The Renault Kwid AMT was launched earlier this month, with a price tag of Rs 4.25 lakh, ex-showroom, which isn’t a whole lot more than its rivals. But for what it is, the Kwid makes a good value proposition at that price. We look at what’s likeable in the smallest automatic gearbox equipped Renault, and what’s not.
What we like:
Convenience and Simplicity
The Kwid has almost made back to basics motoring more desirable. Its SUV-like appearance is a clear sign, and standard features (more on which below) further add to that. But in essence it’s still a simple vehicle, devoid of unnecessary tech (and weight), ensuring that you enjoy and get what you pay for.
The fairly airy cabin has decent visibility, which works in conjunction with the rather small footprint of the car, hence making it a great urban runabout. The inclusion of a five-speed automated manual gearbox (or Easy-R as Renault calls it) ensures that the Kwid trumps others in the segment, as far as the balance between ease of driving, desirability, and space goes. Another fact backing the car’s simple approach is the rotary gear selector. It might not be conventional but is easy and works well. Shifts are smooth, and once you get acquainted to the nuances of AMT units, it becomes very easy to live with.
The reaction of people’s faces when they think you’re busy controlling the AC temperature when you’re actually engaging reverse is priceless.
(MasterCard lost a possible plug there!)
Price and features
The Kwid AMT is available only in the top trim, which means not only does it get the best of what Renault has to offer in the segment, it also is decently loaded with features, especially in comparison with what the competition has. Standard bits include a digital speedometer, power windows, an effective AC, and of course the touchscreen infotainment system which also gets navigation and Bluetooth telephony. That, while the competition, is stuck with single DIN units, is worth taking notice.
The small footprint of about 3.7 metres doesn’t mean the Kwid isn’t spacious on the inside. It offers more passenger space than the competition, and there’s a huge boot (which can hold up to 300 litres of luggage), too.
With not too much weight to lug around, the Kwid happens to be one of the lightest cars on sale. That helps it attain a power to weight ratio of 97PS/tonne, which is evident when you drive it — it’s peppy and doesn’t take too long to reach triple digit speeds.
Another thing that people migrating from manual gearbox equipped vehicles would appreciate is the fact that you can’t engage D, N, or R without depressing the brake pedal. Doing so by mistake (and without the brake depressed) will lead to a warning on the dash.
Also, unlike regular automatics, the AMT doesn’t let the car creep forward or backward without the accelerator depressed. It saves new drivers from inadvertent acceleration, while experienced ones can exercise throttle control without having to worry about manually operating the clutch.
What we don’t:
The biggest issue plaguing most cars in the segment is the lack of safety features. The Kwid AMT gets driver airbag as part of the standard equipment, but lack of ABS and an unstable structure (as showcased by NCAP’s tests) is worrying. Hence, recommending this car to someone who undertakes a lot of highway trips, is just not happening.
Lack of manual controls
The clutch-less controls of the Kwid AMT sure make it convenient (see point 1), but that also means you have to depend on the onboard computer a lot. As if the gear shift wasn’t slow enough — not ridiculously slow, but still slow in comparison to conventional automatics — the AMT takes its sweet time to downshift, too. That means there’s no sudden power delivery and a substantial gap between you asking for power and eventually getting it.
Unlike in the past, the demand for more powerful versions of small cars is on the rise. The presence of the 1-litre Kwid reinstates that. It has enough power for everyday commutes, but sadly, it’s noisy and has vibrations making their way into the cabin.
No hill hold
There’s no way to stop the car from rolling back on an incline other than applying brakes or using the throttle. The latter can potentially damage the running gear (earlier than usual), and it becomes a tricky affair for new drivers. And since there’s no manual clutch control, a hill-hold feature would have helped in this case.
Should you buy one?
It’s still a sub Rs 5 lakh car (on-road), and that’s brilliant value for something that offers the convenience of an automatic gearbox mated to a frugal engine. Also, since it’s offered only in the top trim, it’s well-loaded with features (for its size and segment). Other bits like 180 mm of ground clearance, a standard 2-year corrosion protection, and good amount of stowage space inside, make the Kwid a practical approach to everyday motoring.
The Kwid, for what it is, makes a strong case for itself, but the questionable safety mars that. Considering that, a look at the used car market will help you with safer and more spacious alternatives. Otherwise, the Kwid is a good car.
Read more about the Kwid in the next month’s issue of Motoring World.
Photos: Limin Mathew