Launch review: Renault Kiger 1.0L Zen & 1.0L Turbo Intens
JOHANNESBURG – 2021 has been the year of the affordable SUV. The Suzuki Vitara Brezza kicked things off at the beginning of the year, followed closely by its Toyota Urban Cruiser twin as well as the Kia Sonet and Nissan Magnite.
Now Renault is getting in on the action with its new Kiger compact SUV. Hailing from India, the Renault Kiger shares its CMFA+ platform with the aforementioned Nissan, although the Indo-French offering has a distinct design that won’t result in any confusion in the parking lot. We’re looking at you Toyozuki.
But the Renault’s biggest USP is its starting price just shy of R200 000 (see full price list below). In fact, this price positioning is so competitive that Renault believes it can sway many buyers who were in the market for a budget hatchback. Because, let’s face it, everyone wants an SUV these days.
There is one catch, however, and it comes in the form of a normally aspirated 1.0-litre engine that powers the base models. This engine, which is also found in the Renault Triber that the Kiger shares its platform with, produces a mere 52kW and 96Nm. Thankfully Renault also offers a 1.0-litre turbopetrol unit (as per the Magnite) with 74kW and a more wholesome 160kW on offer. But this comes at a premium, with the turbo model starting at R249 900 and topping out at R289 900 – which is still very competitive in the context of its market.
What’s it like to drive?
We got to experience the new Renault Kiger on some country roads near Pretoria this week, and thankfully we were able to sample both engine types.
First up was the normally aspirated 1.0 Zen manual model, which performed a little better than its meagre outputs had led me to expect – largely thanks to the vehicle’s kerb weight of just 900kg. It’s got enough oomph to keep up with urban traffic, and it can also cruise reasonably well on the open road, although you will really have to work the engine hard and stir the gearbox when you want to overtake. Unfortunately stirring said gear stick is not the most pleasant experience as it feels a bit notchy. The engine is also somewhat noisy when you’re accelerating to keep up with urban traffic, and there is a fair amount of wind noise at highway speeds.
The 1.0 Turbo model that I tried next, also in manual guise, provided a significantly enhanced driving experience. The gearbox felt better, the engine was quieter and, most importantly, performance was very impressive. It doesn’t lag on pull-off and the vehicle picks up speed very quickly.
At the end of the day, you get what you pay for with the Renault Kiger. Spec-for-spec, the turbo engine commands a price premium of R35 000 and if regular long-distance driving is on your agenda then it’s well worth the extra outlay. The range-topping turbo model is also available with a CVT gearbox.
The Kiger’s ride quality was reasonably comfortable and roadholding was adequate, but it can be noisy at times and all considered, it’s not the most refined SUV out there, but this has to be balanced against its relatively low asking price.
What’s it like inside?
The interior is best described as sensible. Most of the textures and surfaces correlate with the car’s affordable price tag and there’s little in the way of cabin glamour.
However, we were really impressed by the practicality on offer. There’s plenty of leg-stretching space for rear occupants and the deep-set boot swallows 405 litres, which is impressive for a vehicle in the compact class.
What features does it have?
The Renault Kiger is available in three spec grades, namely Life, Zen and Intens, and the middle model is the only one available with both engines.
In terms of standard spec, the Life comes with manual air conditioning with additional rear air vents, a conventional four-speaker DIN radio with USB port, remote central locking, front electric windows and 16-inch steel rims with plastic wheel covers.
The Zen, priced from R214 900, adds an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, reverse camera, as well as steering-mounted controls, push-button start, rear electric windows and 16-inch wheels with ‘Flex’ covers designed to look like alloys – and they really do!
The range-topping Intens trim grade comes with automatic air conditioning, one-touch up functionality for the driver’s window, 3-D Auditorium sound system with 4 tweeters, wireless smartphone replication, TFT instrument cluster, rear window defogger, cooled lower glove box, selectable driving modes and 16-inch Diamond Cut alloy wheels.
As for safety, the Life base model (rather ironically) has fewer safety features than the two top models, although the basics like dual front airbags and ABS brakes are still part of the deal. Front side airbags are fitted from Zen upwards, while all turbo variants also come with ESP stability control.
The normally aspirated models are sold with a two-year/30 000km service plan and the turbo variants get a three-year/45 000km plan. All models are sold with a five-year or 150 000km mechanical warranty.
Renault Kiger prices (2021)
1.0L Life manual – R199 900
1.0L Zen manual – R214 900
1.0L Zen AMT – R224 900
1.0L Turbo Zen manual – R249 900
1.0L Turbo Intens manual – R269 900
1.0L Turbo Intens CVT – R289 900