The Compact Hatch segment is among the highly contested ones in the Indian automotive scene. Dominated by the market leader and closely followed by the number two brand in the country, the segment is a cut-throat one where there’s little scope for mistakes. Even the slightest of a misstep can prove to be an expensive and damaging decision that’ll affect a brand in the long term plan of things. This is perhaps why, manufacturers, both, global as well as domestic have stayed away, so-to-speak; preferring to battle it out in other, ‘safer’ categories instead. The operating dynamics too seemed to have played a key role in this.
Renault though, buoyed by the success of their Duster SUV, appear to be going for the jugular, having perhaps decided that the best way to showcase their strength is to win the toughest battles of them all. Which brings us to their weapon of choice – the KWID – a compact hatch that’s been spawned pretty much entirely in India, but is ready to take on the world. I had a chance to spend some time with the newest KWID on the block and here’s my take on it:
Dimension wise, the KWID stays true to the segment and drives in at an overall length of 3679mm. This means that it bests it’s nearest competition by 150mm or so; even as it stays within the critical sub-four metre length to take advantage of lowered taxes which would reflect on the final sticker price. It results in a class-leading 2423mm wheelbase and a 1579mm width to round off the exterior dimensions.
This innovative approach in using the maximum permitted dimensions pays huge dividends on the inside where the cabin space can teach a thing or two to cars a category higher. The KWID rewards its occupants with best-in-class knee-room, and shoulder-room across both rows of seating.
While you’re trying to digesting this bit of information, let me hit you with the fact that you get a 300 Litre boot! Forget larger hatches, some of the compact sedans on offer today don’t have this kind of boot capacity – how about that.
The KWID is built on the CMF-A platform that has been designed with at-least three other models in mind. Over 98% of the car has been localized, a fact that’s the source of much pride, for it means that the domestic partners (from design to individual parts supplies) have proved their worth in delivering the pieces of a puzzle that should stand the test of the world. Though the KWID is currently aimed specifically at the domestic market, Renault haven’t quite ruled out exporting the car from India in the time to come.
Powered by an 800cc, three-cylinder petrol powered engine, the KWID is said to become the benchmark for fuel efficiency with an ARAI certified figure of 25.17 Km/l. Developing 54 Ps power (@5678 RPM) and 72Nm Torque (@ 4386 RPM), the KWID rides on 13 inch steel wheels and 155/80R JK Ultima NEO tires. While you do get these attractive looking wheel-caps, you can’t help but notice that Renault have opted for a three-lug pattern instead of the conventional four-lugs. This shouldn’t be a problem, except when contemplating an upgrade to after-market alloys.
You’ve got to hand it to Renault though for getting the styling on the KWID so spot-on. Never before has the compact segment seen such chunky, yet attractive styling. It gives the KWID a SUV’esque stance and a road presence that’s only helped by the class-leading 180mm ground clearance. Good bye monsoon craters, lunar surfaced roads and monster speed-breakers.
The front end styling on the KWID gives it an imposing look with the high bonnet line, the magnificent C-shaped headlamps, the large air-dam and that signature grille. There’s cladding all around, and mouldings on the doors that complete the butch look. It created quite a stir during the test-drive and is sure to shake up the segment like no one else.
Step inside and you’re greeted by a clean dashboard, finished in dark-grey. The steering feels nice and chunky to hold, and revealing an all-digital speedo console. The speedo is flanked by a stepped fuel level indicator on the right and the tell-tale lights on the left. The driver can opt for an airbag, whilst the co-passenger has to make-do with a regular three-point seat-belt. The interior of the KWID is huge on cabin space and there’s ample room for four average-size adults to travel without too many complaints.
Recognizing the Indian need for storing their knickknacks whilst travelling, Renault have given the KWID with plenty of storage. The door-pads themselves are more than adequate for holding bottles as well as other personal belongings. The co-driver’s side of the dashboard has not one, but two storage bins along with a relatively large glove-box. The top-box that comes with a push-lid, is in-fact large enough to swallow a consumer grade DSLR with a 250mm lens with ease, while the open storage deck below it, can hold up-to seven, 150ml bottles of water in a row
Besides these, there’s additional space in the floor-console, comprising two cup-holders, a 12V outlet, a small storage area ahead of the gear-lever followed by another cubby-space below the hand-brake.
The central console is the piece-de-resistance here and comes finished in beautiful piano-black. The KWID gets Renault’s signature, 7-inch, touch-screen Media-Nav infotainment system that also comes in its higher priced cousins – the Duster & the Lodgy. While no other car in this segment offers this kind of an advanced touchscreen infotainment system, it is interesting to note that even a few other, higher segment cars lack such a system. The central air-con vents are placed above the Media-Nav system, while the controls are laid-out in a row just below it. The rotary knobs do have a positive tactile feel about them, though the AC on-off push switch actuation feel, could have been modulated better (I’m nit-picking here of-course).
The row of buttons below the AC controls are reserved for the hazard lights switch, the central locking system and the front power window controls. The placement of the latter takes some getting used to and Renault should have gone the conventional way in this regard. There is a blank space for a largish round-knob which leaves one wondering on what Renault has in plans for it, in the future.
The KWID seems to have seen some skimping for passengers at the rear, where they’ve been given wind-up controls for the windows and static seat-belts. While the former can be corrected by opting for the power-window control from the official accessory list (more on this later), the latter would be a tad more difficult to upgrade. Renault also offers mood lighting as an option with the KWID, the colour of which can be changed off your Android or iOS device. A few odd-bits, but all-in-all, Renault seem to have packed the interior to the gills with all comforts necessary and the essentials in place, with a long list of accessories to suit individual buyers tastes.
Right then, time to turn the key! A straightforward affair (there’s no fold-out function, we’re budget, entry-level hatch here), it has remote lock/unlock function built into the fob. Turn the key, crank up the engine and though Renault have done a commendable job to damp it, the three-cylinder idling characteristics do find their way through into the cabin. Shift into first, rather slickly, gently ease out the clutch and the KWID is off. The 660kg flyweight means that the car feels quick on the move.
The KWID has been tuned for drivability and it shows in the way she accelerates and scoots on the road. There’s little lag and can certainly carry speed into the corners thanks to the sorted suspension underpinnings. There was a bit of hesitation when cold but that disappeared when the motor had sufficiently warmed up. Also, when on an incline, the motor seemed to struggle, necessitating a press of the air-conditioner before some motive power could be restored. Nothing that a 1.0 Litre quad-cylinder petrol or small-diesel motor wouldn’t solve.
Renault have equipped the KWID with a gear shift indicator that displays an up or a down arrow, subtly reminding the driver if they’re over revving or lugging the engine. It also, in a way, compensates for the lack of a tachometer in the instrument cluster and I felt the need for one only out of habit, nothing else. Also, for a car that had less than 500kms on the clock, the engine felt quite responsive, a characteristic that should only improve as it frees up further. The ARAI-claimed fuel efficiency figure of 25.17km/l should translate into a roughly 18-20 km/l real-world figure.
Compact hatches that are built with price constraints in mind, usually tend to feel rather fragile and vulnerable on the road. Not the KWID! This baby hatch was composure personified, with the wheels going exactly in the direction where the steering wheel pointed it to. The 180mm ground clearance meant that the speed-breakers wouldn’t be a problem at all. While the roads in general were well paved, she did offer a pliant ride whilst going over the few rough patches that were encountered. In-fact, the KWID’s Ride & Handling characteristics brought back memories of the stellar driving dynamics of its elder siblings – the Duster & Lodgy. The air-conditioning too felt more than up to the job, cooling down the cabin effectively with the blower never having to be taken above the second notch.
Renault also seem to be taking up a strong position against the poor quality of service from the aftermarket accessories industry by offering the KWID with a dizzying array of official accessories & embellishments. Prospective buyers can choose from pre-drawn up ‘Accessory Packs’ that cover everything from chrome surrounds and rubber inserts to roof rails and body cladding on the outside.
Move inside the vehicle and there are a multitude of options in terms of seat covers, foot-mats, mood-lighting, refrigerators, storage nets and loads more. In-fact, Renault is assuring that these accessories shall be competitively priced and shall enjoy the same high standard of sales and service support as the car itself. No other car manufacturer in this segment offers this high a degree of customization and personalization from the word go and Renault is quietly confident that prospective customers shall come to appreciate this effort.
From the fabulous styling to the class-leading space and features, Renault appear to have put in some serious thought behind the KWID. After-all, it takes a lot of gumption to plunge into a segment that’s dominated by two brands who know a thing or two about budget hatch success. In yet another example of the innovative approach that Renault is so harping about, they have developed a smart-device app that’ll become the hub for all things associated to the KWID. Accessible via Android & iOS devices, prospective buyers will be able to take a virtual tour of the car and examine each aspect of it in vivid detail through the app. They’ll be able to book the car, paying through the app itself, even getting the option to specify the time, date & location on where they’d want to take delivery of their new KWID. Moreover, buyers shall also be able to go through the entire accessories catalogue, select the pack or individual accessory they’d prefer and have it fitted before the car being delivered to them. This, singular move Renault says, shall ensure that substandard, unsafe and warranty threatening installs could become a thing of the past with the KWID. The KWID App would also allow car owners to book service slots, purchase spares and lots more.
The cool thing is that the KWID App isn’t just purchase oriented. Renault have many a trick up its hat and I’ll let you in one as of now. The mood lighting (option pack, a paid extra) in the car can be controlled right from your phone! No KWIDding, you really can change the colours inside the passenger cabin to suit your mood! Talk about busting not just the segment, but leapfrogging a few segments higher, where purchase costs are in multiples of the expected sticker price of the KWID itself!
Which brings me to the pricing! Renault is expected to reveal the final pricing for the KWID very soon and deliveries are scheduled to begin with the festive season that’s just around the corner. If Renault manages to stick to the estimated INR 3-4 Lakh range (ex-showroom, I’m sure), then a mini-stampede amongst prospective buyers wouldn’t seem that far-fetched!
Thankful to the Renault India team & the folks over at Perfect Relations for their hospitality. Truly appreciate the opportunity to come be a part of the KWID Test Drive.
Also, many thanks to @Solitaryreapers for being such a patient co-passenger & the insane quartet of @adicrazy, @PWNeha, @cgiridhar & @rutaagayire for the non-stop masti. @GodsentEvil you too bro. Oh & @JoshiJubin it was awesome meeting up again bud 🙂
Disclaimer: @ had invited me down for the test-drive in Goa. It was an all-expenses paid trip. The views expressed in the above post, are in no-way influenced by this. Just thought i’d let you know, given the dark times we live in 🙂