Renault Kiger First Drive Review
Sister car to the Nissan Magnite, Renault wants to take on not only compact SUVs with the Kiger but steal sales away from premium hatchbacks
Is the Renault Kiger late to the compact SUV party? With the Kwid and then the Triber, Renault have established a well-deserved reputation for innovation but buyer interest is now focused almost exclusively on SUVs and save for the long-in-the-tooth Duster there has been no action at all from Renault. Now, with Nissan finally having got going with the Magnite, Renault is ready to roll out their rival to the Vitara Brezza, Venue, Sonet, XUV300, EcoSport, Urban Cruiser and Nexon. And without a premium hatchback in their portfolio Renault are also targeting the likes of the Altroz, Baleno and i20 with the Kiger — which is based on the beefed up variation of the CMF-A+ platform that, as tested on the Magnite, scored 4 stars in the Asian NCAP crash test ratings. What’s it like to drive? Before that let’s walk around the C-SUV.
Styling of Renault Kiger
While this is a deeply personal subject, I honestly think the Renault Kiger is the best looking compact SUV on the market today. And it turns head without being garish or over the top. Up front the nose is dominated by the Renault diamond that sits tall and nearly vertical on the bluff, high nose. Flanked by two chrome wings that stretch into the LED DRL eyebrows, this accentuates the width of the Kiger while the height is visually enhanced by the split bumper. The headlights sit in the bumper, like on the Kwid, and there is a clear family design language between the two. Now you might think the Kwid and Kiger look very similar but on the road you won’t mistake the latter for the former with the Kiger standing much taller, more butch and muscular. On the top-end versions there are LED headlights in three separate beams, the innermost for the high beam, and it all looks rather cool.
16-inch wheels are standard and with the wheel arches being so prominent with the thick black cladding they do make the Kiger look a touch under tyred. What Renault’s designers have tried to do is create a sort of SUV-coupe profile with a slight dipping roofline and it does work, especially with the window line steeply rising towards the C-pillar and the steeply raked tailgate. The blacked-out floating roof extends into the rear spoiler, standard on all variants, and there are cuts, creases and concave surfaces all lending the Kiger a very concept car-like feel. The roof rails are functional and can take up to 50kg. The C-shaped LED tail lamps again turns heads and Renault are keen to point out that they’ve deliberately stayed away from chrome, instead using glossy black to enhance the sporty appeal. It is a welcome move away from the tyranny of chrome though, if you are a fan of chrome Renault will sell you accessory packs that slap on chrome all over. You can check out an accessorised Kiger in our walk around video here.
Interiors of Renault Kiger
As interesting as the Kiger is to look at on the outside, so too the inside. Now the quality of material is not best-in-class but it’s not far off the benchmarks either and, more to the point, doesn’t feel cheap especially when you consider that the Kiger is the most affordable compact SUV. It also looks good on the inside, chunky and sporty with a fat-rimmed, slightly-flat-bottomed steering wheel and deeply-hooded instrument console. You get wireless CarPlay, like the Magnite and BMWs, but unlike the Magnite wireless charging is not standard (there is a neat provision for an aftermarket charger). There’s an 8-speaker Arkamys sound system that surprised us with its depth and base. The 8-inch infotainment is not the biggest in this class but you don’t really need anything bigger while the 7-inch digital cockpit is the best in this class. The display changes colours and themes with the drive mode selector: green in Eco (which also tells you when to shift to get the best fuel economy), blue in Normal (analogue as well as digital speedo, no tacho, a small clock and an instantaneous fuel efficiency readout), and red in Sport (big tacho, digital speedo in the centre, bar graphs for g-force, horsepower and torque). Renault have properly nailed it with the displays and graphics — this is the first one in this segment that we actually like and doesn’t look like a cheap namesake job.
As for space, there’s plenty of it. Renault claim the biggest boot at 405 litres and it is a deep boot, so much so that they will also sell you an accessory that raises the boot floor with little compartments underneath it for storing small nick-and-knacks. There’s 29 litres of in-cabin storage space including two glove boxes and 7.5 litres under the armrest. Rear elbow room at 1431mm is claimed to be class best as is rear knee room and the Kiger feels very spacious for four; five can also fit especially with the flat floor. Rear headroom, despite the sloping roofline is good, but the aperture in the C-pillar is narrow and you have to be careful not to knock your head. Up front there’s plenty of space, comfortable seats, good visibility and a high set driving position though the foot well is cramped and there’s no space for a dead pedal. And I have to mention that the air-con gets a PM2.5 air filter while an air purifier is on the options list.
Performance of the Renault Kiger
For Rs 5.45 lakh you get the 1.0-litre naturally aspirated 71 bhp engine from the Kwid and Triber and there’s also an AMT transmission prices for which start at Rs 6.59 lakh. We’re obviously not driving that; it struggles in the Triber and it will struggle even more in the Kiger. We are driving the 1-litre turbo-petrol with the 5-speed manual gearbox. It makes 98.6bhp and 160Nm of toque (152Nm for the CVT) and mated to the 1-tonne kerb weight (Renault haven’t given us exact figures) it makes for a sprightly car. There’s no ESP or traction control and you get plenty of wheelspin when you floor. The inside wheel also spins aggressively when you are turned into the corner and get on the throttle aggressively in first or second gear.
There’s no dearth of performance and you’ll hit 100kmph in just about 10 seconds making it one of the quickest compact SUVs today. Coupled with the plentiful wheelspin and the overall sense of lightness (common to the Kwid as well as Triber) the Kiger does feel enthusiastic. And the low weight also contributes to the best in class fuel efficiency of 20kmpl.
Where the Kiger doesn’t score highly is on refinement. At idle the 3-cylinder thrum and irregular idle is particularly evident and the engine is never silent, be it at idle or cruising revs and especially not when revved to 6500rpm. It’s not like the Volkswagen TSI engine is very silent either but that engine note actually sounds sporty. The Kiger’s on the other hand sounds coarse, loud and not very refined and I think it is down to the fact that it will never get a diesel engine and so Renault haven’t put in the extra sound deadening that all its rivals get to curb diesel engine clatter. In consequence the petrol engines on the Sonet, Venue, Nexon, XUV 300, EcoSport, Brezza (this was once only diesel, remember) are nearly noiseless. On top of the throttle response is dull, the engine has evident turbo lag below 2000rpm, and post that you get a nice kick when the turbo starts spinning. An enthusiast will enjoy it, but in everyday driving it is hard to drive the Kiger smoothly, the power coming in a rush when the turbo spools up. There’s also a noticeably heavy fly wheel effect which means when you rev it hard the revs don’t drop immediately when you get off the gas or dip the clutch which further adds to the noise. And then there’s the gearbox that is not slick or easy to operate — this is something we have pointed out on the Magnite as well and, like in the Nissan, the CVT will be the better transmission on the Kiger.
Ride and handling of the Renault Kiger
While the performance is enthusiastic the suspension has been tuned for comfort rather than aggressive cornering. The soft suspension does deliver a good ride especially over moderately broken roads which it glides over very well, isolating occupants. The suspension does crash over sharper bumps and there’s an audible thump that you feel inside the cabin when going over speed breakers at speed. And at speed, over wavy undulating roads, the suspension also exhibits a bit of float typical of cars with soft suspension while the body control isn’t great.
The soft suspension also means plenty of body roll and understeer when cornering hard. Get aggressive mid-corner and the inside wheel goes bananas spinning up way too enthusiastically and wasting away the power. The steering too, even by the lifeless standards of this class, is way too remote and lacking in feedback, all of which makes the driving rather less sporty than its styling.
Will the Renault Kiger be a best-seller?
There are two battles that the Kiger has to fight. The first is with its own cousin, the Nissan Magnite. Now styling is personal and I’ll leave you to make up your own mind but there’s no disputing the fact that Renault, with their wider dealer network, have a clear advantage. And as for pricing, while the base variant of the Kiger is cheaper, this top end variant is a few thousand rupees more expensive than the Magnite at Rs 8.6 lakh (the CVT is Rs 9.6 lakh).
This aggressive pricing means the Kiger undercuts all other compact SUVs and by such a massive chunk that they aren’t even in the same segment. For instance the gap between the Kiger manual and the Sonet (which doesn’t get a manual on the turbo, but the iMT clutchless manual) is over Rs 3 lakh, and that’s the same price gap between the CVT to the Sonet’s DCT twin-clutch automatic. Similarly the Kiger CVT, while superior to the AMT on the Nexon, still undercuts it by Rs 1.5 lakh while the gap to the XUV 300 is even more (though the Nexon and XUV 300 both have better ride and handling and superior crash performance). And compared to the all-important but frankly dated Vitara Brezza, the Kiger is cheaper by Rs 1.3 lakh.
The Kiger might not be perfect, particularly in terms of refinement and ease of driving, but the value that it offers along with style, space and low speed comfort honestly makes it an irresistible package. By getting price and product right the Renault Kiger proves that there’s no such thing as being late to the party. Just remember to splash out on the CVT.