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The Renault Espace is a legendary car. It’s not only the world’s first minivan, it’s also the world’s only minivan that has been fitted with a Formula 1 engine. Why? I do not know, but nonetheless the Renault Espace F1 is a car, uh, van to be remembered. This is why when Renault called saying they have a new, sportier, Lodgy I jumped at the opportunity to have a go in it. No. It did not come with an F1 engine. In fact the Renault Lodgy Stepway comes with the same 1.5 litre K9K engine as the Lodgy, with 108.5bhp and 245Nm of torque. This is not necessarily a bad thing considering the standard Lodgy could really hustle when prodded.
What you do get for the extra moolah that you chip in for the Stepway is a sportily-inclined exterior, some tweaks to the suspension, steering and brakes and some goodies on the inside. The body shape remains mostly the same but Renault has given it a little tweak, including what Renault call a ‘jewel-studded’ front grille. That aside you get anthracite alloy wheels, a new front bumper, rear skid plates, chrome finished scuff plate, front and rear wheel arch cladding, black side moulding with chrome inserts, fog-lamp garnish with chrome satin finish and finally a Stepway decal. Whew! Add in your choice of roof rail – black or white satin finished – and what you’re left with is quite a handsome looking MPV. As far as MPVs go that is. On the inside you get all the bells and whistles that you would, on the top end RXz Lodgy, and a few extras thrown in for good measure. Extras, in fact, are quite a bundle. Brake assist, rear parking sensor, rear view camera, navigation, cruise control and a speed limiter. Now if you remember when we first drove the Lodgy we thought it was a wonderful MPV entirely ruined by a vague steering. Now Renault claims that they have fixed this with the Ergo drive system on the Stepway. As far as I could figure from a considerable amount of research, what Renault means is that they have made a few changes to the suspension and the steering. Not that I’m complaining; the Stepway picks up square where the Lodgy left off. The steering is now nicely balanced and despite its dimensions it gets through even tight corners without a fuss. In addition the brakes have lost that sponginess. Which really makes the Stepway nicer to drive, so Ergo-drive it is then.
Considering that the Stepway is only a lakh of rupees dearer than the standard Lodgy – `11.99 and `12.99 lakh for the 7- and 8-seater respectively – it does make quite a compelling case for itself. You get a whole bunch of goodies in a better looking car with most of the creases ironed out. Most impressive of all though is that this update has come barely a few months after the Lodgy was launched which speaks volumes about Renault’s response times. Bodes well for the future I must say.