In a less-than-ideal economic climate, buying a new car is a bit of a risky business. It’s not surprising, then, that the used car market is booming. But a few manufacturers with a large product base have identified this trend, and are offering new entry-level vehicles at entry-level prices. Renault’s Indian-made Kwid is the latest budget option to join the fray – and it even has some crossover DNA.
R124 900. That’s how much you’ll pay for a brand new Renault Kwid Expression, the base model of the new range. Made in India, the Kwid doesn’t pretend to be anything but a cheap, economical-to-run motoring option. In India, the Kwid is a regular Top 10 seller, offering plenty of standard features at a very competitive price. The same principle applies to the Kwid here, and for cash-strapped consumers who want to buy new, it makes a lot of sense. Apparently the first batch of Kwids shipped here have already all been snapped up. Sharing its platform with the Datsun GO (a product of the Renault-Nissan Alliance), the little Kwid features a surprising amount of standard kit (unlike the Datsun), especially if one considers the price. We drove the Dynamique model, which retails for R134 900, and you get electric front windows, air-conditioning, a satellite navigation infotainment system that also has Bluetooth connectivity and power steering.
The Kwid is powered by a naturally aspirated 1 000cc three-cylinder petrol engine that produces 50kW and 91Nm of torque (peaking at a high 4 250r/min). On paper those numbers look rather dreary, but the Kwid weighs just 700kg (without a driver), so with a power-to-weight ratio of 72kW/ton, performance is actually brisk. In town anyway. Travelling at 120km/h on the highway in fifth gear, the Kwid quickly runs out of steam if a hill presents itself, so you have to swap gears frequently to keep the momentum going. The small three-cylinder mill’s high revving din is also quite intrusive in the cabin at higher speeds. With skinny 155/80 R13 tyres (steel wheels with plastic covers), and ground clearance of 180mm, the Kwid handles okay, but it’s obviously no Megane RS Clubsport in the corners. But you pays your money, you takes your choice. And then there is the subject of safety. This Kwid only gets a driver’s airbag, so no airbag for the front passenger and no ABS.
More important to customers, it seems, is economy. And despite a tiny 28-litre fuel tank, this Renault can reach about 450km per tank at a realistic six litres/100km. In monetary terms, that equates to around R360 (at R12.80 per litre) to fill the tank. That works out to 80c per kilometre, which is pretty darn good. Lastly, there’s the look of it. Although Renault doesn’t punt it as a crossover, it certainly has a crossover look about it. We like the styling, especially the front, and reckon it is considerably easier on the eye than its cousin, the Datsun GO. It’s also tiny, so around town it can easily nip in and out of parking lots. Lest we forget: although the little car’s rear door seems to be made from a Coke can (that’s how light and thin it is), it covers a surprisingly large boot, with 300 litres of space. And the rest of the cabin is not bad either, considering the diminutive size of the Kwid. However, if the driver is a six footer and the passenger sitting behind is also one, that rear-seat passenger may not be smiling very much when you reach your destination.
So it’s a piece of tin with a tiny engine?
Yes. But for the money, you get a heck of a lot of tin, gear and low-running costs. The cool gear (like the satnav and Bluetooth connectivity) is up most first-car buyers’ streets, too. Add the nippy in-town performance, the frugal consumption, the 180mm clearance, the practicality of a four-door hatch and the crossover fashion appeal; and you end up with a surprisingly desirable little runabout. There’s even a large LCD speedometer in front of the driver, so it’s all very funky and modern. And a surprisingly pleasing-on-the-hands three-spoke steering wheel, which adds an air of sportiness to the cabin. But make no mistake: it’s far from perfect. On the Highveld you have to rev that little engine to kingdom come to really get going, and at 120km/h, the swap between the fourth and fifth cogs is a regular one. At higher speeds, it’s also not particularly refined, and handling is acceptable, rather than good.
Sure this first model’s safety net is probably not up to scratch. But the next Kwid batch will apparently have a Euro NCAP 3 safety rating, so that will no longer be an issue. Renault is a business, after all, and we reckon they hit the nail on the head with the Kwid – there is clearly a demand for such a karretjie, and Renault simply catered for that demand. And the company has added a five-year/150 000km warranty to the deal, which says a lot about Renault’s confidence in the little crossover.
“More important to customers, it seems, is economy. This Renault can reach about 450km per tank at a realistic six litres/100km”
Engine 999cc, three-cylinder petrol
Power 50kW @ 5 500r/min
Torque 91Nm @ 4 250r/min
Gearbox Five-speed manual
Drivetrain Front-wheel drive
Driving aids None
Ground clearance (claimed) 180mm
Fuel tank 28 litres
Average consumption Approx six litres/100km
Rang: Approx. 450km
Service plan Optional extra
Service intervals 15 000km
Warranty Five-year/150 000km
Price R134 900