Can a different gearbox simply transform the handsome Renault Kiger into a mind-blowing pocket rocket? Well, Divyank certainly seems to think so...
When we first drove the Renault Kiger back in March last year, we sampled the top-spec RXZ trim that was equipped with the 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo engine and a five-speed manual gearbox. And having tested its Nissan-badged sibling, the Magnite, a few months before in the same guise, we pretty much knew what the verdict of our Kiger review was going to be – a thoroughly capable sub-4m SUV that's quite practical, really comfortable, looks phenomenal but lacks the final garnishing of a refined powertrain to be labelled a 'complete' product.
So, this time, the folks at Renault India called us up and handed over the automatic variant of the Kiger to see if it would help us change our opinion of this little urban runabout. And almost immediately, we wished they'd done this sooner! For the uninitiated, the Kiger comes with a choice of two automatic gearboxes – an EASY-R AMT and an X-Tronic CVT. But since we had the top-spec RXZ Turbo Dual-Tone variant with us, it came with the latter. At this point, you must be thinking – if it's the same engine, just how much of a difference does a gearbox make? Well, in Kiger's case, it proved to be nothing short of a game-changer. Let me tell you how...
The Magic of Tuning
A close look at the Kiger's technical specifications reveals the most obvious reason behind this split personality. With the five-speed manual, the Kiger Turbo develops 160Nm of torque @ 2,800 – 3,600rpm. Whereas with the CVT, the figure stands at 152Nm @ 2,200 – 4,400rpm. Now, even though the CVT falls short of a few torques over the manual, the maximum torque is delivered 600rpm before and is spread over an additional 800rpm. And this makes all the difference. A much earlier torque surge and a meatier, longer rev band mean there's virtually no turbo lag and the car simply lunges ahead even at the slightest dab of the throttle. Plus, you don't need to mash the accelerator to reach triple-digit speeds either – the wide torque band ensures speeds of up to 130km/h (the limit to which we tested the car) without breaking a sweat. Thus, in essence, the biggest drawbacks of the manual powertrain have been dealt with straight away.
Another important feature that helps unlock the Kiger CVT's true potential on the road are the Multi-sense Driving Modes. In Eco and Normal modes, the Kiger remains docile and tameable. However, switch to Sport and the beast roars to glory! Such is the performance in the Sport Mode that I actually had to alter my throttle input significantly, for the accelerator pedal becomes extremely sensitive and can be quite tricky to use in crawling traffic. Therefore, the use of Sport mode is advised only on wide, open roads and highways.
Still in Choppy Waters?
So, with the winning combination of the CVT and the three-pot turbo mill, does the Kiger gain lost points and finally, emerge as the ultimate sub-4m SUV that money can buy? I'm afraid not. That's primarily because, in terms of driving dynamics and overall build quality, there's still a gargantuan gap that Renault needs to fill. While the automatic powertrain may be very good, the supporting bits like the steering, braking and the plastic quality at several places just do not do justice to the car's asking price. The version we tested will set you back ₹10.10 lakh ex-showroom, and if you somehow end up paying that amount only to find out that the entire centre console feels as flimsy and fragile as a paper swan, I doubt anyone would find that reassuring!
So, what's our verdict then? If you're out there looking for a comfortable, practical and fun-to-drive automatic car that provides the thrills in a surprisingly efficient manner, the Kiger CVT fits the bill perfectly. However, if you're the kind of person who's after value for money, then I'm afraid the Kiger CVT loses the battle.
- Renault Kiger RXZ X-Tronic
Engine: 999cc / 3-Cylinder / Turbocharged
Transmission: CVT Automatic / Front-Wheel Drive
Power: 99bhp @ 5,000rpm
Torque: 152Nm @ 2,200 – 4,400rpm
Price: ₹10.10 Lakh (Ex-Showroom)
X-Factor: With a smashing engine-gearbox combination, the Kiger CVT leaves most vehicles on the road in its dust!
• Visual appeal
• CVT gearbox