Renault Triber tested: Does the new budget seven-seater make the grade?
Johannesburg - The all-new India-sourced Renault Triber landed in South Africa earlier this year with a keen value proposition up its sleeve. Measuring less than 4 metres in length, but able to carry up to seven people, it's one of the smallest and cheapest ways to transport lots of people in one go.
Prices start at R171 900 for the entry-level 1.0-litre Expression model and the mid-range 1.0-litre Dynamique model will cost you R10 000 more at R181 900. The car we have on test here, however, is the range-topping 1.0-litre Prestige, priced at R196 900.
With 100 seating configurations available, Renault says the Triber is highly adaptable to meet the dynamic needs of any consumer because it can be easily used as a one-seater utility vehicle, or a five-seater family car, or a seven-seater staff transporter.
With five seats in place, for instance, you have 625 litres of boot space available, which should be ample enough for holidays or monthly shopping.
Lots of kit
The Renault Triber is nicely appointed on the inside, particularly this test car in Prestige spec, coming standard with a reverse camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility and Keyless Entry and Engine Start. Other standard-fit items include electrically-operated windows, power steering and central locking; the kind of stuff you'll expect to find in a modern, new vehicle.
One of the coolest features, no pun intended, has to be the Triber's separate air-conditioning controls for rear-seat occupants. Because it was developed in India, and it can get really hot in India, Renault saw it fit to give the Triber added interior cooling capability. I like this feature a lot because it's the kind of feature you find in premium cars such as the Volkswagen Caravelle and Mercedes-Benz V-Class.
Safety-wise, you'll be pleased to note that Renault's done all it can (considering the price) to build a safe car too. Our test vehicle came with anti-lock brakes and four airbags. The Expression and Dynamique models also come with anti-lock brakes, but only dual front airbags.
The Renault Triber range is powered by a new generation petrol "Energy" engine that is tuned to deliver a balance of performance and fuel economy. It's a 1-litre 3-cylinder naturally-aspirated unit that generates 52kW of power with 96Nm of torque. It's different to the engine fitted in the Kwid range thanks to the addition of variable valve timing for maximum responsiveness at all revs. Renault says that because it sips just 5.5l/100km and because it's been designed with low maintenance cost in mind, this engine is ideal for South Africa.
For now, it's the only engine you can get in the Triber (with a five-speed manual gearbox), however, Renault is planning on releasing a turbocharged version early in 2021. This turbo version will also come with an automatic transmission option that might appeal to people who sit in a lot of daily traffic.
New world, new mobility
Because we're living in pandemic times, we didn't get to hit the long road to nowhere in the Triber during the test cycle, but I did manage to get on the highway and take a loop around Johannesburg to see what it's like up here, after experiencing it at its coastal launch earlier this year.
The car performs well enough with just a driver on-board, but it does struggle to make haste and keep up with traffic once speeds climb over 80km/h. I found myself constantly stirring the transmission between fourth and fifth gear to maintain 120km/h and at that speed it also became very evident that more sound insulation of the engine bay is required. Overall, NVH levels are excellent at this end of the market, but it's the under-performing engine that just makes it a bit stressful to drive (which with six other people on board can become even more challenging once social distancing is a thing of the past).
There's no arguing though that the Triber has arrived at just the right time for South Africans as we march toward an ongoing battle with coronavirus and national lockdown. It's the kind of car that offers so much value and spec and nice-to-haves that it's very difficult not to like and recommend.
If you're looking to downgrade from something more premium but still want space and practicality, it's an ideal candidate. If you are buying your first new car, it comes with all the things you need to keep you safe and entertained on the road.
When you take the car for a test drive, pay attention to things like the gear throw, the clutch feel and the steering feel. If you find that you can live with its weightings and don't mind the lack of grunt from the engine, then it's a no-brainer in terms of comfort, space, useability and value in this segment.
All of the new Renault Tribers come with a 2-year/30 000km Service Plan and 5-year/150 000km Mechanical Warranty.
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