the front and rear, the grille, the shrouds on the wheel arches, it all adds muscle to the overall image.
But it's not just these elements, the Renault Kiger body shell is also sculpted in a way to show largesse and performance. This is evident from the way the fenders at the front and rear are scooped outwards to look wider than the cabin. Even the twin scoops on the bonnet are old-school muscle car design elements and they make a successful attempt at bringing out the sportiness of this SUV. It also has a mildly sloping to the rear roofline, with a steeply raked rear windshield. If Renault had to make a hatchback as well, based on this platform, keeping in line with the design of the Kiger, it would be a looker! Another element that I found quite attractive are the three-LED array inside the headlamp housing placed on the bumper rather than higher along the hood line. This is only available on the RXZ variant which we had at our disposal. They look smart and offer good illumination, but lesser variants replace this with a standard halogen setup.
The Renault Kiger's proportions lend it a visually well planted stance, and it is enhanced by elements like that wide hood and the flared out wheel arches. However, its overall width is lesser than the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza, the Tata Nexon, the Kia Sonet and the Hyundai Venue. Even the height and length is marginally lesser than most of its peers in the segment. However the Renault Kiger has the same amount of ground clearance as the Renault Duster at 205mm.
Now the grim aspect of the Renault Kiger's design. The black and coloured plastics on the front bumper are separate elements and there are large spaces in between adding layers to the front face. In time without a proper hose down, these will collect grime and dust and the black plastic elements will begin to fade by oxidation or get stained. And keeping it clean isn't going to be a job for your daily cleaner, they're never that meticulous with a bucket of water and a rag. So yes, you will need a proper pressure wash every few weeks, or depending on your usage, more often. A small run on a dirt track during our photoshoot, saw a large film of dust sitting on those plastics. Left to accumulate that would have stained the plastics irreparably. Renault claims the plastics are good quality ones, but I doubt they are impervious to our climate and dusty conditions.
Renault Kiger interiors
The cabin of the Renault Kiger is tastefully appointed, it has good space and the fit and finish of various components in the cabin look like they will stand the test of time. It's not a good looking cabin, it's actually quite simple but works efficiently. What you do get a sense of is the quality of materials don't feel like they are built to a price.
The three tiered dashboard looks solid and the plastics feel dependable. The control knobs and dials are tactile and I especially liked the mild knurling on the air-con control knobs. That knurling effect is also seen in the texture of the door pads and the seat upholstery.
Practicality rates very highly in this cabin. You get lots of storage space, the fonts and readability of the infotainment screen is impressive, the instrument cluster looks smart and there are some innovative features. For instance, cupholders are found in a small bin right next to the hand brake lever and the bin has a retractable cover.
The cupholders themselves can be removed from the bin which makes it easy to wash if you spill your drink in there or if you need the space to be utilised in some other way. There is an additional bin right under the arm rest, the glove box is a split unit with the lower bin compartmentalised for better storage and it is also cooled just in case you want to cool your bottle of water. My only criticism is against the stitches on the upper rim of the steering wheel, there are a pair of stiches running across the steering rim which scrape against your palm just enough to disturb you while driving. Renault could have avoided this and gone with a smooth flush feel.
The seats of the Renault Kiger are supportive, but not very wide. This is because the centre console is extremely wide and this raises two problems in the cabin. One, you cant insert your seatbelt comfortably as there is a very small gap between the walls of the centre console and you when you sit down. Second, the foot pedals are placed too close to each other and there is no dead pedal or even the slightest of space to slide your foot off the clutch pedal. And resting your foot on the clutch pedal at all times isn't conducive to the long life of your clutch and it's also exhausting.
The cabin's highlight is its space. It is one of the most spacious cabins in the segment and this is evident when you sit in the second row. You get generous knee room and headroom, though it would like most other compact SUVs feel best for 4 with a fifth person finding it a bit of a squeeze. The advantage though is that the CMF-A+ platform is designed to have a flat floor and this means all three passengers at the rear can find enough space to place their feet on the floor without stepping on someone else's toes.
The Renault Kiger also has a very large boot. Renault India claims that at 405 litres it is easily one of the most spacious in terms of volume. Renault achieves this by making the boot deeper by I suppose raising the loading lip, so I do wonder how much of this is usable space as opposed to being a clever statistic.
Renault Kiger powertrain
Two years ago Renault made the decision to offer only petrol engines with its product mix and the Kiger takes that decision forward. Powering the Renault Kiger are two engine options, both petrol and both displacing 999cc. One engine called Energy is naturally aspirated and the other called Turbo is er, turbocharged and is available in two states of tune. Either engine can be optioned with any of the trim levels and that is a good move that benefits the consumer. There are also three transmission options, a manual, an automated manual transmission and a CVT.
Our car came equipped with the turbo petrol clubbed with the manual transmission, and this would be the best option in my opinion. That's because it makes a 100PS of max power with 160Nm of max torque as opposed to 72PS and 96Nm of max torque in the naturally aspirated petrol. The second turbo petrol option clubbed with the CVT alone makes 8Nm lesser torque though that is available across a wider rev band, 2,200-4,400rpm.
You also get a drive mode selector, and interestingly this is where Renault has added some fantastic value. The selector allows you to drive in one of three modes eco, normal or sport. Each mode selects a different engine map but more importantly also changes the weight on the steering wheel. This is something no one in the segment offers. It makes driving the Kiger much easier in eco mode as the steering wheel lightens up considerably, and adds just the right amount of weight when you spin the dial into sport mode.
The manual transmission nonetheless is without a doubt the best option in the case of the Renault Kiger. The 5 forward ratios are optimised quite nicely to the torque spread of the turbo petrol. In fact if you are of a more 'let's have some fun' bent of mind, the Kiger can give you a bit of torque steer and wheelspin through second and even third gear at times. Shift quality is also positive, though it isn't the slickest of gearboxes we have had in this segment, it does feel a bit notchy.
Coming back to the drive selectors, eco mode is tuned to give you the best efficiency but it's a bit laborious to drive in this mode. The engine feels restricted and even jamming the accelerator pedal to the floor elicits a very cold response, one that can get frustrating very quickly. Within urban limits, making quick overtake manoeuvres in this mode is tedious, out on the highway its damn near frustrating.
Normal mode removes most of the chains, and it is the most pleasant mode to drive the Renault Kiger in. Engine responses are much quicker and acceleration feels much more linear. Sport mode holds nothing back, you get the full effect of the power and torque and it can be a pulse raising experience at times. It does call for a continuous stream of good fast roads that can be stitched together seamlessly allowing you to use the full range of power. The turbo kicks in at around 1,600rpm and instantly propels you into the meatiest part of the torque band and is best experienced in sport mode.
Each of the driving modes also changes the display on the instrument cluster, eco makes it go green throwing up all the relevant information you need to maximise fuel efficiency. So the display indicates the optimal shift zone on the rpm meter and also indicates live fuel efficiency. Normal mode turns the dials blue, but takes away the tachometer leaving just the speedometer in place while also throwing up the basic information you'd need. Sport mode gets a tachometer and you also get power and torque meters in addition to a G counter! I definitely think Renault ought to make a hot hatch based on this.
Overall the 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine is quite a friendly unit, its refined and smooth and you don't feel any vibrations like in its brother from another mother, the Nissan Magnite. Sound deadening however is kept at a minimum given the price band the Renault Kiger is present in. So you do get some noise intrusion into the cabin, but it's never disturbing.
Renault Kiger performance and efficiency
The Renault Kiger is quick, it hits the ton in 11.3 seconds which is par for the class, but better tyres than the MRF Wanderers it comes with could make it quicker off the line. It does lose some acceleration to mild turbo lag and its low friction tyres, though its roll-on figures show just how linear the engine is. 30-50kmph in 3rd gear takes the Kiger 4.3 seconds, 50-70 in 4th gear is quicker at 3.8 seconds and the SUV slows down just a bit in 5th gear between 60-80kmph to 4.4 seconds. Overall the roll-on numbers are very close to each other, which only goes to emphasise its linearity and strong pulling power.
Renault also claims fuel efficiency, at 20kmpl for the turbo petrol manual is one of the best in the segment. However on our tests runs we never achieved anything close to that. At best, on the highway, in eco mode, we got 17.38kmpl. Given the conditions in Goa with most roads rising and falling over long distances, I expect better figures on flatter surfaces. In more urban areas that figure fell down to 12.22kmpl, giving an overall of around 13.5kmpl.
Braking too is impressive, the combination of disc and drums with ABS kicking in the anchors to bring the Renault Kiger to a complete halt in just 40.9 metres.
Renault Kiger ride and handling
Renault's claim to fame has always been the ride quality its products have offered. Robust, solid and dependable, almost every product they have introduced provided class leading ride quality and the Renault Kiger is no different. The McPherson setup at the front end with a twist beam at the rear provides class leading ride quality. It feels solidly planted, controls body roll extremely well and has almost negligible dive under hard braking.
It is a bit understeery when pushed hard, but its not what the Kiger is supposed to do, be pushed hard. In urban conditions the ride quality is impressive, and even on the highways at high speeds the Kiger does not feel unnerving. The 195/60 R16 tyres also add in more comfort though better rubber could enhance the dynamics if that's what you are looking for. The steering has variable assist and eco mode makes it lighter and easier to turn, whereas normal and sport mode add in considerable weight and a more direct feeling.
Renault Kiger features and value
The Renault Kiger comes up with some innovative solutions, some which are standard fitment, others that can be optioned if you decide to buy it. The standard set of features though are quite a good mix within the various variants and clearly indicates how value propositions can be enhanced even if price is a barrier for the developers.
For instance, you get the drive mode selector which alters not just the engine character but also the steering effort and the instrument display screens. You get a G-counter, and a power and torque meter, which is quite rad for this segment . Then you also get wireless charging and wireless mirroring for your smartphone. You get a two tiered glovebox, one of them offering a cooling function. And a fairly decent Arkamys sound system which is one of France's leading sound experiences for automotive purposes.
Storage spaces are plenty, but I especially liked the removable cup-holders and the twin trays, one of which is the wireless charging pad and the other just to place any additional oddities.
On the optional side, Renault has a long accessories list that it will soon be bringing to market. And one of these that we saw was the boot organiser which is essentially a modular compartment system that allows you to separate various things you'd want to place in your boot. It then also gets a boot lid, which gives the Kiger a flat floor after folding the 60:40 split seats in case you need to place longer objects within the boot. Accessories also include chrome garnish elements for the exteriors but these are largely cosmetic and while lend a more executive appeal to the Renault Kiger, don't necessarily, in my opinion, fit in well.
Renault Kiger verdict
Overall the Renault Kiger is an impressive package, it has all the attributes Renaults have built their reputation on in India. And its adds some more value to that with a good mix of features, attractive styling, and an attractive price tag as well. At just Rs 8.72 lakh for the dual tone manual turbo petrol we had on test, the Renault Kiger makes a very strong case for itself. Just how well it is accepted is left to be seen, but there is no doubting the Kiger has all the makings of a winner in this segment.
Photography by Anis Shaikh
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