Renault Kiger CVT review: Does the automatic transmission make it better?
Launched earlier this year, the Renault Kiger's claim to fame has been its highly competitive pricing, interior space and eye-catching styling. We drove it at its launch in manual guise, and we put in close to 10,000km on it on the 28 States, 28 Plates drive. The manuals, after all, have always been the choice of the enthusiast. However, an automatic gearbox just makes more sense in our daily pursuit of bumper-to-bumper traffic.
So Renault has given the Kiger a choice of two automatic transmissions — an AMT which can be equipped with the 1-litre nat-asp unit and a CVT which comes paired only to the 1-litre turbo-petrol engine. What we have here is the latter, so let's see how it performs.
Renault Kiger Styling
The Kiger is underpinned by the CMFA+ platform, which is also the substructure of the Nissan Magnite. But when it comes to the styling, it is a very different car. From the front, the Kiger looks very much like its younger sibling, the Kwid. And while that is not a bad thing, it is one of the reasons why people give it a second glance. That is courtesy of the low-set headlights, the big Renault badge and the grille which is flanked by a thin strip of LEDs all of which are very similar to the Kwid. Down the side, the Kiger’s sloping coupe-like roofline and raked rear windscreen do make it stand out. We can safely say that the Kiger turns a lot of heads, as we found out on our #28States28Plates pan-India drive.
Renault Kiger Interior
The interior of the Renault Kiger impressed us the last time we drove it because of what it offered in the features and practicality department. A high seating position to make it feel SUV-like and more than ample space both at the front and rear. It also has over 29-litres of storage space spread across dual glove boxes, a centre storage compartment and the door shelves. Its 405-litre boot space is best-in-class and the rear seats can comfortably accommodate three passengers sitting abreast. Speaking of the seats, they offer good thigh and lumbar support, but a more relaxed angle for the backrest would be welcome. You might think that the sloping roofline might take a toll on the headroom, but it actually doesn't and even people over 6ft tall should have sufficient clearance inside.
While features like wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on this top-spec RXZ variant, which gets an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen, it also gets an optional wireless charging pad, ambient lighting and the (crowd favourite) digital instrument cluster. But while it packs the right kit, the hard plastics make it feel like it is built to a price. Some interior elements are shared with other Renault products like the steering wheel, switch gears while the AirCon controls are borrowed straight from the Nissan Magnite. But, a couple of factors that add drama to the inside is the gloss black centre console and the trim on the dashboard which gets a vinyl finish.
How is it like to drive?
Renault offers the Kiger CVT only with a 1-litre (999cc) turbo-petrol engine which produces 98bhp and 152Nm torque (8Nm less than when it’s coupled to the 5-speed manual gearbox). The lower torque output is not noticeable from behind the wheel, but what is evident is the powertrain’s wider powerband. Renault has tuned the engine to deliver peak torque both lower down and higher up in the rev range to suit the CVT. Now, CVTs are known to deliver power effortlessly because of their lack of gears and the engine tuning which Renault has made here goes hand in hand with a CVTs characteristic — its rubber band effect. The transmission masks the engine's turbo-lag and that is something which can’t be concealed while driving a manual because you have to shift gears. At lower speeds, the CVT also feels like it picks up more quickly on small throttle inputs, but just like the manual Kiger, it really starts to move past the 2000rpm mark i.e. once the boost kicks in.
The Kiger CVT also retains the three driving modes that the manual has — Eco, Normal and Sport. These modes are not a gimmick and actually work properly. Selecting the Sport mode doesn’t turn the Kiger into a sports car with insane levels of acceleration. Rather all these modes are tuned to deliver different throttle maps. The Eco mode dulls the Kiger’s throttle and makes it slow. You have to put in partial throttle all the time to really keep it moving when you are driving in Eco mode. The Normal mode brings some of the punch back and the Sport mode just makes it a little faster. On the move though, if you slam your foot and floor the accelerator, any mode gets the Kiger to move rapidly. Now, Renault claims that these driving modes also change the steering feedback but that seems to be a bit of an exaggeration as the steering remains more or less constant — light and numb no matter what the mode.
Moving on to how the Kiger rides, its suspension soaks in bumps nicely when driven slow, but its soft nature results in some body roll in the corners and the car feels floaty on high-speed road undulations. The Kiger’s 205mm ground clearance is really helpful when the going gets tough and it feels planted at speeds of over 130kmph. The driving ergonomics are a mixed bag though. With the adjustable driver's seat height and the steering rake, Renault makes sure that you always find a comfortable driving position. But it’s raked rear windscreen doesn’t provide a good view out of the back like a car with a conventional vertical one.
Renault claims that the Kiger delivers 18kmpl in mixed driving conditions (ARAI cycle). We found that the Renault Kiger CVT does 10 to 12kmpl in the city which also happens to be the habitat it will be most used in.
Renault Kiger CVT price
The Renault Kiger is available with the CVT only on the top two variants — RXT and RXZ. Prices for the CVT Kiger start at ₹9.00 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the RXT and even the top-end RXZ is aggressively priced at ₹9.8 lakh. In comparison to its rivals, the Kiger is over Rs 3 lakh more affordable than the DCT-equipped Sonet. Similarly, the Kiger CVT, while superior to the AMT on the Nexon, still undercuts it by Rs 1.5 lakh. And compared to the all-important but frankly dated Vitara Brezza, the Kiger is cheaper by Rs 1.3 lakh.
Renault Kiger CVT verdict
No, the Kiger is not perfect. But it should be high up on your consideration list if you are looking for a compact-SUV which is practical and offers good value. It's brilliant pricing gives people who buy hatchbacks a chance to think about having a much bigger car (with an automatic!) by not setting their pockets too much on fire. The CVT makes the Kiger very effortless to drive in the city and the 1-litre turbo-petrol engine makes sure it doesn't feel underpowered. It’s a good combination, one we’d even recommend over the manual!